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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.
- On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough and fit it into the tart molds. (You can gather the scraps and roll them out again if you have to).
- Line the tarts with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake the crusts 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. Once it's come to a boil, immediately 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 shells 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.
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.