Sunday, March 24, 2024

Chocolate Graham Chocolate Tart

Hello gorgeous. Isn't she a drama queen?

I have not visited this corner of the world in a while, but hey, I have a new job and a new puppy... Wanna take a guess at which one has kept me from writing? 

I am still not fully back yet, but this tart has been on my mind for a long time, bugging me to oblivion. I meant to post it since November but feel behind. To reclaim my piece of mind, yesterday I took a break from changing puppy wee wee pads and typed up this post. 

It’s a mighty awesome tart – my daughter (who knows a thing or two about pastries) described it as “insane”. The first spoonful feels like biting into a piece of velvet, a dark indigo journey into the senses. It’s slightly vague, slightly incomplete, until you reach that crunchy crust, slightly bitter, slightly toasty, with a hint of nuttiness. And then an insinuation of saltiness hits you, a whisper that accentuates the darkness. We made this gorgeous creature throughout the fall and winter: we made it for Thanksgiving, for a pre-holiday party at a friend's place, for a pre-holiday party at our place, for the holidays, and all the way into January. I thought that Miss Pain would get sick of it at one point, but then she demanded variations: milk chocolate with classic graham crust, an Aztec version, one with a drop of Grand Marnier in the filling... But then Miss Nutmeg (our new puppy) arrived, and the party came to an end.

Before jumping to the recipe, allow me to share a couple words of wisdom. The recipe, with some tweaks by me, is from Epicurious. Once I made it for the first time, I realized that the recipe was a tiny bit underspecified. Some things were left unsaid, things known to an experienced baker that elevate the final bake from excellent to sublime. We all know that the devil is in the details, or, as my grandmother used to say when she taught me how to bake, “watch out for the nitty gritty”. It’s the “nitty gritty” that make or break the bake. She knew this so well that she never wrote her recipes in fine print as a way of preventing others from reaching her culinary greatness. 

So this is the nitty gritty to watch out for here:

One – the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate matters. I made the tart with 32% Ghirardelli, with 72% Lindt, and all percentages (and chocolates) in between. The former is too mellow, the latter is too bitter, and the sweet spot is 42%. Since 42% baking chocolate may not be readily available on every supermarket shelf, you may have to do some blending. For example, you may use two Ghirardelli semisweet chocolates with 35% cocoa, and one Ghirardelli bittersweets chocolate with 60% cocoa. (Yes, I know that it yields 43.3%, but let’s not be nitpickers.)

Two – take your time building the crust shell. It’s a bit like building a sandcastle; you go slowly, and when the base is sound, you refine, and then refine some more.  Make sure to apply just the right pressure (especially around the edges), or the thing may collapse. And press, press, press tenaciously -- you want to compact the shell as much as you can, that’s the key to the wonderfully crunchy crumb in the final tart.

Three – once you make the crust, keep it in the fridge overnight before baking. This allows for proper absorption of liquids / fat and will help the crust maintain its structure as it bakes. 

Four – don’t serve the tart right away. Give it four to six hours in the fridge before you do so. It helps the flavors come together. 

Five – serve chilled. The coldness will cut into the richness of the chocolate (there is a reason opposites attract) and the texture of the filling will be sublime. That’s where the velvet comes from.

Six – just in case you have violet salt (mine in Sophia, and no, this is not a paid advertisement, I use only stuff that I like) this is your moment to unleash it. Just make sure you pound the crystals into fine powder before measuring it. 

That’s all for today. I hope to rebound sometime soon with awesome new recipes. I can feel them brewing in my minds eye, so stay tuned.


Chocolate Graham Chocolate Tart

For the crust:
210 g chocolate graham crackers 
60 g granulated sugar
7 tablespoons (100 g) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
9 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (ideally 42% cocoa), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I use Nielsen Massey)
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the glaze:
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water

9-inch round fluted tart pan (1-inch deep)

To make the crust: In a food processor or blender grind the crackers into fine crumbs. Make sure to smash/break up any remaining large chunks that may sneak in. The mixture will resemble stone-ground cornmeal. You should have 1 and 3/4 cups crumb.

In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and granulated sugar. Stir in the melted butter and mix well. The mixture will be coarse and sandy. It will appear as if it will not stick together, but do not fret.

Pour three quarters of the mixture into the tart pan. Start by building the bottom first. Using your hand, pat the crumbs down into the bottom of the pan to make compact crust. I like to pack the crumb well, because I like the crust to be crunchy. It will make great contrast against the soft filling inside. You can use a small flat-bottomed measuring cup or a spatula to help press down the crust and smooth out the surface. Once the bottom is formed add the remaining crumb and start building the sides. Working with your fingers, build an outline of the wall first, about 3/4-inch high. I like to use my thumb on one hand and two fingers on my other hand to gently push in the sides and the top. It takes a bit of work and patience, and it may look like things will fall apart, but they will not. When the structure is in place, do another round to press in again and compact the edges. Keep doing this until the wall is sturdy. (This requires some patience, so don't rush.) Leave the crust in the fridge overnight. Overnight rest is really important to achieve proper texture of the crumb, so don't rush this either. I made the pie after a two hour rest and after an overnight rest, and the difference was profound!

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F (325°F convection bake) with rack in the middle.

Bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Let the crust cool completely before adding the filling. 

To make the filling: Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (300°F convection bake) with rack in the middle.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and salt. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and mix until fully combined. Slowly add the egg mixture and mix until fully combined.

Pour the filling into the crust. Place in the oven and bake until the filling is set about three inches from the edge, but the center is still wobbly, about 15 to 20 minutes. (The filling will continue to set as the tart cools.) 

Allow the tart to cool completely in the pan, before adding the glaze.

To make the glaze: In a small saucepan, over medium heat, bring the cream, corn syrup, and water to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the chocolate and mix until fully combined.

Pour the glaze onto the tart, then tilt and the rotate the tart so that the glaze coats the tart evenly. Let stand until the glaze is set, about 1 hour. 

Keep the tart in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving and serve cold.