Spiced Dark Chocolate Tart
An Ideal Party Dessert for Halloween and Bonfires Night
by Maurice Alexander
Image courtesy of Daria-Yakovleva on Pixabay
Halloween and Bonfires Night are the two days which mark the heart of the Autumn season. Hallmarked with friends and fun amongst the thundering darkness and beneath a night sky sparkling with light and bursting with luminescent colour. Before yourself and your friends leave for a night of adventure, you should all dine on hearty dinner that will provide you with the energy for your upcoming antics, but what to have for dessert? What’s Autumnal but not hackneyed like caramel apples? I present to you a rich chocolate tart heat with a embers of spice from which everyone can share and enjoy before departing into the most magical nights of the year.
Ingredients – Serves 8 to 10
One sheet of ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
250ml double cream
125ml whole milk
300g 70% cocoa dark chocolate
50g soft light brown sugar
2 large eggs
Zest of two oranges
¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 to 3 gratings of a whole nutmeg or a pinch if using ground nutmeg
A pinch of the hottest chilli powder
A pinch of salt, preferably Maldon sea salt
Along with a fear of guests during Halloween, I have great fear of making pastry dough. I can never be bothered making it for tarts, with its difficulty in handling, as pastry dough needs all its ingredients to be chilled as well as brisk handling to retain its near-zero temperature. All these requirements are daunting, so I always opt for a shop bought substitute. Not a pre-baked tart shell, since they are tailored towards ‘no-bake’ refrigerated recipes. As its already been cooked through entirely, using them for this recipe will cause it to burn on all sides. Therefore, you must get a pre-rolled sheet of shortcrust pastry.
Shortcrust pastry can come in two types, sweetened and normal (unsweetened). The former is better for desserts and the latter is more suited to savoury recipes, however, its much easier to find unsweetened shortcrust pastry, so don’t worry about using it if that’s all that is available to you. Do not use puff pastry as it’s a totally different ingredient which just wouldn’t work with this tart recipe. The specific brand of shortcrust pastry I use is a pre-rolled sheet of the pastry dough from the brand Jus-Rol, which comes within a long, thin cardboard box and is wrapped upon itself like it’s an edible wallpaper. Think of a tart being a pie with its contents exposed, so you will only need one sheet. The only reason why I’m using a ready-rolled sheet of shortcrust pastry is because my most hated task in the kitchen is the rolling out of dough. If all that’s available is a solid block of the pre-made stuff and you don’t mind some light domestic labour, then you can simply roll it out to a thin, even sheet.
After purchasing the pastry dough and having it sit on the shelf in your fridge until you’re ready to make the tart, withdraw it from its chilled storage and let it sit on the side for 5 to 10 minutes. This will allow the doughs temperature to rise minutely which will prevent it from cracking when you’re arranging it around the tart case. The pastry sheet should easily unfurl itself from its packaging and appear as a pale cream colour, with a deliciously rich scent when using an all-butter sweetened shortcrust pastry variety.
Lay it gracefully over a 9 to 10 inch tart case, the type of case with a shallow depression with fluted edges, and push it down onto its surface and along the sides to eliminate the possibility of any trapped air between the metal or ceramic case and the dough. The arranged pastry should be unbroken, any tears or creases re-joined and smoothed out so it appears like freshly fallen snow. Satisfied, meticulously prick the doughs surface with the tines of a fork which is a second precaution to prevent the dough bubbling up when it is within the oven. The reason why this is so important to avoid is because any domed areas of the pastry will cause an uneven dispersal of the tart filling when it is poured in. Once doing this, return the lined tart tin to the fridge to chill for an hour.
With an hour passed, remove the cold tart case from the fridge and quickly spread over it a layer of baking parchment, being sure to cover every squared-centimetre of the dough’s surface. This is because you have to pour in baking beans, simply dried beans, or rice into the tart tin. This step provides a weight that will further supress any rising that may occur in the over. Be sure to generously fill the tart tine, ensuring that the dried beans/rice reach all over and around the height and diameter of the tin, pressing them down lightly and supplementing with more rice/beans to minimise empty space.
Do this step very quickly, under 2 minutes ideally, and place the tart tin, beans and all, into the centre of a pre-heated oven at 180 Celsius for convection ovens, 160 Celsius for fan-assisted ovens, and Gas Mark 4 for gas-supplied ovens for 15 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, quickly withdraw the tart tin and remove the parchment with the beans/rice, it should effortlessly peel off due to the parchments non-stick quality, and return to the centre of the oven to bake for an additional 10 minutes fully exposed to the heat for it to develop a golden complexion. The first 15 minutes allowed the dough to set and the final 10 minutes without the weighted parchment allowed it to crisp up, allowing it to resist becoming waterlogged when the liquid filling is added.
During this 25-minute period, pour the cream and milk into a medium saucepan and, whisking incessantly on a medium-high intensity flame, heat the ivory liquid until it steams as though it is breathing. At this point, remove the saucepan from the heat. In a small bowl, thoroughly beat two eggs until they are a uniform soft yellow colour and, whisking the cream-milk without stopping, add the beaten egg drip by drip into the hot mix. Do not rush this step as adding too much egg into a stationary heated liquid will cause it to cook upon contact. Successfully done, a great bulk of the heat will be absorbed by the eggs which in turn will supply the cream/milk mix with what it needs to stiffen up in the oven. Whisk in the soft light brown sugar and toss in dark chocolate, which I break up into pieces to encourage it to melt easily but you could always melt and add it that way. Stir in the zest, salt and spices.
Withdraw the tart tin from the oven when it turns golden at the end of the final 10 minutes and pour in the prepared filling until it fills the entirety of the pastry surface in both height and diameter. Return to the oven and allow to gently bake for 20 to 25 minutes, at which point the once liquid mix will congeal into a soft chocolate filling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before attempting to unseat the tart from its tin. This tart is true beauty for the senses; a glistening dark complexion with the most delectable scent imaginable; each slice replete with rich notes of chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange, whilst delivering a subtle heat with each mouthful. Serve with crème fraiche and/or double cream, whipped or unwhipped.