This completely decadent tart is made with 70% Valrhona Guanaja chocolate and is indeed every bit as it is described, extraordinary.
Quite a few marvelous things happened that brought about this tart getting made last week.
Firstly, I landed an exciting styling assignment with one of my favourite production companies and directors which involved me producing the food elements for five TV commercials for cars. What do cars and food have to do with each other you may ask? The car brand is a sponsor of Masterchef SA. The director Iain Campbell and all the other creative creative guru’s, came up with a concept to link a recipe to each car and juxtapose elements of the car against elements of the cooking process. Pretty clever I thought. Also pretty challenging as this shoot involved an almost impossible number of shots for me to achieve in one day.
One of the recipes I needed to prepare was a chocolate tart with one of the shots seeing tempered chocolate on a marble slab being scraped up into curls. As an experienced commercial food stylist I always look for the best way to get optimal visual appeal for the shot, whether that requires some faking or not. But with this particular shot, using real real chocolate, it could not be faked.
The second wonderful thing that happened was meeting the very delightful Vanessa Quellec who is now the ambassador of the Valrhona brand in South Africa. I placed an urgent call for assistance and wanted to buy chocolate in bulk. I was expecting and hoping for a little advice on how to go about my various chocolate missions for the shoot. What I got was a whole lot more.
Vanessa personally delivered the chocolate to my house and spent the afternoon in my kitchen giving me a one on one chocolate and pastry master class.
How lucky am I?
I had managed to source a slab of marble and Vanessa showed me how to temper on it. Using my digital thermometer as a guide, its a fairly straightforward yet very tricky process of spreading the chocolate around the slab until it gets to the perfect point to scrape.
Next on the list was making the pastry for the tart and I learned that at times following all the rules gets you the best results. This is one of the most stunning pastries I’ve ever tasted. * I had a little pastry left over and made some tartlette shells which I’m turning into something amazing, and a few biscuits which I just dusted with caster sugar*
Onto the making of the chocolate ganache for the filling of this tart, it is important to remember that whilst the recipe is fairly simple and contains only 3 ingredients, the highest quality chocolate must be used to achieve these results. I was excited to discover what Vanessa calls a revolutionary method for making ganache was about.
- Almond shortbread crust
- 120g butter
- 90g icing sugar
- 15g almond flour
- 1 whole egg
- 240g (60g + 180g) flour - sifted
- pinch of salt
- Dark chocolate ganache
- 350g dark chocolate 70% cocoa
- 250g / 1 cup cream
- 1 T honey
- Using a paddle attachment of your electric mixer, beat the butter until its soft. Add the salt, egg, icing sugar, almond flour and 60g of the flour and beat until it is smooth. Add the 180g of flour and mix briefly to combine. Knead together briefly on a floured surface, roll out to about 3mm thick, wrap in cling wrap on both sides and let it rest in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove, cut out and line a 22cm tart case (bottom and sides) and then put it back in the fridge to rest for a further 30 minutes. Prick the bottom surface of the pastry and bake in a preheated over 160C until golden brown (about 20 minutes)
- Heat the chocolate pieces in the microwave on medium power for 30 seconds at a time, removing to stir and check the temperature. Keep repeating this until the chocolate has melted and reached 55 C (for Valrhona). You can also melt the chocolate over a double boiler. In a pot bring the cream and the honey to the boil and then immediately remove from the heat. Add one third of the cream mixture into the melted chocolate and using a strong spatula, whisk vigorously to combine. Add another third of cream, mix vigorously and then insert your stick blender in the chocolate ensuring it is totally submerged, and blend. Make sure you do not lift the blender out the chocolate as this incorporates air. Keep mixing until the ganache starts become smooth. It may seem split, just keep mixing. Add the remaining third of cream and continue to blend with the hand blender until you have a thick, smooth and glossy ganache.
- Immediately pour the ganache into the prepared pastry case and allow to cool and serve at room temperature.
This seems complicated, but I made a few more batches after Vanessa left for the shoot and they all worked perfectly every time. If you are making a bigger tart just double up the ingredients.
The recipe for the shoot required that I make a biscuit base. (* grind up Marie / Tea biscuits to a fine crumb and add melted butter – I use a ratio of 200g biscuits to 70g of butter)
You can dust with cocoa powder, and or chocolate shavings to decorate.
So an extraordinary tart came from an extraordinary shoot, pastry chef and chocolate brand.
Watch this space for more chocolate deliciousness from Vanessa, Valrhona and of course me.
* Vanessa Quellec is a well knows pastry chef and hails from New York City where she worked in a few top restaurants including Gordan Ramsay’s. I first heard about her when she made waves at the Roundhouse Restaurant and then went on to open the bakery Caffe Milano in Kloof Street.
Thank you Vanessa for spending the day with me and teaching me so many things. I love all your analogies when you explain the science behind baking.