Thursday, April 17, 2008

Warm Mocha Tart

Warm Mocha Tart

Warm Mocha Tart

While i've aspired (and sometimes still aspire) to a career in pastry, i've realized that I have little desire to replicate professional desserts at home. I am referring to desserts that employ advanced techniques, multiple components, garnishes, fancy plating, and expensive specialty equipment.

I feel very wistful when I look at Keiko's gorgeous pastries. This level of baking isn't practical for me right now: it takes time, space, money, and tools I don't have. I don't want to spend hours, days making a recipe if i'm not sure i'll like it, or if i'll have trouble storing it and giving it away.

For now, i'm content to bake in a manner that suits my lifestyle. I try to learn new techniques and recipes and execute them with care and creativity. I have a repertoire of good recipes and skills, and I know what I like to eat. More importantly, I know what my friends and co-workers like to eat.

Alice Medrich's Bittersweet is full of sophisticated recipes that require minimal effort. This warm mocha tart is fantastic and can be made in less than an hour. A simple filling of cream, butter, sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, and egg is poured into a hot tart crust and left to set in a turned-off oven.

The filling is something between silky chocolate pudding and very thick hot cocoa. By substituting different cocoas, extracts, and infusions, you can make any number of variations. It also slices well.

I used a Claudia Roden recipe for the crust. I love this tart dough; I've made it five or six times and it's always perfect. You can roll it very thin and as long as you bake it thoroughly it will be crunchy and full of flavor. I like to nibble on the extra scraps of dough or make them into cookies.

I ate this with some classmates last night and it didn't last long. I found it just as satisfying as anything i've ordered in a restaurant lately.

Warm Mocha Tart
adapted from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet

For the crust:
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour

For the filling:
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 tsp instant espresso powder (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten

A 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom

For the crust:
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

2. Mix the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the flour and mix just until well blended. Don't worry if the dough seems too soft. Press all of the dough very thinly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.

3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown.

For the filling:
1. Place the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and cream in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture is blended and smooth and begins to simmer around the edges. Remove from the heat and stir in the espresso powder and vanilla.

2. Just before the crust is ready, whisk the egg thoroughly into the hot chocolate mixture.

3. Pour the filling into the hot crust and turn off the oven. Leave the tart in the oven until it quivers like tender Jell-O in the center when the pan is nudged, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a rack.

4. Serve the tart warm or at room temperature.

CHOCOLATE NOTE: Either natural or Dutch-process cocoa works well here. The former has a livelier, more complex, fruity flavor, while the latter has a cozy old-fashioned flavor reminiscent of chocolate pudding. You choose.


Aran said...

There are no bars here that need to be surpass. I think that everyone needs to do (bake in this case) what comes out of the soul and suits their lifestyle. It's not a competition, it's a self expression, I think. I enjoy simple desserts just as much as elaborate ones. Depends on the mood.
This certainly fits into my spectrum of desirable desserts. Once again beautiful photos!

Aran said...

one more thing on this subject. to give you an example of how elaborate is not always better... My husband's office was having a luncheon today so he asked me to make something at the last minute. So this morning I made some chocolate and butterscotch cookies because it was quick and easy. I remembered that I had some green tea opera left in the freezer so I cut that into small rectangles for him to take along with the cookies. Well, people loveeeed the cookies but almost no one touched the opera. that says something. sometimes i just like to make things for myself, to try, to experiment, to challenge my palette and my abilities but that doesn't mean that it will be a crowd pleaser. so that's that.

Tartelette said...

Always bake what speaks to you, there is plenty of time for experimenting later. Bake what comes from you heart, we will like it :)
Funny, we were both in a mocha mood today! The tart is simply simple pure indulgence, gorgeous!
To answer your question about the crumbles I made, the red fruit part is made on the stove, then layered with the rest of the ingredients so I did not have to bake the glasses.

Amanda said...

I agree with you, the idea of baking huge and complicated concoctions is what stops me in my tracks when I start thinking about going to pastry school. I like to bake what I bake: simple, easy, and tasty. I perused this book you used and fell in love with the exquisite pictures. The recipes definitely seemed more sophisticated than I used to though.

Chuck said...

I don't know ... for me I can spend hours playing with dough to create a wonderful loaf of bread. Theres something comforting about dough. But then I have no desire to spend hours decorating a cake or something like like. I guess it all depends.

Your Mocha Tart looks amazing!

Christina said...

That looks very simple, yet elegant at the same time!

If you wanted to plate it, just warm up seedless raspberry (or another) jelly with some water until it's the right consistency, then put it in one of those bottles and make a design on the plate. Just a small touch that can really up the presentation.

defientchef said...

Looks great to me. I actually lived in Pittsburgh for a few years. Went to culinary school there. I miss it. I worked in the pastry department at Eleven.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

The tart looks grwat. I'm a pastry chef but at home I almost never bake elaborate things. It's enough what I do at work, at home I enjoy sometimes a simple cake with no frosting or simple sugar cookies. I often realise that people actually prefer "plainer" things because they're so tired of overly sweet and overly flavoured stuff they they buy arround. I've been visiting your site for a while and to me it seems you're doing a great job! Keep doing it!

Lisa Campbell said...


That happens to me all the time; the dessert I like most goes untouched or sits in the fridge for days, while the dessert I like least goes in an instant...I'm a fan of flavors like green tea, jasmine, lavender, etc- which aren't the most popular with my friends.


Making bread every night is one of the things I miss most about working for a restaurant. It is very satisfying.

This has been an interesting set of comments! I'm always curious to hear about how other people approach baking at home.

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm) said...

Simple, sweet and super delicious!!!!

Ginny said...

That looks so amazing!!! :) Simple is often the best way to go.

Jared said...

These look great!

Am I missing the instructions on pan size/depth? I'm not extremely familiar with tart pans and unsure what to use in its place.

Lisa Campbell said...

Hi Jared-

Thanks for noticing. I've corrected the lack of tart pan size: it should be 9.5 inches, though I think mine was a little smaller.