Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Home Is Where the Tart Is

Chocolate and Strawberry Tarts

Considering that a mere three months ago I was, shall we say, culinary stunted. I am quite surprised that my culinary prowess has increased in leaps and bounds. I can only attribute this growth spurt to this blog, as that it has encouraged me to delve deeper into the world of food and eating. And frankly who can object to such grand intentions, I think if someone asked me whether I wanted to eat and cook to my heart’s content or jump head first into a vat of motor grease, I know what I would choose.

So what I am saying is that, all this blogging has led me to my first foray into pastry and tart making. I have always been a passionate eater of all things pastry although for some reason I was always under the impression that pastry making was difficult, reserved only for lofty p√Ętissiers. However my initial stab at making Chocolate and Strawberry Tarts has been relatively painless.

Making the pastry, as in, making them completely from scratch and equipment free, was actually quite enjoyable. I love the hands-on approach to baking, so I try to avoid utilizing electrical mixers when possible. The primary problem I encountered was having the pastry shrink a considerable amount while baking them blind. Everything else worked a gem. And although the pastry cases did not transpire as superbly as I had imagined, I know that my latent pastry-making potential is ready to be uncovered.

I adapted the recipe for both the tart cases and the chocolate filling from
Bill Granger’s Sydney Food. His recipe was for Chocolate and Raspberry Tarts, but because I could not find decent raspberries anywhere in Sydney I opted for the ubiquitous strawberry- common, yet no less flavoursome. Besides, no one has ever opposed to the chocolate and strawberry duo. All I can say is that, my face was rightly buried in that bowl of chocolate filling until it was licked clean. Delicious, would be an understatement, especially if you are like me, a devout chocolate enthusiast.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1 pinch of salt
90g unsalted butter, slightly chilled and diced
2 tbsp cold water

Sift flour, sugar and salt into a dry bowl.
Add the cubes of slightly chilled butter and using the tips of your fingers begin to rub the flour into the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Slowly add cold water and cut through the mixture with a knife until the dough comes together into a ball.
Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Chocolate and Strawberry Tarts
(makes 6)

Chocolate and Strawberry Tarts

60g unsalted butter
100g good quality dark chocolate
1 egg yolk
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp caster sugar
as many strawberries as you like

Divide pastry into four portions and roll each piece out onto a lightly floured surface until 3mm thick.
Press pastry into four individual tart tins and freeze for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180˚C.

Remove pastry shells from freezer, pierce the bottom with a fork several times and line with baking paper and baking weights.
Bake for 10 minutes. Then remove paper and weights and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until the pastry is lightly browned and cooked throughout.
Allow to cool on wire racks.
Increase oven temperature to 190˚C.

Melt butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir and remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place egg yolk, egg, vanilla extract and sugar into a bowl and beat until combined.

Add the chocolate mixture and mix well.
Pour the mixture into the pastry cases and bake for 5 minutes.
When cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool.
Arrange as many strawberries as you like on top of the tarts.


If anyone has any suggestions on how to avoid the pastry shrinking considerably during blind baking, I would love to hear them.


Anonymous said...

heavenly! (beautiful pictures too) i have te same problem with crusts shriking and puffing up on me. one of these days I'll get some marbles or something. your blog is making me hungry...

Krithika said...

Tarts look great. Great pics !

Anonymous said...

Hey Jen,

Try buying some legumes/pulses (I have a container of rice and black beans), place some baking paper on top of the pastry and pack the case with the legumes/pulses. This will stop pastry from potentially bulging up as well as shrinking as it'll force it to stay right up next to the sides of the dish :)

Anonymous said...

Hey JenJen,

I don't have any suggestions on how to avoid shrinking pastry unfortunately, as i'm way more of a pastry novice than you...

I know exactly what you mean about blogging making you want to do new and exciting things with food... although i've found the opposite as well... Meaning if i'm not going to make something different or interesting, I can't be bothered cooking at all :)

Anyway, just wanted to say hi, and love the posts (and photos!) so far.


Unknown said...

your pictures are amazing!
I heard that if your dough is well rested and super cold, it shrinks less. Baking and pastry was never my forte though.......

Anonymous said...

The photos are stunning. I'd love to bite into that chocolate/strawberry duo right now. Gorgeous.

Bonnie said...

This is absolutely gorgeous! Wanna FedEx one over? Or is it too late....

Adventurous Twenty-Something said...

You took the words right out of my mouth. Before I left for my trip to Mexico I really go into cooking, so much so that now I am desperately trying to find a cooking class I can take while I am here. I miss my kitchen and being able to hop into the kitchen to put something together. I have a whole recipe book on tarts which you have inspired me to open and attempt once I return. Until then I´ll just have to enjoy your photos and your adventures in cooking.

Helene said...

One thing with pastry dough is not to handle it too much, aslo the less you stretch it the less it shrinks.
I have a nice pomegranate wine to go with your tarts...when should I come over? They look delicious!

Nabeela said...

these here are tips to avoid pie shrinkahe..and btw, your ies look GORGEOUS!

Minimize Pie Crust Shrinkage:

Use a dull metal or unglazed ceramic pie plate. Avoid using glass. If you have to use a glass pie plate, allow a 1/8-inch overhang to compensate for shrinkage.
Nonstick pie pans can cause excessive shrinkage.
Bake at a lower temperature, such as 350° F.
Do not over-handle the dough when mixing and rolling.
Do not stretch the dough when placing it in the pie plate.
Be sure to chill the crust sufficiently before baking

Jen said...

Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions on how to improve my pastry. My second attempt at pastry will definitely have all these tips in mind.

Matt- I know what you mean, I waver between being fanatical to then becoming an apathetic cook. But thats the way it goes I guess. I never like to cook/bake when im not in the mood.

Bonnie- if I could I would, I'm all for sharing, maybe for the next batch hey?

Helene- come now! quick before they all go!

Nabeela, thanks so much, this will be lots of help

Ange said...

These look just as good as Bills pic in his book which I have & am now doublt determined to make one day soon (translation - in next 6 months or so)!

Cindy said...

Looks real good !

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos! Chocolate and strawberries are such a wonderful paring!

Anonymous said...

Great photo and writing. I have found that it is always best to just go ahead and try whatever it is. Basically if you can read, you're going to be able to cook!
Your pastry shell looks perfect (even though I know perfect doesn't exist in this worlk). You've done a beautiful job. Looking forward to the next adventure.

Anonymous said...

hubby and i were just talking about this perfect pairing! i remember doing this in a much humbler way, in plain bread, nutella and fresh strawberries grilled! this is a must for me now! and great shots you got here!

Orchidea said...

Beautiful tarts... I guess they are really good too.

Anonymous said...

I'm so impressed. If you were "culinarily stunted" only a few months ago, and you're already making crust by hand, I can't wait to see what your blog looks like in a year!

I love the hands-on approach to making dough too; there's nothing quite like digging in and molding ingredients together yourself. Well done!

Anonymous said...

Looking good! Makes me wanna make a chocolate tart...

anni said...

Fantastic blog!
It's always nice to know that there are other pastry makers that like to use the tools that the Almighty has given them. I always like to use my hands when making dough. There is comfort in the familiarity and contact of when it is "just right" to the touch.


Anni :-)

Anonymous said...

Shrinking pastry can be caused by over working or streatching the pastry to much, handling it to much also contributes to this problem... you can place baking papper in the tarts with some rice this will stop the pastry from bubbling.