Chocolate and espresso are a wonderful combination. I actually don’t make any chocolate desserts without instant espresso powder any more, it adds delicious coffee notes and also intensifies the chocolate flavor. Can’t go wrong with that.
I adapted the chocolate tart recipe here from Better Homes and Gardens but added the espresso and made a few other small changes. For the crust I used a slightly modified version of this cooks.com recipe. (I know everyone seems to have a pie crust recipe they swear by but if you don’t this one is really good).
- ½ tablespoon white vinegar
- 2½ tablespoons milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup vegetable shortening
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into ½-inch cubes
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 2½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60 percent cacao bittersweet chocolate baking bars)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 egg whites
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- Set aside 6 four-inch diameter tart molds (you won't need to grease them).
- Mix the vinegar and the milk. Set aside.
- Whisk together flour and salt, then cut in the butter and the shortening.
- Pour the milk/vinegar into the flour/fat and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball and doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl anymore (it should have the consistency of play dough).
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Roll out the dough and fit into the tart molds. (You can gather the scraps and roll them out again).
- Line the tarts with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and continue to bake until browned (about another 18 minutes).
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
- Whisk sugar, flour, espresso powder and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan.
- Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, then add ¼ cup of the hot milk to the yolks, continuing to whisk. Add another ¼ cup and keep whisking.
- Add the rest of the milk to the yolks and whisk until combined.
- Whisk the dry ingredients into the milk mix, then return everything to the saucepan and bring to a full boil. Then take off the heat.
- Whisk in the chocolate and the butter, then set aside.
- Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar just until soft peaks start to form.
- Slowly add the sugar, continuing to beat until you have stiff peaks.
- Fill the warm chocolate filling into the tart shells.
- Pipe or dollop the meringue onto the chocolate filling, making sure that it touches the rim of the tart shell all around.
- Bake until lightly browned (10 to 15 minutes).
Food Photography and Styling: I really liked the little “hook” that the meringue formed at the top, I thought it made the tart look like one of the seven dwarfs. (I love to personify food like that). Before I started shooting I swiveled the tart around to see which orientation of the hook would look best and settled on having it point toward the front and left of the frame.
Next I opened the tart because I wanted the viewer to see the chocolate inside and the fluffy texture of the meringue. A few crust crumbs in front of the little saucer made it look as if someone was in the process of eating and a few chocolate shavings reinforced the idea that this was a chocolate tart. I placed a small jar of milk in the background to keep it from looking too empty and then lit the set straight from the side. I blocked the light in the back of the frame to keep the focus on the tart and also used a very small flag (a 2-inch by 2-inch piece of black cardboard that I taped to the end of a wooden skewer) to block some of the light that was falling directly on the white meringue to keep it from getting overexposed.
For info on what type of camera and lighting equipment I used head on over to my FAQ page.