CHOCOLATE-HAZELNUT TARTLETS

I’ve made this recipe twice, first time I thought they looked pretty nice but the filling was too dry for my taste. So I tweaked the recipe and now share with you the winner. Compared to the first attempt, they baked a little more flat, but the texture and taste were spot on, in my opinion. A big thank you to Matt Adlard, who helped me optimize it. As to the crust, it is my favorite. Very easy to handle, bakes like a dream. It goes in the oven as soon as the filling is piped in, no need to blind bake if using this type of filling. Easy as pie. Or, if you prefer, easy as tartlet.

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT TARTLETS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Carole Bloom)

makes about 8, depending on the size of your molds

for the shells:
120 g cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
zest of 1/2 orange
45 g butter, cut in small pieces and very cold
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream (or a little more depending on the final texture of the dough)

for the filling:
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g powdered sugar
75g eggs
12g cornstarch
80g hazelnuts flour
60g mini chocolate chips (the smallest you can find)

to decorate (optional)
drizzle of candy melts or chocolate
sprinkles of your choice

Add to a food processor the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and orange zest. Pulse until all is combined and the orange zest very fragrant. Add the chilled butter, pulse a few times until the butter is cut in small pieces. Whisk the egg yolk, and one tablespoon of cream in a little bowl. With the processor running, pour this mixture and wait until the mixture starts to form a dough. If needed, add a little more heavy cream. Shape the dough into a flat disk and place in the fridge for 15 minutes. If you prefer leave it longer, I like to use it while it is still very pliable.

Roll out the dough until it is about 12 inches in diameter, and cut circles that will allow it to fit inside and all the way up your molds. Place the filled molds in the freezer for 20 minutes or longer, as you make the filling and heat your oven to 350F.

Make the filling: Beat the butter and sugar until smooth. I used a handheld mixer. Slowly add the eggs and beat again. Add the cornstarch and hazelnut flour and mix to combine, then finally fold in the chocolate chips. Pipe that mixture into the unbaked, frozen tart shells and then bake until the filling is set, about 25 minutes, but check at 20 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am really happy with the way these turned out. The recipe for the shells is definitely my favorite because it is very easy to handle. Plus, the inclusion of orange zest is a nice touch. Most recipes will tell you to chill a pie dough for hours or even overnight. It does not work well for me. I much rather roll the dough while it is still pliable and then freeze before baking. But do what works for you, as I often say… your kitchen, you rules. The combination of hazelnut and chocolate is fantastic and perfect for the Fall and upcoming Thanksgiving. Keep that in mind…

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MINI-EGG BROWNIES

This is a super simple bake, perfect for the season. Toughest part of the recipe? Cutting the mini-eggs in half. But don’t skip that step, it makes them better dispersed in the brownie batter and easier to cut after baking. Just be careful.

MINI-EGG BROWNIES
(slightly modified from Kitchen Mason)

200g mini-chocolate eggs
110g unsalted butter
110g semi-sweet chocolate
2 Eggs
125g granulated sugar
100g brown sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Salt
60g all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder (Dutch processed)

Lightly grease and line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper, and heat the oven to 350F.

Measure half of the mini-eggs and cut in half.

Melt the butter with the chocolate in a microwave, gently. Let it cool slightly and add the eggs, whisking until fully smooth. Add the sugars, and beat until fully dissolved. Add the vanilla, salt, and sift the flour and cocoa powder on top. Gently fold the batter until no dry bits remain. Add HALF the mini-eggs preciously cut and HALF the whole mini-eggs. Mix briefly and pour the batter into the pan.

Distribute the remaining eggs (cut and whole) over the surface, gently pressing them a little bit into the batter.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is crispy and dry. Do not over-bake. Allow to fully cool before cutting in small squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Hard to come up with a simpler bake, apart from slicing the mini-eggs, it’s something you could do with kids. You can definitely use any brownie recipe you are fond of, and incorporate the mini-eggs the way this one does. But keep the basic recipe simple, this will be all about the little eggs dispersed in the brownie. Adorable little bake!

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TIRAMISU TART

This is a perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day, not only for the flavors and whimsical look, but – I won’t lie to you – because it is a labor of love to put it together… The recipe comes from Savour, the Australian online cooking school run by the amazing Kirsten Tibbals. I cannot share the recipe in all its many details, as it is copyrighted. One must join the site to have access to, but I can share just the list of ingredients, and include a link to the mousse I’ve used, which is not the same from Savour. I wanted something a little less rich than the original version, which was a pâté à bomb-based mousse, the most indulgent of all.


OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE

It all starts with a chocolate-sable base, which is rolled as thin as you can, and baked in a rectangular tart pan. I used a perforated frame for that. You can also do it in a round format, using a normal tart pan with removable bottom.

Ingredients for chocolate sable base
120g unsalted butter
80g powdered sugar
1g salt
1g Vanilla Bean Paste
50g whole eggs
20g almond meal
175g plain (all-purpose) flour
30g Cocoa Powder

The ingredients are used to make a dough, rolled very thin and baked in a 290 x 90mm
(11 x 4.3 in) rectangular tart pan.

Tiramisu normally uses store-bought lady fingers, but in Kirsten’s version we go the extra mile and make our own, which is quite a fun little project. As you can see from the composite above, the lady finger batter is piped, baked and then the resulting layer is cut to fit exactly over the coffee-chocolate mousse spread in the bottom of the tart. I used THIS RECIPE for the mousse, adding 1 tsp of espresso powder to the heavy cream before incorporating into the chocolate.

Ingredients for the lady-finger sponge:
85g egg whites, room temperature
30g egg yolk
30g granulated sugar
1g salt
5g Vanilla Bean Paste
35g cornstarch
35g all-purpose flour
sugar, for sprinkling

After baking, the sponge is soaked with a coffee-Marsala syrup.

Once the sponge is placed on top, the mascarpone cream is gently spread on top, and the whole thing goes into the fridge for a little while. The last step is piping additional cream on top using either a grass tip like Kirsten does in the tutorial, or a regular round opening tip (which is what I did). A shower of cocoa powder closes the deal.

Ingredients for the mascarpone cream:
8g gold gelatine sheets
700g mascarpone cheese
220g granulated sugar
10g Vanilla Bean Paste
300g fresh cream 35% fat
70g Marsala wine (I omitted)
Cocoa Powder, for dusting

I made some decorations with tempered chocolate to add to the top. Would love to repeat this tart using the grass tip as demonstrated in the tutorial, because the look that gives is simply stunning! But I only had very small grass icing tips that are used for cookies, and that did not work at all for the top of the tart. Obviously, that gave me the opportunity to order the correct tip. Are you surprised? 😉

I should also mention that all the ingredients are enough for TWO tarts, so I halved the lady finger and the mascarpone cream amounts. I made the full recipe for the tart base because I am not very good at rolling the dough and feel better if I have more to work with. Leftovers make great little cookies.

The tart is perfect for entertaining because it is actually better made the day before. Leftovers were still quite delicious a couple of days later, much to our delight!

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CHOCOLATE CHERRY MIROIR CAKE: A VEGAN SHOWSTOPPER

Please, do not allow the vegan word to scare you away. This was one of the tastiest cakes I’ve ever made, and I simply cannot BELIEVE it is vegan. The recipe comes from Fran Costigan’s cookbook: Vegan Chocolate, Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-free Chocolate Desserts. Ms. Costigan has decades of experience creating dairy-free cakes and concoctions that do not rely on margarine and tofu like most do. As she points out in the introduction of the book, you can always taste margarine in the icing, and tofu will never fail to make a cake heavy. This cake – included in her “Showstoppers” chapter – is a bit involved to make, but one of the things I love about her cookbook is that she lays out a timetable suggesting how you can break the process in stages in a smooth and efficient way. I made the cake, the vanilla custard cream, and the chocolate decorations two days before. Made the mousse, assembled the cake and covered with the glaze the day before showtime. Basically, the cake was ready and waiting in the fridge before we had to take it to a get-together with friends. All that was left to do was add the chocolate decorations. Piece of (vegan) cake!


CHERRY CHOCOLATE MIROIR CAKE
(from Fran Costigan’s Vegan Chocolate)

RECIPE OVERVIEW

1 recipe for Chocolate Torte to Live For (click here), baked in a 9-inch round pan and cooled
(can be made a couple of days in advance)

Other components

Soaked dry cherries

Vanilla Custard Cream: based on cashew cream and coconut milk, thickened with agar-agar

Magic Chocolate Mousse: water-ganache with a touch of olive oil, very interesting and quite tasty version

Mirror glaze: Cherry juice, coconut milk, cocoa, chocolate, agar-agar

Comments: Vegan baking is not simple. Fran’s book takes that challenge and turns it into art. I don’t think it is right to publish the full recipe for such a complex cake, when so much work and effort went into its design and optimization. But the cake component, which by the way, stands beautifully on its own, can be made according to the recipe she published in her website (click here). In that version, the cake is covered with a vegan ganache and ends up very elegant in its simplicity. It remains as one of her most popular cakes, and having made it, I can understand why.

For the decorations, I tempered chocolate and used some of it to pipe designs on acetate sheet. The remaining I spread over transfer sheets (I get mine usually at bakedeco.com) and before it was fully set I cut small triangles. Fran’s version in the cookbook used fresh cherries covered in tempered chocolate, but they are not in season at the present time, so I went with my Plan B.

Everything works perfectly well in this cake, I would not change a thing. The cake is intensely chocolate-y, the two mousse components soften the overall taste. I really like the texture of glazes made with agar-agar instead of gelatin, find it a lot easier to work with and more reproducible. Gelatin-based glazes tend to get a bit slimy, particularly if sitting at room temperature for a while.

To get Fran’s cookbook – a must-have if you are into baking adventures – follow this link to amazon.

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ONE GIFT, ONE DOUGH, TWO RECIPES

Last month my dear friend Louise sent me a wonderful gift: a box with many (and by many I mean more than 50!) little tartlet tins in several different shapes and sizes. I was speechless, and so touched by her generosity! It is now time to share my first adventure with this special gift. A single dual-purpose dough was used to make little tarts and a modernized version of Linzer cookies. The recipe for the dough comes from Haniela’s blog. She is one of the cookie artists I follow and try to learn from. I suspect it will become my default dough for sweet tarts. The texture is perfect, and I loved the way it is intensely flavored with vanilla.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE MINI-TARTLETS
(dough recipe from Haniela’s)

for the dough:
430g all-purpose-flour
1/8 tsp salt
160g powdered sugar
3 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
226 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

for the filling:
6oz dark chocolate, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp orange oil
sprinkles to decorate (optional)

Sift flour and salt. Set aside. In a mixer fitted with a paddle beater, mix butter and powdered sugar until smooth. In a small dish whisk together egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually beat egg yolk mixture into the creamed butter. Scrape the bowl a few times as needed.

On low-speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix until it starts to come together. If the dough is too crumbly, add 1tsp milk. Do not overwork the dough. Invert the dough onto a clean work surface or into a large bowl and gather dough together with your hands into a ball. Then form the dough into a disk, wrap it in the foil and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350F. Place mini tart shell molds onto a baking sheet. Spray with a non-stick spray, set aside. Take out the chilled dough, cut it in half. Let if soften for 5 minutes. Roll it to 1/8 inch rolling. Cut out as many rounds as you can. Gather scraps and re-roll. Shape the tarts and use a fork to prick the bottom of the shells. Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes until golden around the edges.

Let cool for 10-15 minutes before removing tarts from the molds. Turn the mold upside down and tap it firmly onto your work surface to release the shell. Let the tarts cool before adding a filling.

Make the filling: place the chocolate in a bowl, heat the heavy cream to almost boiling, and pour over the chocolate. Wait a few minutes, add the orange oil, and gently stir until fully smooth. Let the ganache cool for about 5 minutes, then place in a piping bag and fill the tartlets, smoothing the top. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Place in the fridge to set the ganache for about 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Check Hani’s site for detailed step-by-step instructions. As she shows, the best way to shape the dough is using an empty tin of the same format to press it in, with a Saran wrap type plastic over the dough to protect it. Works like a charm (check top right picture in composite above). You can make many tartlets and store them in the freezer for a mini-tartlet emergency…

The same exact dough can be rolled and cut into any shape you like to make a Linzer version. I went with a teardrop and cut-out small flower shapes for the top layer.

Simply bake the cookies, let them cool, and spread a thin layer of the jam of your choice. I used seedless raspberry jam for this batch.

A little shower with powdered sugar is optional, but in my opinion, a nice finishing touch.

The dough is wonderful to work with, and as a cutout cookie, it held the shape well. The tartlets puffed up a bit, but midway through baking I pressed them down gently. Perfect texture.

A big thank you to Louise and Haniela!

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