double chocolate tart

Oh my goodness. I’ve just realized that it’s Valentine’s day and I haven’t posted a recipe yet.

Which is such a shame because this recipe … it kinda TOTALLY rocks!

double chocolate tart

It’s all about a rich chocolate mousse encased in a dark chocolate pastry shell and then topped with light meringue: torched to perfection. Consider it a s’mores tart only without any graham crackers. Or marshmallows. So not a s’mores tart at all. It’s a double chocolate tart made for lovers. Or non-lovers. Or platonic friends. It’s a tart that shows that *special* someone that you care about them; and that you want them to eat something delicious on the *most* romantic day of the year.

You might think it’ll be too sweet.  It’s not.

You might think it’ll be too decadent. It’s not.

You might think you can’t possibly make it. You can.

All you need to do is break it down into three simple steps:

Chocolate pastry dough – easy

Chocolate mousse filling – super easy

Meringue – simple

That’s it. I have faith that you can make this. Quite frankly, this is a good tart. You should make it for that reason alone. Forget Valentine’s day; bake this because you love to bake and you love chocolate.

double chocolate tart

ingredients:

¼ c. cocoa powder

1 ½ c. flour

125 g cold butter, cubed

½ c. icing sugar

3 egg yolks (save the egg whites for the meringue)

1 tbsp iced water

1 egg white

chocolate pastry dough ingredients

Place the cocoa, flour, butter and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor (using the dough blade) and process until the mixture is incorporated. Not quite breadcrumbs, slightly larger than that.

While the motor is running, add the egg yolks. Once they have been incorporated, add the iced water. You’ll notice that this is when the dough really comes together.

ps – you’ll notice that in the photo above I added the egg yolks at the beginning. no big deal. the pastry still comes together.

patting the dough into the tart pan

That’s it. You’re done. Place the pastry dough in your tart pan – I start by putting it all in the middle of the pan and then by using my fingertips, I gently press the dough along the base and up the sides. I’ll be honest, I get enough pastry dough to line both a 9-inch tart pan and a 9 x 3 rectangular tart pan.

unbaked tart shell

Brush the tart base with your lightly beaten egg white and then chill for 20 minutes.

Heat your oven to 325 F.

When you’re about ready to pre-bake the tart shell, use a fork to pierce the top of the dough – go crazy! You want to ensure that the dough doesn’t puff up as it bakes, so pierce away!

Bake on a low rack in your oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Time to make the decadent chocolate mousse.

chocolate mousse

ingredients:

2 tbsp butter

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

3 eggs, separated

¼ c. sugar

½ c. heavy cream

½ tsp vanilla

Using a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate together. Once the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the heat and beat the chocolate with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Transfer chocolate to another bowl, use a whisk to beat in the egg yolks. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill.

Beat the egg whites with half the sugar (2 tbsp) until they hold stiff peaks. Set aside. Beat the heavy cream with the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar and the vanilla until it holds in soft peaks.

Remove the chocolate from the fridge and spoon a third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. It will lighten the chocolate a bit. Fold in the remaining egg whites, a little at a time. You want to be gentle because this is where the airiness of the mousse comes from.

Fold in the cream.

Refrigerate until chilled, and slightly thickened. This isn’t a very stiff mousse, but it does become gorgeously thick as it chills.

Fill the pastry shell with the chocolate mousse. Return to the fridge while you make the meringue.

layer of mousse

bakers note: I decided not to make an Italian or Swiss meringue for this tart and stuck with the traditional French meringue. Any of the meringue types will work – this is just the simplest version.

meringue

ingredients:

3 egg whites

good pinch of cream of tartar

1/3 c. sugar

In the bowl of a stand-mixer, using the whisk attachment, slowly start to beat the eggs until they foam, add the cream of tartar. Increase the speed until you’re at medium-high speed, and slowly add the sugar. Once the sugar is fully incorporated, increase the speed to as high as it’ll go. Beat until you get stiff peaks when you lift the whisk attachment out of the bowl.

layer of meringue on chocolate mousse

completely covered in meringue

Cover the layer of chocolate mousse with the meringue; then grab that torch of yours - and torch the meringue until it’s toasty and golden!

torhced

Chill your tart in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

neapolitan pound loaf … actually it’s a cake.

Another week … another

baking crew challenge.

The theme: loaves.

I tend to think of a loaf as a *somewhat* healthy baked treat … chalk full of mashed bananas, grated zucchini, or even pumpkin purée, with an above average sprinkling of chocolate chips … a little sweetness in the belly.

Oh how I heart a good slice of *fresh out of the oven*, warm, gooey banana/zucchini/pumpkin loaf.

That’s why I was so excited about this challenge. Not only would I bake one of my favourite things … but I would also get to try a new recipe.

A neapolitan pound cake recipe to be exact.

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First off. I’m going to be honest. I decided to bake this because it looked good. And if something can look that good … it’s got to stand a chance of TASTING good right?

Well … it lived up to my pre-judgement.

Except.

This is no loaf. Nope. Don’t confuse this for a slightly savoury loaf: something warm and comforting to accompany your tea or coffee. It’s not the kind of thing you bake as your afternoon snack … or as a *quick,easy, and healthy* breakfast option.

Nope.

This is a committment. You must commit yourself to this intensely decadent and absolutely delightful dessert.

It’s based on neapolitan ice cream right … so vanilla, chocolate and strawberry all swirled together to create a party in your mouth.

It’s true. All those flavours are good things.

I decided to change it up a little. Rather than stick to the traditional strawberry flavour, I opted for a strawberry-rhubarb flavour. I actually couldn’t decide on cherry or raspberry … but then I spotted the strawberry-rhubarb jam on the shelf, I couldn’t resist adding a splash of tart rhubarb to the mix. Could you?

I didn’t think so.

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The richness in this cake comes from the 5 ounces of mascarpone cheese … added to another 2 ounces of cream cheese … plus 1 cup of butter … and 6 eggs.

Mother of pearl. You just know that this is going to be one rich and delicious slice of cake!

So while I was busy whipping mini loaf and bundt cake versions of this recipe … my friends were busy baking their own loaves. Tom & Aimée baked a beautiful cardamom loaf, Meredith brought a tangy lemon blueberry loaf, and Cory baked a family favourite, walnut sour cream loaf.

I’m going to say … each and every one of the loaves were delicious … but so completely different.

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The cardamom loaf was beautiful … an exquisite crumb and shape … and then when you bit into it, the pungent flavour of the cardamom perefectly accompanied a cup of coffee. It was a spicy addition to the challenge.

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The walnut sour cream loaf is one of Cory’s favourite family holiday treats. Who can fault a loaf that’s chalk full of walnuts and then topped with a brown sugar crumble? Although Cory’s recipe was a tad oily (even after Cory adjusted his mother’s original recipe – and he agreed with us) … I still gladly took a mini loaf home with me … and very happily devoured it.

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We all know that I heart lemons … so it probably won’t come as a surprise that I’m going to annouce that Meredith’s lemon blueberry loaf was my favourite. I loved how light it was. I loved the fresh blueberries. I loved the tang of the lemons. It’s the perfect afternoon tea snack. You don’t actually need to drink tea … you can just grab a slice of this loaf and savour it … that’s what I did.

Compared to the cardamom loaf, walnut sour cream loaf, and lemon blueberry loaf, my neapolitan pound loaf really stuck out as a cake. It was denser and sweeter and richer and more of a dessert. I’m not saying it wasn’t good … but it certainly shouldn’t quality as a loaf. Needless to say … if you’re looking to make something that will wow your friends, family, neighbours, co-workers … maybe you want to give this recipe a try. It certainly put a smile on many a face and satisfied many a craving for a treat in the middle of the day.

neapolitan pound loaf cake

ingredients:

3 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

5 oz, mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1 ½ c. unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

6 eggs

2 c. sugar

1 c. powdered sugar

3 c. cake flour

pinch of salt

flavours

6 tbsp strawberry-rhubarb jam

3 tbsp cocoa

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp pink food colouring (I use Wilton’s colour gels … less is more – I went a little overboard!)

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Number one rule … don’t preheat your oven.

Time to get started.

In a medium bowl sift together the granulated and powdered sugars. Set aside.

Cream together the mascapone, cream cheese and butter together in your stand-mixer: medium-high speed using your paddle attachment for about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat for a further 30 seconds.

This batter isn’t a simple “add dry ingredients to wet ingredients” batter … there are steps to follow. But they are TOTALLY worth it.

Ok .. here goes.

  • Add two of the eggs to the cheese / butter mixture.
  • Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Add 1 cup of the sugar mixture.
  • Beat at medium speed until combined.
  • Add 1 cup flour plus the pinch of salt.
  • Beat until combined.
  • Repeat until all of the eggs, sugars, and flour are used.

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Divide the batter equally between three bowls.

In one bowl combine the batter with the strawberry-rhubarb jam. Add the food colouring gel.

In another bowl combine the batter with the cocoa powder.

And the vanilla to the remaining batter. Stir to combine.

Time to bake.

You have some options here. You can bake a regular sized loaf… or a regular bundt cake. You can go the mini loaf / mini bundt option. I decided that since I wanted to bake these quickly, the mini loaf and mini bundt cakes were the way to go. Whichever option you pick, spray the pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

I scooped a spoonful of each flavour of batter into each mini loaf tin and bundt cake (I dozen of each). Then I took a toothpick and swirled the different flavours into one another.

Place the loaf / bundt cake tin in oven.

Turn oven on to 300F.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes for the mini loaves / mini bundts. Obviously longer for a regular sized loaf or bundt cake. The original recipe recommended 2 hours … I would probably check it out after 75 minutes.

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Serve with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of hot fudge sauce.

Go big or go home right?

pie challenge & the tart

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The baking crew and I were at it again.  This time, the challenge was pies.

Yay!  I heart making pies!

Cory made a beautiful apple, walnut, goat cheese pie (gorgeous … but a little dry: even he agreed).  Tom & Aimée made a really delicious pecan pie (nothing to fault with this one at all), and Meredith made a super flavourful apple & cranberry pie (she had some pastry issues … but the filling was spot on).

We went pie crazy! I went pie crazy!

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Not only did I make my chocolate – cranberry tart … but I also thought it’d be fun to arrive with some mini chocolate-pecan-cherry tarts topped with pumpkin ganache (talk about a real mouthful!).

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Mother of Jerome!? (It can’t always be Pearl right?) What was I thinking?

I was thinking … “I am not 100% sure that the chocolate – cranberry tart will turn out exactly as I want it too… so why not add a new component to an already loved classic and giver!”  Welcome to how my mind works … these are the types of internal dialogues I have … all.the.time.

Since we were baking these in honour of American Thanksgiving … I thought … pumpkin, pecans, chocolate, cherries and pie … individually they all remind me of Thanksgiving … combined … they SCREAM Thanksgiving (and deliciousness in a bite).

How could I *not* make these??!  Exactly.  I had no choice.  chocolate-pecan-cherry tarts with pumpkin ganache were a must.

This recipe is a combination of my own chocolate-pecan pie and momofuku milkbar‘s pumpkin ganache.  I had been flipping through my momofuku milkbar cookbook, spotted the ganache recipe and thought it would be the perfect complement to my tart filling.  Although you need to plan ahead (the ganache recipe calls for a minimum of 4 hours in the fridge), the entire recipe is dead easy.  And ridiculously delicious.

*bakers note: according to the recipe book, you MUST use an immersion blender to make this ganache.   

My chocolate-pecan-cherry filling actually originated from a pecan pie recipe: it’s what I consider to be my *go to* pie.  The one I make when I don’t have much time, when I don’t want to blind bake my pastry dough, and when I want to impress people.  The original recipe brings a smile to everyones face … I decided it was time to switch it up a bit.

If you’re new to pies and tarts and want to try something easy and delicious: this is the recipe for you.  Plus you’ll impress everyone when they see how pretty the tarts look with a little piped pumpkin ganache.

chocolate-pecan-cherry tarts with pumpkin ganache

ingredients:

basic pastry dough (I omit the sugar and water from the recipe)

momofuku milkbar’s pumpkin ganache

150 g white chocolate
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp corn syrup
1/4 c. cold heavy cream
1/3 c. pumpkin purée
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Combine the white chocolate and butter in a medium bowl over gently simmering water (you don’t want the water to touch the bottom of your bowl), and melt.  You want the chocolate to be barely warm to the touch.  You can also do this in a microwave in 15 second bursts (stirring between each blast).

Transfer your chocolate mixture to a tall and narrow container – something that will accommodate an immersion blender (mine came with a 1 litre container-like bowl).  Add the corn syrup to the chocolate mixture and buzz with your hand blender.  After a minute, stream in the COLD heavy cream.  You’ll see that the ganache will come together in a smooth and shiny texture.

Blend in the pumpkin purée, salt and cinnamon.

Put the ganache in your fridge to firm before using; a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.  If not used immediately, this can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

tart filling

1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose b. flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. dried cherries, chopped
1 c. corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. butter, melted

Heat your oven to 350 F.  Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface.  I was able to roll it out, cut out 12 pieces and line the 12 muffin cups in my pan.  I like to have my dough as cold as possible … so once I’ve lined the muffin cups, I return the pan to the freezer while I make the filling.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar and flour together. Add the eggs, pecans, chocolates, corn syrup, butter and vanilla. Stir well. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crusts.

Bake for 20 minutes on the lower rack of your oven.  You’ll know that they are ready when the centre doesn’t jiggle.  Careful!  These babies are hot!  Corn syrup, pecans and brown sugar … all things that heat up quickly!  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

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I decided to re-whip the pumpkin ganache before putting it in the piping bag.  I just wanted to get it a little fluffy.  After quickly whipping the ganache, I filled a piping bag and piped each mini tart (using a star tip).

Don’t they look pretty?  They tasted pretty awesome too!

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ps … my chocolate-cranberry tart won best in show!