Milk Chocolate Silk Tart

Pies and Tarts

Yield: One 9-inch tart, 8-10 servings
Recipe: 6/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 120

    Having never been a fan of tarts (gasp!), I decided that if one tart would be able to convert me it would be the exquisite-looking milk chocolate tart portrayed in Anna’s cookbook. I figured that if I did not like this tart, I was condemned to a tartless world. The shell for this tart was very straightforward to make and came out great. The filling was just as doable and came out light and fluffy. You will definitely not run out of filling for this tart because I filled my tart to the fullest and I still had some leftover chocolate, so fear not! I personally filled the tart until it was almost overflowing.

   Once chilled for a couple of hours (this is no doubt the hardest part of the recipe!!), it was time to taste. Verdict: this is another great recipe from Anna Olson. Lighter than a chocolate tart (i.e. tarte au chocolat) but not as airy and fluffy as a chocolate mousse, this tart was divine and melt-in-your-mouth good. I find this tart to be at its best when eaten chilled, straight from the fridge. I have now undeniably been converted and will give other tarts a shot before refusing a portion!

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 oz (360 g) milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • chocolate shavings for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place a medium pot filled with about 1 inch of water on the stove and bring to a simmer. In a metal or glass bowl that fits over the pot but does not touch the water, whisk the eggs, sugar, water and salt. Whisk over the simmering water until the egg mixture doubles in volume and holds a ribbon when the whisk is lifted, about 8-10 minutes. (Note: for an egg mixture to “hold a ribbon” means that the egg mixture takes some time to blend with the rest when drizzled over the bowl). 
  2. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the chopped milk chocolate. Use a spatula to stir gently until the chocolate is fully melted. Allow this chocolate mixture to cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
  3. Using electric beaters, beat the butter into the chocolate mixture until evenly incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl and with clean beaters, whip the cream and vanilla extract together until it holds a soft peak.
  5. Fold the whipped cream unto the chocolate mixture in 2 additions, and spread this into the cooled tart shell. Chill the tart in the pan for at least 2 hours before topping with the chocolate shavings and removing the outer ring of the pan to serve. The tart will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Notes from Anna:

  • Due to the fact that this tart has a creamy filling, it is best cut using a hot, dry knife. Dip a chef’s knife into hot water for 20 seconds, wipe off the blade with a towel and then make a clean slice. Dip and wipe the knife after each slice.
  • Soft peak: this is the first level past foamy, when the meringue takes on a white colour. When you lift your beaters from the whites and invert them, the whites should curl over easily.

Valerie

Chocolate-Crust Tart Shell

Foundation recipes, Pies and Tarts

Yield: One 9-inch tart shell
Recipe: 5/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 118

   After the classic apple pie and the classic fruit flan, I wanted to do a recipe that was undoubtedly made for me: the milk chocolate silk tart! As mentioned in a previous post, I never really liked tarts (or so I thought!) and so never baked any until now. Being a huge fan of chocolate, I figured that if there was one tart to convert me it would be this one. First, though, I had to make the tart shell! This chocolate-crust tart shell was not only easy to make, but it was very tasty. The delicious chocolate taste was undeniable, but as mentioned in Anna’s cookbook, it does not overpower the filling of the tart. Albeit I baked the tart shell a couple of minutes too long and the crust was a bit harder than I would have liked, this recipe was a definite success and I will surely use it time and time again. It’s a classic!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) unsalted butter, cool and cut into pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, cocoa, brown sugar and salt.
  2. Add the butter and blend with a food processor or mixer (hand or standup) until the mixture is a homogenous, crumbly texture.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract. Pour into the flour mixture, blending until the dough comes together. With lightly floured hands, shaped the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or until firm.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead the chilled chocolate dough to soften it. Roll out the dough into a circle of about 12 inches across and 1/4 inch thick. Carefully line a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan with the chocolate dough. Trim away any excess and chill the tart shell in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Placed the chilled tart shell on a baking tray and dock the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Bake the tart shell for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry has an even, dull appearance. Cool the shell while preparing the filling.

Notes from Anna:

  • Fill the pie shell soon after baking because it is fragile when not filled.
  • The shell can be chilled for 3 days or frozen for 3 months prior to baking.
  • It is essential to dock the shell with a fork (i.e. make holes in the pastry at regular intervals using a fork) to allow for any air to escape through the holes so that there is no formation of a dome in the middle of the crust.
  • Trimming the edges of the crust is most easily accomplished by rolling the rolling pin along the top of the tart pan.

Valerie

Classic Fruit Flan

Pies and Tarts

Yield: One 9-inch tart, 8-10 servings
Recipe: 4/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 106

   With my dad’s birthday coming up, I wanted to make him what I thought was one of his favorite desserts: the classic fruit flan! Personally, I never liked these tarts that I found to be highly unappealing due to the presence of custard, which I am not a fan of, as well as the goo present on the delicious fruits. Nonetheless, it was for my dad so I went ahead and made it for him. As I mentioned in my previous post, I encountered many problems with the making of the shell for this tart. I also had some mishaps with the rest of the tart. For starters, my white chocolate was not cooperating and would not melt. This is most likely due to the fact that I forgot to buy white chocolate and had to use white chocolate chips, which I now know are not ideal for melting purposes. In addition, not used to making custards, in hindsight I evidently made it way too thick. It was more like a paste consistency than a custard. Regardless, I assembled the tart with what I had. It was a lot of fun placing the fruits in a pretty pattern, and surprisingly it did not look as bad as I feared.

   On a more positive note, my first fruit flan was a huge success. It all disappeared fairly quickly and I, disliking custard and fruit flans, actually had two pieces! The tart was very good, to say the least. Thankfully my dad really enjoyed it, even saying that it tasted better than store-bought ones. I think a thicker custard is what we all preferred in this fruit flan compared to the ones we usually buy in supermarkets. I also believe that knowing what the ingredients actually are in this recipe makes it easier for me to enjoy. For instance, the “goo” is actually apple jelly! Much more enticing than said goo. Great savory recipe!

Ingredients:

Pastry Cream:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2  1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Fruits:

  • 4 cups assorted fresh and tender fruits (e.g. raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, kiwi, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup apple jelly

Directions:

  1. Melt the white chocolate in a metal or glass bowl placed over a pot of simmering water and stir until melted. Alternatively, you can place the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 30-second intervals until completely melted, making sure to stir between each. With the baked and cooled tart shell still in its pan, brush the white chocolate to coat the bottom and sides of the tart shell. Chill in the fridge.
  2. Heat the milk in a saucepot until just below simmering. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornstarch. Whisk half of the hot milk into the egg mixture, then pour the entire mixture back into the pot of warm milk.
  3. Whisk the custard constantly over medium heat until it thickens and begins to bubble, approximately 3-4 minutes.
  4. Strain the custard into a bowl and stir in the vanilla extract and butter until melted. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, ensuring that the plastic touches the surface of the custard (this is to prevent the formation of a film on the custard). Cool the custard to room temperature, then chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
  5. To assemble the tart, spoon the custard into the tart shell and spread evenly. Top the custard with your fruits of choice, favoring a design that is appealing. Melt the apple jelly over low heat, then brush it over the fruit. Chill the tart in the pan until ready to serve.

Notes from Anna:

  • You can use any delicate fruits you wish, but keep in mind that some are more prone to oxidation, such as bananas, apples, apricots, peaches, pears and plums, meaning that they will turn brown. Since this is not very appealing on a tart, to diminish the oxidation it is preferable to toss these fruits in a little lemon juice prior to placing them on the tart.

Valerie

Sweet-Crust Tart Shell

Foundation recipes, Pies and Tarts

Yield: One 9-inch tart shell
Recipe: 3/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 104

   The next recipe on my to-do list was the classic fruit flan. Inevitably, to do so I first had to make the sweet-crust tart shell required. Probably due to the fact that the first pie dough I made (the Double-Crust Pie Dough) was very easy to do and turned out beautifully, I assumed that this time would be just as easy. I don’t know if it is because I was pressed for time and did not wait as long as I could have between the various steps, but I had quite some difficulties with this dough. The dough did however come together well and I had no problems shaping it into a disk to chill.

   Problems arose when I decided to just wait the suggested 2 hours to let the dough firm up. It was late at night and I was trying to finish this tart shell as fast as possible so that I could bake the tart. I knew that the dough was not quite firm enough when I took it out of the fridge, but as I mentioned I was pressed for time so I kneaded it and rolled it anyways. What a terrible decision. When I was kneading it the dough was cracking and not holding its form. I moved along anyway and managed to roll it as thin as necessary. The main problem occurred when I lifted the dough to line the tart pan. The pastry dough was tearing at many places and was falling to pieces. I somehow managed to mould the dough into the tart pan and fit pieces that were cracking or tearing here and there. At this point I had to chill the tart shell in the fridge or in the freezer. Being on the express lane I opted for the freezer method with a shorter waiting period. I docked the shell and baked it for 18 minutes. When I took it out of the oven, the pastry dough had formed a big dome in the middle of the pan and was uneven in many places! I guess I am not used to docking pie and tart shells, because that should have prevented the doming effect I observed. I think  my mistake was that I put the tart shell in the freezer to chill, so the dough was a bit harder than it was initially. Hence, I probably did not press hard enough with my fork, thus not actually forming holes in the dough and consequently leading to the undesired dome. Fortunately, I managed to fix the situation by pressing down gently on the elevated dough and then waiting before filling it.

   Albeit I came across many problems while attempting to do this recipe, I realize that it was my own fault. I have learned a valuable lesson with this recipe: do not rush baking! Disaster will ensue. Notwithstanding the various problems that occurred, in the end the tart shell came out great and tasted very good. It has a characteristic sweet taste required for some desserts but is not too overly sweet. I will undoubtedly try this recipe again, making sure to take my time. Up next: the classic fruit flan!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Stir in the egg yolks and vanilla.
  3. Add the flour and salt and combine with a stand or hand mixer until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, until firm.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, knead the pastry dough lightly to soften it enough so that it can be rolled. Dust the dough with some flour and roll it out to about 11 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch in thickness. Line a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with the rolled dough. Chill the pastry for 20 minutes in the fridge or 10 minutes in the freezer.
  5. Place the chilled tart pan on a baking tray. Dock the bottom of the pastry shell with a fork and bake the pastry for 16-20 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Cool completely before filling.

Notes from Anna:

  • Fill the pie shell soon after baking because it is fragile when not filled.
  • The shell can be chilled for 3 days or frozen for 3 months prior to baking.
  • It is essential to dock the shell with a fork (i.e. make holes in the pastry at regular intervals using a fork) to allow for any air to escape through the holes so that there is no formation of a dome in the middle of the crust.
  • Trimming the edges of the crust is most easily accomplished by rolling the rolling pin along the top of the tart pan.

Valerie

Fresh Apple Streusel Pie

Pies and Tarts

Yield: One 9-inch pie, about 8 servings
Recipe: 2/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 84

   As I mentioned in my previous post, the first dessert that I wanted to attempt was the classic apple pie. After having successfully made my own pie dough (thanks Anna!), I was ready for the next step. This recipe was twice as tempting because it is a mixture of an apple crumble and an apple pie. What more could I ask for? As I was moving along with this recipe I realized that it is in fact not difficult to do. The smell coming from my oven and thereafter invading the entire apartment was heavenly and sweet. It was a smell that I correlated directly with the eminent success of my first ever apple pie. As I took it out of the oven, I observed the “apple filling bubbling at the edges” phenomenon to be observed to ensure the doneness of the apple pie. I could not wait to taste it. After the dreaded waiting period, it was time to taste. My roommate/best friend and I could not agree more: it was delicious! Albeit one small problem arose when the pie dough that I rolled was not quite large enough to obtain overhangs and form a pretty crust, everything went along perfectly. At least I’ll know for next time to roll the dough a bit thinner.

   In fact, I loved this pie so much that I made a second one in the same week for a family gathering. It’s a good think that it’s apple picking season! I don’t think anyone, given that they like apples, can go wrong with this recipe.

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 3 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 6 cups peeled and thinly sliced apples such as Cortland, Spartan, Honey Crisp, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cool and cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Streusel:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cool and cut into pieces

Directions:

  1. Pull the chilled dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before rolling. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly dust the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with flour and place it on a baking tray.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to just under 1/4 inch in thickness, ensuring that the diameter of the rolled dough is about 15 inches to allow for overhangs to form the pie crust. Lift the rolled dough and place on the pie plate. Trim away any excess dough that hangs over the edge of the plate. For aesthetics, pinch the crust at intervals to form a decorative pattern.
  3. Sprinkle the oats over the pie pastry. Chill the pie in the refrigerator while preparing the filling and streusel.
  4. To prepare the apples, first toss them with lemon juice. Stir in the butter pieces, flour and cinnamon and coat the apple slices evenly.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter and cut in with fingers or a fork until the mixture is a crumbly texture.
  6. Spoon the apples into the chilled pie shell and pat down so they are arranged loosely but evenly. Sprinkle the streusel over the apples.
  7. Bake the pie for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to cook the pie for 40-45 minutes, until the crust is evenly browned and the apple filling is bubbling at the edges.
  8. This is the difficult part: resist eating the pie immediately and cool it for several hours (ideally a minimum of 3) before slicing.

Notes from Anna:

  • If using dough that was made in advance and stored in the freezer, simply take it out of the freezer the morning of the day it is to be used and place in the fridge to thaw.
  • The oats sprinkled on the pie pastry serves to absorb the excess liquid and thus helps to keep the bottom crust crisp.
  • The lemon juice serves to render the pastry tender and flaky due to its acidity.

Note: The quality of this photograph is quite inferior to those that I usually post. However, I did not have my camera on hand so this will have to do for now. 

Valerie