Thursday, May 04, 2006

Chocolate-Espresso Tart

Chocolate is too seductive to dismiss. I have forgone meals to satisfy my craving, and I have drenched ice cream in fudgy syrup, making the original flavor unidentifiable. As a child, I would pull a bottle of chocolate sauce from the fridge and squirt the sugary treat direct on my tongue—chocolate milk was a daily addiction. Needless to say, I have trouble trusting those who claim, “I am not really into chocolate.”

Just out of college, I had a roommate any chocoholic would love: she worked at a haut chocolate shop. I quickly turned monthly visits to the store into daily happenings. With each drop in I claimed to be taste testing the wasabi-tinged truffles, ancho chili spiked hot chocolate and bars of white chocolate infused with lavender. In truth, I was in heaven.

When I spy chocolate on a menu I make sure to leave room for dessert—even better is when chocolate is part of the main course! D is often worse than me when it comes to the dark temptation: pushing to order the richest dessert when I might crave a lighter fare—and I thought girls were real chocolate junkies.

When I saw this dessert while flipping the pages of Marth Stewart Living it was too difficult to resist. Once tasted, I knew this tart would satisfy even D’s chocolate cravings: The cocoa crust lingers with the faint flavor of marscarpone in the filling, and the smooth rich ganache permeates with bitter espresso. It is a perfect dessert. Below is the recipe as it appears online.

Makes 8 servings.
Better than a box of chocolates, this dessert is triply indulgent. The cocoa shell forms a crisp rectangular foundation for two decadent fillings: creamy, tangy mascarpone cheese and generous rosettes of silky-smooth espresso-flavored chocolate ganache.
For the Ganache:
* 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 61 percent cacao), chopped
* 1-¼ cups heavy cream
* 2 tablespoons good-quality ground espresso beans

For the Tart Shell:
* 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for parchment paper
* ¾ teaspoon salt
* 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
* ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
* ¼ cup sugar
* 1 large egg
* ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 3 tablespoons heavy cream

For the Filling:
* 1-½ cups mascarpone cheese

1) Make the ganache: Put chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl, and set aside. Bring cream and espresso to a boil in a small pan. Pour through a fine sieve over the chocolate; discard solids. Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours.
2) Make the tart shell: Sift flour, salt, and cocoa powder into a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, and mix until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the cream. Shape dough into a thick rectangle; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
3) Preheat oven to 350°. Roll out dough between 2 pieces of lightly floured parchment paper to a 16-by-6-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Press dough into a 14-by-4 1/2-inch rectangular flan frame set on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Trim dough flush with top edge. Prick all over bottom of shell with a fork. Bake until firm, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Unmold.
4) Put ganache into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (such as Ateco #828).
5) Smooth mascarpone cheese over bottom of tart shell with an offset spatula.
6) Pipe ganache rosettes, one next to the other, on top of mascarpone to cover. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 day.
Note: Great Ganache: To turn out smooth ganache every time, make sure the mixture is at room temperature before whipping. Any warmer or colder, and its cream is likely to seize or become grainy.

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