This superb recipe will make you lots of friends. As the filling contains no butter or cream, it is much more enjoyable to eat than those tarts filled with pure ganache, which leave me feeling faintly ill no matter how good the chocolate used. The pastry is child’s play to make (and in fact, would be perfect for a young assistant cook), as it is pushed into the tin with fingers and knuckles, just as one does for the crumb crust of a cheesecake.
On one occasion I dropped the pre-baked shell and it cracked badly. Undeterred, I put the pieces in the food processor, gave them a quick pulse, then put a layer of loose chocolate crumbs into a shallow bowl, poured the chiffon mix on top and topped it with cream, resulting in some sort of trifle. Afterwards, I thought I should have added a layer of coffee jelly before the cream. When available, this tart is extra-special with a spoonful of sliced, lightly sweetened strawberries alongside for a textural contrast.
CHOCOLATE CHIFFON TART
- 3 gelatine leaves
- 120g bittersweet/dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids), broken into pieces
- ? cup (80ml) strong espresso coffee
- 3 free-range eggs, separated
- 80g caster sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- unsweetened whipped cream and sliced strawberries sprinkled with a little caster sugar (optional), to serve
- 125g unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering
- 80g caster sugar
- 1 cup (150g) plain flour
- 50g good-quality Dutched cocoa
To make the pastry, butter a 23 cm tart tin lightly. Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and caster sugar until very pale. Stop the motor. Sift the flour and cocoa and tip into the butter mixture. Drape a tea towel over the mixer or use the plastic guard. Turn on the motor to low speed and incorporate the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Stop the motor as soon as the dough is well combined; it will be very moist and crumbly.
Immediately tip the mixture into the prepared tin and work the dough over the base and up the side. Using your knuckles, press in well to ensure the pastry comes well up the side of the tin. (Try to make a very thin layer, as this pastry is very crunchy and a bit like chocolate shortbread.) Smooth the base and side with the bottom of a tumbler or similar. Refrigerate for 1 hour to chill.
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Bake the pastry shell for 15 minutes. Remove and, using a clean dry tea towel, press the pastry back up the side of the tin if it has slipped down during baking. Leave to cool completely before adding the filling.
To make the filling, soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water for 5 minutes. Combine the chocolate and coffee in a heatproof bowl that fits snugly over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water, then stir from time to time until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
Remove the bowl from the pan and set aside, then tip out almost all of the hot water, leaving just 2 tablespoons in the pan. Squeeze the gelatine leaves and drop them into the water left in the pan, then swish to dissolve. Pour into the chocolate mixture and stir well.
Using an electric mixer or hand-held electric beaters, beat the egg yolks, half of the caster sugar and the vanilla until thick and pale.
Whisk in the chocolate mixture, ensuring that it is all well mixed together. Refrigerate to chill for 15 minutes, whisking once or twice, until the mixture starts to thicken a little around the edge.
Wash the bowl and beaters and dry very thoroughly.
Using the electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar until you have a glossy meringue. Fold into the chocolate mixture and pile into the chocolate pastry case.
Leave to set. (In hot weather, place the tart in the refrigerator. Otherwise, leave to set at room temperature.) Serve with the whipped cream, and sweetened strawberries alongside, if desired.
From A Weekend at Cape Cod, The Cook’s Table by Stephanie Alexander