Why I love it: This tart is easy to make, tastes delicious and has a flavor profile that is new and unusual (in a good way). It’s a mix of a chocolate tart and a cheesecake but with a whole extra layer of flavors added by the Chinese five-spice powder.
I had the idea for this tart after I made my Chinese five-spice chocolate truffles with crystallized ginger a little while ago. Five-spice powder is a blend of white pepper, fennel, star anise, cinnamon and clove and it’s an unusual ingredient for chocolate but works great with it. I initially wanted to make it a mousse tart but then I thought a bit of tang would go well with the flavor combination so I added cream cheese, which gave it a more cheesecake-like texture (but it’s definitely more a chocolate tart than a cheesecake). Overall the tart has a delicious and very multi-faceted flavor profile that I really like. It’s easy and straightforward to make with a simple chocolate–espresso tart crust that’s briefly pre-baked and then filled with a chocolate/cream cheese/sugar/egg and spice mix. Bon appetit!
- ½ tablespoon white vinegar
- 2½ tablespoons milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- ¼ cup vegetable shortening
- ¼ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 12 ounces cream cheese
- 9 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
- 2 eggs
- Mix the vinegar and the milk. Set aside.
- Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, sugar and salt, then cut in the shortening and the butter with a pastry cutter.
- Pour the milk/vinegar into the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together in a ball.
- 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 between two sheets of plastic wrap, then fit into the greased pan.
- Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then remove it from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
- While the crust pre-bakes, shave a few chocolate curls (about 0.5 ounces) off of one of the bittersweet chocolate bars with a vegetable peeler. Set aside as garnish.
- Finely chop the rest of the bittersweet chocolate and melt in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Set aside.
- Beat cream cheese, sugar, cocoa powder and Chinese 5-spice powder in a bowl until smooth.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the chocolate.
- Spoon the filling into the crust, fill it all the way up to the rim and smooth out with an offset spatula. Be sure to let the filling touch the crust all around.
- Bake the tart until the filling rises up about half an inch above the rim, about 30 minutes.
- Let cool completely.
- Chill in the fridge and sprinkle with chocolate curls before serving.
Food Photography and Styling: This surface is my newest prop, it’s an old metal trunk (I suppose it could have been a toolbox in its day) and I knew it was a winner as soon as I spotted it in an antique store last week. It has just the right texture, marbling and color to lend interest to a food photo and is at the same time subtle enough to not steal any attention away from the food. I’m sure you’re going to see a lot of it here in coming posts. The chocolate color of this tart worked perfectly with the surface and I shot it from overhead because that is in my opinion the best perspective for things with oblong shapes like this tart pan.
You can probably tell that I followed the rule of thirds very strictly with the center of the pan sitting on the left vertical line that divides the frame into thirds and the edge of the fabric running along the right dividing line. To make the composition look a little less rigid I sprinkled chocolate curls not only on the tart but also on the surface.
For info on what type of camera and lighting equipment I used head on over to my FAQ page.