In 1968 I flew all alone to Paris. To this day, I don’t know how my favorite Aunt who had recently married a French man named Alain Darmon, convinced my overprotective parents to allow me, an eleven-year-old with extremely limited life experience, to board a jet, let alone travel overseas, but miraculously, my Aunt prevailed. I had sundaes before, but never accented with crisp meringues. I knew what French fries were, but had no idea that they tasted even better when you dipped them into a sauce made of mussel juice, garlic and butter. And who, I wanted to know, was the genius who decided to marry buttery crisp bread with chocolate logs? I confess, that although I now spend much of my time cooking delicious rustic Italian food, my palate was first awakened by French chefs and Paris holds a special place in my heart. I stole the filling for this bittersweet chocolate tart recipe from the famed French chef Joel Robuchon and the crust from acclaimed French born chef Alain Ducasse. The technique of rolling out the chocolate crust before it is cold is not difficult to do if you sandwich the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and then freeze the dough for ten minutes before trying to release it into your tart pan with the removable bottom. Since you must blind bake this pie, I like to do this the day before Thanksgiving. The filling is a cinch to make and since the pie should be eaten warm or at room temperature, you can make the filling quickly and then bake it off just before your guests arrive. You should use a chocolate that is between 65-70% cocoa and my favorite chocolate to use for this recipe is Valrhona. I also use a serrated bread knife to shave the chocolate before I toss it in the warm milk/cream mixture. What an amazing, decadent little tart this is. After your guests bite into it, they will probably murmur: “Vive la France!” which is an especially moving sentence to say out loud this Thanksgiving.
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- TART SHELL
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
- 3 tablespoons almond flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Valrhona)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, (shaved using a serrated bread knife)
- 1 large egg slightly beaten
- CHANTILLY CREAM
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 2-3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 350 DEGREES AND PREPARE THE TART SHELL
- In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, blend 1 cup of all-purpose flour with the butter, sugar, cocoa, almond flour and salt at medium speed. Mix in the egg just until a soft dough forms. Scrape the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and lay another large sheet of plastic wrap on top. Roll out the dough between the plastic wrap till the round is 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the round to a baking sheet and freeze until firm, 10 minutes.
- Peel off the top sheet of plastic and overt the dough onto a 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Remove the remaining sheet of plastic and gently press the dough into the pan. If the dough is too rigid, allow the dough to warm up a little (this should take only a minute or two) and then gently press the dough into the pan. Trim the dough so it is flush with the rim. Then freeze again until the dough is firm (again about 10 or 15 minutes).
- BLIND BAKE THE TART SHELL
- Line the tart shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes, until the tart wheel is nearly cooked through. Remove the parchment and weights and bake until the shell is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes longer. Transfer to a rack and let cool. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and milk and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Remove from the heat. Add the shaved chocolate and, with a whisk, stir until the mixture is thoroughly melted and well blended. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg, then whisk is 1/2 cup of the lukewarm chocolate cream. Thoroughly whisk this custard into the chocolate cream in the saucepan. Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake until set around the rim, but still slightly (barely) jiggly in the center, about 20-25 minutes. Let the tart cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, accompanied by a dollop of chantilly cream.
- In a chilled, small bowl, beat with a hand mixer, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla till soft peaks are formed. Refrigerate till ready to use.
- This chocolate tart is most spectacular if you use the best chocolate and if the tart is served soon after it is removed from the oven.