Saturday, June 27, 2009

Chocolate Mousse Tart (& more Pâte Sablée)

This is my new favorite dessert to bring. Bring where? Anywhere! Potlucks, picnics, dinner at dad's, baby showers, and the like.

There's two sticks of butter in the crust. And one whole pint of heavy cream in the tart. So don't make this to keep at home and risk eating all the leftovers for breakfast. You'll thank me for this later.

I made this with Hershey's Special Dark chocolate. I usually go for the Ghirardelli or ScharffenBerger for fancy desserts, but the Hershey's was on sale and I wanted to try it out. I was a little iffy when I tasted the chocolate on its own, as it was too grainy and had that epitomous Hershey's flavor. But, once it was mixed with an ungodly amount of whipped cream and chilled into the sweet, cookie crust, the flavor was exceptional.

The recipe I based this on didn't really work out, so I had to improvise. At first, I made it worse, but it turned out great anyway. The recipe calls for chocolate and half the cream to be heated together in the microwave until the chocolate melted, then cooled to room temperature. Meanwhile, I whipped the remaining cream until stiff peaks formed.

Then, I was to fold the whipped cream into the melted chocolate/cream mixture. Even at room temp, the chocolate/cream mixture was too liquidy to fold the whipped cream into.

So I mixed it the best I could, then thought I could throw the whole mix back into the mixer to re-whip the cream. No, not happening. And then the whole mix was even more liquidy. I poured it into the crust anyway and threw the whole lot into the freezer. And lo and behold! It firmed right up and even had that velvety mousse-like texture I was going for. Whoo hoo!

please ignore my finger marks

The second time I made it, I melted the chocolate and cream using the double-boiler method instead of the microwave, let it cool, then folded the whipped cream in. Worked much better and was definitely a mousse and not a liquid.

double-boiler method is better

A note on chocolate mousse: Julia Child seems to have the go-to recipe, according to my limited on-line research. However, I was making the first tart for a very pregnant friend of mine and Julia's recipe (and most out there) feature raw eggs in the dessert. And raw eggs & pregnant women do not mix. So that is why I chose this simple recipe.

Also, I used the Pâte Sablée crust for this again and it was so good. So, so good. So good that I am going to include that recipe again since I have more pictures of it.

Pâte Sablée from Martha Stewart

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

With a standing mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low. Add flour and salt, and beat until just combined and crumbly (do not overmix).

Shape dough into a 9-inch round disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or up to 2 days), or freeze for up to 1 month.

satiny dough

For this recipe, you'll need to fully bake the crust before filling it. I bake it at 400* for about 25 minutes, then check for doneness. Doneness can be however dark you would like your crust to be. The first time I made this, it was pretty dark.

The crust browned nicely in the oven. This was the crust that was too crumbly for me to roll out; I picked up pieces of sandy dough and patted them into place in the tart pan.

You can see the rest of the dough on my cutting board in the top right of the photo. It was very crumbly.

The next time I made this, I chilled it just for a couple of hours instead of overnight. The crust rolled out nicely and baked up a little lighter.

This dough was still very soft. I couldn't pick it up all at once to place in the pie pan.

I used a bench scraper to lift pieces of the dough into the pie plate, then patched them together with my fingertips.

This crust was a little flakier.

Also, after I get the dough into the tart pan but before I bake it, I place it in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This helps firm it up a bit and prevents it from shrinking in the oven.

Now that you know how to make a perfect pâte sablée tart crust, let's move on to the chocolate mousse part.

Chocolate Mousse Tart adapted from Very Best Baking

1 recipe pâte sablée tart crust, baked and cooled
8 oz. dark chocolate, 62% cacao, chopped finely
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
2 T confectioner's sugar

To begin, set a saucepan with 2 inches of water over medium heat until it simmers. Reduce the heat to low. Place a stainless steel or glass bowl over the saucepan, making sure it doesn't touch the water.

Add chocolate and 1 cup of heavy cream to the bowl. Heat slowly, whisking as you go, until all the chocolate is melted and combined well with the cream.

beginning stages of chocolate melting into cream

When chocolate is thoroughly melted, remove from heat and set aside to cool. You want it to cool to room temperature, but still be melted.

Meanwhile, add the remaining cream and the confectioner's sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer. Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks.

Add the whipped cream to the cooled chocolate mixture. Carefully, gently, fold the whipped cream into the chocolate.

It should look like this.

Scrape chocolate mousse into the prepared tart crust.

Place tart in the refrigerator for 4 hours or until firm.

Slice and serve. I serve this plain, but it would pair well with a fruit sauce or liqueur-flavored whipped cream.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Dad Dinner

Last week Brian and I gave my dad his birthday present. His birthday is in April, but for the second year our gift was a dinner. Dad gets to invite some friends over for a fabulous dinner party, and we cook. Dad's no slouch in the kitchen, so we really have to bring it for these dinners.

The menu this year was as follows:

Spinach Dip with crispy baguette
Assorted Olives

First Course:
Creamy Asparagus Soup with Crab Cakes

Second Course:
Romaine Salad with goat cheese, walnuts, grapefruit & orange supremes, and Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette

Third Course:
Seared Sonomoa Foie Gras with challah toast and honeyed walnuts

Fourth Course:
Lemon Sorbetto

Fifth Course:
Smoked Pork Loin with bacon-wrapped scallops and lentils

Sixth Course:
Yin-Yang Dessert - cheesecake and chocolate mousse tart

I didn't take pics of all the courses, but I wanted to share some.

Here's Brian chopping garlic and/or shallots...and the kitchen behind him.

Creamy Asparagus Soup, plated and ready to be served.

Crab Cakes hand-formed by moi - Brian likes them in the cylinder shape. Sear them in a pan and finish in the oven.

The huge scallops. Wrapped in bacon, they resemble calf nuts.

This is one lobe of foie gras. We had 2 lobes, but only used one. Each person received a generous portion.

The first one is my little plate of foie that I threw together for myself. It isn't pretty. The other one is a plate that Brian made up for us last month and was more like what we served to the guests.

The real star of the evening: Dad's smoked pork loin. Look at that smoke ring!

Luckily, Brian and I got to take a smidge home with us. It was probably the best pork I've had, in any form. The best part was the crispy, crackly outside mingling with the fat pockets inside. Made for some excellent pig sandwiches the next day.

Last, but not least, my dessert duo. I made a cheesecake, slightly lemon flavored. And my new favorite dessert: chocolate mousse tart. I thought we should just give everyone a taste of each. Then we took the rest home...bwuuuhhahahaha.