Wednesday, January 29, 2014

don't cry over spilled chocolate

I'm not sure if it is helpful or harmful when I have sudden urges to bake at 9 in the evening.

Last night I had an intense craving for a chocolate tart. I wanted something rich yet simple to make, and found a recipe that appeared to meet both requirements.

The recipe called for 150 g chocolate, and my 4-ounce/113 g chocolate baking bar came up a bit short, so I put the chocolate bar on my baking scale and proceeded to add chocolate chips to make up for the difference until I had 150 g total. In the process, the (open) bag of chocolate chips slipped from my hands and fell on the floor, spilling half of the chocolate chips.


Then A. comes rushing into the kitchen, asking what happened and if I was ok. He's used to hearing random sounds from me when I am in the kitchen, whether it's because I bumped my head on an open cupboard door (for the nth time) or spilled something, or both. And in his typical calm, gentle, grounding self he always says something in response to my P.O.'d state. I really dislike wasting food.

"Maybe it was bad chocolate and it was meant to be spilled," A. says.

But me and my usual stubborn self - I wouldn't hear any of it. "But it WAS good chocolate!!" I say.

And this is usually when he starts telling me a story.

A. always has these short stories and fables. I'm not sure where he gets them, but they must be stories that he's learned from childhood. I've probably heard 3 or 4 different ones (maybe more) over the course of our relationship, which I regrettably haven't written down anywhere - until now.

There he was, on his hands and knees, helping me collect the chocolate chips from the floor, and he proceeds to tell me this story.

Once there was a king who lost a battle and ran away with his horse to go in hiding. After some time, the king was so tired, hungry, and thirsty. He heard some water dripping from above and started collecting it in a bowl. Just as he was about to take a sip, his horse kicked the bowl, knocking all the water out of it. In his anger, he beheaded his horse. He later realized that the dripping liquid was coming from a snake. The snake had been hitting a tree branch above, causing the venom to drip from his mouth. By knocking the bowl over, his horse saved him from getting poisoned. 

Moral of the story: Perhaps things do happen for a reason. (Even spilled chocolate.)

My moral #2: ALWAYS have extra chocolate. 

On to the recipe...

This chocolate tart was inspired by Mimi Thorisson's recipe, as written in her stunning blog, Manger. Seriously - I can get completely lost in her site, in her stories of living with her family and dogs in the countryside in southern France. Her recipes exemplify rustic yet elegant (how she makes that combination possible, I'd love to know) French cooking at its best, highlighting the fresh flavors of the season's produce.

I used her chocolate filling recipe but added some vanilla. I like a nutty crust, so I used almonds as the base instead of making a regular pie pastry crust as directed in her recipe.

Chocolate Tart in an Almond Crust
(adapted from Mimi Thorisson's la tarte au chocolat; crust recipe is my own)


  • 2 cups almond meal (I get it from Trader Joe's. Alternatively, grind almonds in a food processor. Skin on is fine for texture. I actually prefer grinding the almonds myself for this type of crust as I like the texture, but I was out of whole almonds)
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • scant 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted


  • 1/4 cup whole milk (Please do not sub with skim milk! I always use whole milk in baking and ice creams as a general rule. Go big or go home.)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • tiny pinch of sea salt
  • 150 g semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces (I used one 4-ounce bar of Ghirardelli semisweet baking chocolate plus about 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips to measure 150 g total)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten 
  • extra chocolate, for grating on top
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a pie dish, measure out the almond meal, sea salt, and brown sugar. Mix together well, making sure to break any lumps of almond meal or sugar. Add the melted butter and mix well until mixture sticks together. Press onto the bottom of the pie dish with your (clean) hands or the bottom of a measuring cup. (You can also mix this in a large bowl and then transfer it into your pie dish, but I try to keep dirtied bowls to a minimum when I can). Bake it in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until the crust browns slightly. Take it out of the oven and set aside. Switch off the oven.
  2. To make the filling, mix the milk, cream, butter, and salt in a saucepan. Bring it to a gentle boil, then take it off the heat and add the chocolate. Stir it well to allow the chocolate to melt in the hot liquid. Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Have the lightly beaten egg ready in a bowl. When the chocolate mixture is smooth, slowly pour a small amount (about a quarter cup or so - no need to measure) into the beaten egg, and stir it gently. This process of taking a small amount of hot liquid into a cooler liquid (like egg) is called tempering. This is not in Ms. Thorisson's recipe, but I like to take this extra step when I'm mixing eggs with a hot liquid, such as for custards and puddings. It sounds technical, but it's actually quite easy. Instead of pouring the egg into the hot chocolate (which can make the egg "scramble" in the chocolate - not good.), by tempering you are trying to bring up the temperature of the egg gradually without cooking it. Add a small amount of chocolate again, and stir gently once more. Repeat one more time, stirring until the mixture is homogenous. At this time, pour the rest of the chocolate into the egg mixture. Mix until smooth. (So, if you happen to prepare this for a party and you are asked how to make it, you can say "I tempered the egg" and sound really smart :) )
  4. Pour the filling over the crust. Return it to the oven (switched off) - at this point your oven should be at about 300 degrees F. Keep the oven turned off, and let the tart bake in the residual heat for 15 minutes. 
  5. After 15 minutes, take the tart out of the oven and let it cool on a cooling rack for at least 2-3 hours or until set.
  6. Refrigerate the tart for an hour or so for easier slicing. Grate or shave (using a vegetable peeler) extra chocolate on top. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

This chocolate tart is a great base for experimentation. Here are a few flavor variations:

  • Toast some coconut flakes and sprinkle it in a circle around the edge of the tart (if you like an "Almond Joy" type of flavor) 
  • Use orange extract in place of vanilla in the chocolate. Serve the tart with whipped cream spiked with a little Triple Sec or Grand Marnier and a little bit of orange zest.
  • Sub some pistachio in place of some of the almonds. When heating the cream and milk, infuse it with cardamom (open whole cardamom pods, crush the seeds using a mortar and pestle, and let it infuse the cream for 10-15 minutes. Strain the cream before adding the chocolate. Once the tart is done, sprinkle some chopped pistachios in a circle around the edge of the tart.
  • Infuse the milk/cream mixture with dried lavender flowers (culinary grade) for 10-15 minutes. Strain the cream before adding the chocolate. Serve the tart with a drizzle of warmed lavender honey.
  • Drizzle the tart with salted caramel. 

Now that I've listed all those variations, I'm thinking of which one to try next! Those tend to be my favorite flavor combinations, but I'd love to know what you come up with.

So, I'll no longer cry over spilled chocolate. I may just get slightly teary-eyed though. It is chocolate, after all.

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Christine Duque said...

Please send a pie to NYC for P. =)

Mia (Savor Everyday) said...

Christine - come visit!

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