Friday, October 23, 2009

The Craft of Baking

Karen DeMasco is my kind of pastry chef. Ever since I sampled a tasting of her desserts at Craft several years ago, I was sold (she's now the pastry chef of Robert De Niro's restaurant Locanda Verde in NYC). Her desserts are simple, and simply delicious. They are perfectly balanced, with an emphasis on flavor and elegance. Almost as exciting as her desserts is the fact that Karen has just released her first cookbook, The Craft of Baking (Clarkson Potter, 2009).After perusing the book, I immediately wanted to make everything in it. It was hard to pick one dessert, but I ultimately settled on a gorgeous chocolate tart, which is a perfect example of Karen's combination of style and elegance. You'll also find a multitude of uses for the tender chocolate sable dough, which is delectable. Cheers to you, Karen, for a wonderful book that I will undoubtedly use over and over.

Chocolate Custard Tart

From The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco

Chocolate Sable Dough:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons egg that has been well blended

Chocolate Custard Filling:
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70%), roughly chopped
4 ounces semisweet chocolate (62%), roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Make the dough:
1. In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on low speed until there are no visible pieces of butter, about 3 minutes. Add the measured amount of egg and mix just until incorporated. Add the flour mixture in three additions, mixing each in completely before adding the next.
3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a flattened disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Bake the crust:
4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch round. Roll the dough onto a rolling pin, center it over a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, and fit it into the pan, pressing the dough into the edges. With a paring knife, trim the excess dough right to the top edge of the pan. Prick the bottom all over with a fork, and freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the chilled tart shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang, and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Set the tart pan on a baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and pie weights, rotate the pan, and continue baking until the crust is fragrant and feels dry to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes more. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and let the crust cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees F.

Make the filling:
6. Combine the bittersweet and semisweet chocolates in a mixing bowl. Pour the cream, milk and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour about one-third of the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and very gently whisk together until the chocolate is melted. Add the remaining cream mixture and gently whisk to combine.
7. Whisk the eggs in a bowl until well combined. Pour about one-third of the chocolate mixture over the eggs and gently whisk just to combine. Return the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture, add the salt, and very gently whisk until smooth.

Bake the tart:
8. Filled the cooled crust with the chocolate custard. Carefully transfer the tart, on the baking sheet, to the oven and bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the edges of the custard are set and the center is slightly loose, about 30 minutes. Transfer the tart to a wire rack and let it cool completely. Remove the outer ring of the tart pan, and serve at room temperature. The tart is best eaten the day it is baked, but can be kept at room temperature, loosely covered in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.