What can be more sumptuous, more elegant than a rich, decadent chocolate tart? Whether it is a simple ganache filling a delicate, flaky crust or a more complex chocolate custard in a paté sucrée, this classic pastry has graced the tables of both home cooks and fancy restaurants since the mid-18th century.
The first known published recipe for chocolate tart appeared in a 1737 English book called — wait for it — The Whole Duty of a Woman: Or, an infallible Guide to the Fair Sex. In addition to recipes, this book contains chapters on everything from “The Duty of Virgins” to “A Wife’s Behaviour to a Drunkard.” I can imagine it would have been an invaluable resource for proper women of every age living in the 1700s.
The brief for this semifinal signature bake specified that the tarts had to have both chocolate pastry and a chocolate filling. The bakers in the Great White Tent could add other flavors to their chocolate tarts, but as Mary said, “It’s got to be immaculate. It’s got to be a superb flavor. It’s got to taste brilliant.”
Once again, I capitalized on my ability to pick and choose from some of the bakers’ best elements, so for my chocolate tart, I used Nadiya’s chocolate pastry recipe, Ian’s mirror glaze, and, from Flora’s cream horns recipe from Patisserie Week, her caramel wafers for decoration.
For my filling, I chose a classic chocolate custard recipe that I found at HomeCookingAdventure.com. I call it custard because it is made like a custard, with milk, cream, eggs and sugar, but perhaps because of the addition of chocolate, once it’s baked, it is much firmer than a custard pie filling.
To add interest, and up the flavor profile, I included a layer of salted caramel mousse, the recipe for which comes from the same blogger. After adding the mirror glaze, I garnished the tart with caramel wafers, like Flora used to decorate her cream horns, and sprinkled it with some coarse sea salt for that occasional burst of saltiness that makes any chocolate and caramel that much extra.
The result, if I do say so myself, was sublime! The contrast of soft, velvety filling with the crispy outer pastry gives your teeth something to chew on while the balance of semi-sweet chocolate and sweet-salty caramel makes your tongue dance for joy. The mirror glaze adds a luxurious, opulent finish that makes this tart a perfect ending for a fancy dinner party, but this recipe will definitely be on my list for any celebration, festive occasion or holiday gathering where food is the centerpiece for laughter and conviviality.
Chocolate Tart With Salted Caramel Mousse
Recipe for chocolate filling adapted from HomeCookingAdventure.com
Credit for mousse: HomeCookingAdventure.com
Credit for mirror glaze: Ian Cumming
Recipe for caramel wafers adapted from Flora Shedden
For the chocolate shortcrust pastry:
For the chocolate filling:
- 2/3 c. whipping cream
- 1/3 c. milk
- 7 oz. semisweet chocolate (55-70% cocoa), cut in small pieces
- 1 t. vanilla
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- Pinch of salt
- 2 T. sugar
For the salted caramel mousse::
- 1 c. heavy cream, divided
- 1 T. cornstarch
- 2 T. water, divided
- ¼ c. sugar
- 1 T. butter, room temperature
- ¼ t. salt
- ½ t. vanilla bean paste
For the chocolate mirror glaze:
- 1/3 c. heavy cream
- ½ c. caster sugar
- 3/8 c. (6 T.) water
- 1/3 c. cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 leaves gelatin, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
- To make the pastry, sift flour, sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl. Rub in butter using fingertips, then add the egg yolks, lemon juice and water. Bring dough together with your hands (if too dry, add a splash more water). Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 5 minutes in the freezer or 15 minutes in the fridge.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to 1/8-inch thickness, and gently transfer to a 9-inch round, loose-bottomed tart pan. Press the pastry into the sides of the pan, then prick the pastry all over, line it with crumpled parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then remove parchment and beans and bake for 10-15 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
- To make the chocolate filling: Reduce oven to 325°F. In a medium saucepan, bring cream and milk to a simmer over medium-low heat. (Do not let it boil.) Remove from heat and add the chocolate and vanilla. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
- Whisk eggs, sugar and salt together. Then whisk a small amount of the hot chocolate mixture into the egg mixture to temper it. Transfer the tempered egg mixture back into the pan with the rest of the chocolate and whisk until smooth.
- Pour the chocolate filling through a sieve into a bowl, then pour it into the prepared crust, filling the crust only half full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until most of the filling is set and only the center jiggles slightly. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove tart ring and chill the tart.
- To make the mousse, heat ¼ cup of the cream until it is hot; then set aside. Combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl and set aside. Place the sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a medium-size, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook without stirring until sugar dissolves and turns a caramel color.
- Remove pan from heat and add the hot cream and butter. It will bubble a bit, so be careful not to burn yourself. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth.
- Add cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil. Cook until caramel is thick and bubbly, about one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add vanilla and salt. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate to chill.
- Whip the remaining ¾ cup cream. Fold one-third of the whipped cream into the caramel mixture, then fold in the remaining whipped cream. Spread the mousse over the cooled tart filling, making the surface as smooth and flat as possible. Chill tart while making the glaze.
- To make the mirror glaze, bring cream, sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Whisk in cocoa powder and boil for a few minutes, whisking constantly. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup with a pour spout and leave to cool to 140°F.
- Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin, then add the softened gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Stir to dissolve, then pour the glaze over the chilled tart. Transfer tart to fridge to chill.
- To make the caramel wafers, heat the sugar with 2 tablespoons water until sugar dissolves and turns a caramel color. Pour onto a silicone sheet and set aside to cool and set. Once cooled, break the caramel into chunks and place in a food processor. Blitz to fine crumbs.
- Preheat oven broiler. Sprinkle pulverized caramel onto a silicone mat, creating shapes by using a cookie cutter as a stencil. Place under broiler for 2 minutes or until melted. (Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn.) Allow them to cool on the silicone mat. (If you want the wafers to be curved, fold the mat in half and clip the sides together while the caramel sets.)
- Once caramel wafers have cooled, use them to decorate the tart, then sprinkle tart with sea salt. Serve immediately or keep refrigerated until ready.