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.

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lemon meringue cake

Mother of all things lemon and meringue.

I heart this cake!

That’s right.  I decided that although I love lemon meringue pie … sometimes one must celebrate an occasion with cake. 

Saturday night was one of those occasions.  A 40th birthday bash which required cake.  But not just any cake would do … oh no! 

It had to be tart. And fresh. With a (good) splash of lemoncello. And topped with a soft meringue. 

It could only be one thing. 

A lemon meringue cake.

I had previously spotted a similar cake on donna hay’s website.  She had created a chocolate cake bottomed cake … which I will admit – looks stellar in the pictures: the bright white meringue atop brilliant yellow curd and the dark chocolate shell … very pretty … just not what I wanted … flavour-wise.  I needed to punch up the lemon factor for this birthday gal.

I’m thrilled with how it all turned out.

And it really couldn’t have been any easier.  All you need is one layer of cake, some lemon curd, and meringue.  Easy?  Heck ya!

For this recipe … I ended up using my grandmother’s lemon curd recipe.  Recently I’ve been using little red kitsch’n lemon curd recipe – but I wanted to go back to my old school recipe … my grandmother’s lemon curd … with a generous splash of lemoncello.  Plus … I needed egg whites for the meringue … and this curd recipe only uses egg yolks.

 lemon meringue cake

ingredients:

lemon cake:

280 g sugar
80 g butter, room temperature
240 g flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 lemons, juice and zest
240 mL buttermilk
 
Heat your oven to 350 F.  Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest together.  This will not result in a über creamy mixture.  There isn’t enough butter to sugar ratio … but it will form a pea-like mixture.  That’s good.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Add the dry ingredients to your butter / sugar batter and mix on low-speed.

In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, vanilla, lemon juice and eggs together. 

Slowly pour the wet ingredients into your mixing bowl (again, leaving the mixer at low-speed).  Once the eggs have been incorporated into the batter, increase the speed to medium and beat for a further 30 seconds.

Using a spatula, scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl – ensuring that all the dry ingredients have been incorporated. 

Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan.  Don’t worry if you have a little left over batter – they make excellent mini cupcakes.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes – this obviously depends on how thick a cake you are baking.  I always like to check my cakes at the 20 minute mark … you’ll know it’s ready when the sides start to pull away from the cake pan.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.  It’s time to make your lemon curd.

Isabel’s lemon curd:

1 c. sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 tbsp (I used more) lemoncello
Zest of an entire lemon
1 tbsp butter
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten (save the whites for your meringue)

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, flour, water, lemon juice, lemoncello, and lemon zest. Put the pot over medium heat and cook, stirring until it is about to come to a boil and slightly thickens.

Remove it from heat and stir in the butter. Take about 1/2 c. of the mixture and add it to the egg yolks – it’ll temper the yolks and keep them from curdling. Whisk the egg yolks well – once they’re smooth, pour them into the saucepan. Return the pan to the heat and cook it, whisking constantly – bubbles will form in the mixture. At this point – remove your lemon curd from heat, and strain it through a sieve into a clean bowl.  Cover it with plastic wrap and allow to cool in the fridge while you prepare your lemon cake for filling.

When your cake has cooled completely, turn it out of the pan onto a plate.  I decided to make a template of a smaller (6-inch round) cake pan – placing it in the middle of the cake and using a sharp knife to outline the circle.  This created my guideline for spooning out the middle of the cake.

Once my template was marked, I grabbed a small spoon and gently spooned out the majority of the centre of the cake.  You don’t want to remove all of it though!  You need this to be a shell for the lemon curd (since it is replacing the pie crust), and you don’t want a weakened cake base.

Spoon the lemon curd into the “empty” centre of the cake and smooth it over with a knife or spatula. 

You’re almost there …

Meringue:

4 egg whites
1/4 c sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
 
In the bowl of your stand mixer (with the whisk attachment), beat the egg whites on medium-high until foamy. Incorporate the sugar a spoonful at a time, add the pinch of cream of tartar and then increase the speed of the mixer to its highest setting.  You want the egg whites to form glossy peaks … not too stiff … but enough that they hold their shape.

Top the entire cake with the meringue.  Make it pretty!  Use a spoon to create a neat swirly effect.  And then … I blow torched it.  I somehow didn’t remember to take a picture of the finished product before I rushed off to the party … but you can imagine … a beautiful golden meringue. 

Absolute perfection.  And it tasted bloody delicious as well. 

happy birthday big brother

(according to my big brother Louis, Paul used to run around and chase me… just to kiss me… this picture makes me smile no matter how sad I am)

Today would have been my brother Paul’s 34th birthday.  It’s the first time my family and I will celebrate his birthday without him being present… devastated doesn’t begin to express how I feel.

I’ve spent the last three months (I can’t believe it’s only been three months, while also being shocked that it’s already been three months) trying to learn to live with what has happened.  And I’ve spent a lot of that time baking: cakes, cookies, scones, cheesecakes, brownies, mini tarts … if it involves flour, sugar, butter and chocolate or lemons… I make it.

Everyone knows that I heart lemons: their tart, bright, happy, flavour… they brighten up just about anything and put a smile on my face.  That’s something Paul and I shared.  We both absolutely adore all things lemon.  My grandmother indulged Paul’s lemon love by baking him a lemon meringue pie every year for his birthday.  It’s a memory that brings me a lot of comfort… remembering how happy Paul was when that pie was placed in front of him… huge grin on his face.  Paul had the best smile.

And so in honour of my big brother I have been baking lemon

lemon twisted queen elizabeth cake, lemon meringue mini tarts, lemon white chocolate marble loaves, pound cake filled with lemon curd, frozen lemon meringue pie, and finally these beauties… lemon meringue cupcakes.

Personally… I think all of it has been amazing.

And I am planning on sharing those recipes with you … in time… I promise!

But for today I decided to share a light and fluffy little sponge cupcake, filled with my fresh tart lemon curd and then topped with a beautiful meringue that I got to torch.

Fun to make and delicious to eat.

I know that my brother would have approved… and that he would have eaten one, looked up at me, burst out laughing, and said “Lynnie Penny… you made this?  Damn you’re getting good!”  And then he would have tried to talk everyone else out of eating one… so that he could have the bunch for himself :0)

I have learned the following thing about myself in the last few months.  My sentiment has turned after-life into a fairy tale for children.  And so, on this occasion, I will get through today by imagining Paul up in heaven indulging in my grandmother’s lemon meringue pie.  And then he will serenade her and all our other loved ones, with his harmonica.  It’s a beautiful image… filled with laughter, love, lemon meringue, and music – all things my brother would want on his birthday.

*baker’s note… I got this recipe from the hummingbird bakery’s new cookbook “cake days” – so everything is metric… truly worth investing in a scale :0)

lemon meringue cupcakes

ingredients:

80 g butter, room temperature

280 g sugar

240 g flour, sifted

1 tbsp powdered sugar

1/4 tsp salt

grated zest of a lemon

2 eggs

240 ml milk

lemon curd

4 egg whites

200 g sugar

150 mL water

Preheat your oven to 375 F.  Line your muffin tins with paper liners – the original recipe says that it will make 12-16 cupcakes – I actually was able to make 18 … and think I could get 20 out of the batter.  Set aside.

You might read the following and do a double take.  Since in this instance there is no creaming of the butter and sugar.  I know it seems so wrong.  You might actually think that you know better than I do and that you’re actually going to cream the butter and sugar before adding any other ingredients.  Please don’t.  Please do exactly what I’m telling you to do… even if every single one of your baking instincts is telling you NO.  I resisted that urge and everything was a-ok.  Actually… everything was better than ok.  I promise.

Grab your stand-mixer and the paddle attachment.  Beat together (low speed) the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest… you want the ingredients to resemble fine breadcrumbs.

Now in your measuring cup, add the eggs and whisk everything together.

Pour 3/4 of the milk-egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine.  Increase the speed to medium and keep beating until the batter becomes smooth and fluffy.  Pour in the remaining milk-egg mixture.  You’ll end up with a lovely yellow creamy batter.  It’s smells pretty darn good too… take a whiff… you’ll feel a little happier for it.  For realz.

Since it’s a pretty liquidy batter, I found it was easiest to put it into a measuring cup with a lip… pour the batter into the paper liners.

These cupcakes will rise quite a bit… so don’t fill the cases too much :0) (that’s also how you can end up with 20 cupcakes rather than 12).

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes – they will have risen and be springy to your touch.  Leave them in the muffin tins for a few minutes, remove and then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  You need to allow them to cool completely before continuing.

If you don’t already have some fresh and delicious lemon curd on hand… take the time to make it.  Fresh really is best.  And pretty darn simple to make too.

Once your cupcakes are cool, fill a piping bag with some lemon curd (use any tip) and pipe some curd into each cupcake (stick the tip into the top of the cupcakes): you’ll see the cupcake start to expand, that’s when you’ll know it’s enough.  Don’t worry if some of the curd overflows… it’s all good ;0)

Time to make the meringue.  Since you aren’t going to stick the meringue back in the oven, you’ll need to make a simply syrup for an italian meringue.  Place the sugar in a small saucepan and cover with the water (use as much of the water as needed to cover the sugar), bring to a boil. Allow the sugar to boil for 5 – 10 minutes or until it has reached the softball stage (240 degrees).

Meanwhile, use your stand-mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk the egg-whites until just foamy.

Once you have reached the softball stage, remove the syrup from the heat and increase the mixer speed to medium.  Slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites.  Once all the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high – whisking until the underside of the bowl feels lukewarm.  The meringue will quadruple in size and be very white and smooth.

I found it was easiest to fill another piping bag with the meringue and then piped the meringue on top of each cupcake.

Once all the cupcakes have been topped, grab your blowtorch and quickly brown the tops of each cupcake.  Watch out!  You don’t want to burn the paper liners :0)

That’s it … a birthday tribute to my big brother.