about bliss

Monday, July 05, 2010

twd: tarte noire, my pick!!!

a happy dharmagirl with bags filled with pans and spatulas and whisks 

I don't remember when the first inklings of Francophilia struck me...but slowly, several years ago, I began to dream of all things French. The beautiful language, gorgeous landmarks, and, most significantly, the delicious pastry, appealed to my poetic and aesthetic sensibilities. 

As a recently minted humanities Ph D making her way through academic hierarchies—four years teaching as a "visiting" assistant professor, a rather lowly spot on the ladder—I had time to fantasize about Paris, but no funds (and plenty of student loan debt) to make my dreams reality. I researched Fulbright exchanges, but discovered that France required actual speaking, reading, and writing knowledge of the language. 

And so I waited. I found Dorie's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, drawn by the delicious cover cake. I then purchased Paris Sweets and my fancies increased. 

About the time I joined TWD, I submitted a proposal to co-lead a nine day Study Abroad class to Paris at the university where I am now halfway through the grueling tenure process. I waited. And baked my way through the book with a community of bloggers who were funny, kind, and altogether charming. Their baking dedication trumped mine, and every week I was stunned by their photographs and innovations, their kitchen skills and creativity. 

When word arrived that our class was approved, I danced around my living room. Finally, I was going to Paris...

in a year and a half. 

I baked. I ordered more Paris books, most notably a little volume of Pastry shops, The Patisseries of Paris: Chocolatiers, Tea Salons, Ice Cream Parlors, and More, by Jamie Cahill. And, the invaluable Clotilde's Edible Guide to Paris, by Chocolate and Zucchini blogger Clothilde Dusoulier. I applied for—and received—a grant to buy the Rosetta Stone French language program.

As we planned the trip—monuments, gardens, cemeteries, cathedrals, palaces—and I selected the literary works we'd read—Wharton, James, Hemingway, Kerouac—I consulted Dorie and David Lebovitz for Paris musts, and added them to my personal excursion list. 

This past May, I frantically packed for my first European trip. I worried that the Paris of my imagination would outshine the Paris of reality. 

And then we stepped off the plane, boarded the bus, and headed to the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. My heart soared.

And, because you've been such a patient reader, I will bring you around to this week's selection, the Tarte Noire. I knew my turn was swiftly approaching as I stood in the Paris cookware shops Mora and E. Dehillerin. I coveted the copper bowls, but realized I would use bakeware more frequently and so I spent my euros on an array of tart pans and other kitchen goodies. 

When I returned from Paris, my TWD email was waiting. It was time to select a recipe. 

What better recipe to select than the Tarte Noire, an utterly simple, elegant, Parisian tart. I stashed a few chocolate bars and wrapped up my one block of Parisian butter and waited for this week. 

Today I buttered my mini tart pans, steeped myself in fond French memories, and started baking. 

I made a half recipe of the sweet tart dough and the chocolate tart dough. I made two versions of ganache, one featuring a bar of Lindt Excellence Fin Coeur Chocolat, a 70% chocolate featuring a thin mousse like center (purchased from the Carrefour store close to our hotel), and the other with Christian Constant's St. Domingue bar, a 64% single estate bar. 

Due to a kitchen mishap, I had to toss out one of the sweet tart dough shells, and so I mixed together the remaining doughs and made one shell a sort of marbled innovation. 

I hope you enjoyed baking this tart as much as I did. While the ingredients are not inexpensive, the preparation is simple, the flavors pure, and the result sensual and satisfying. (and no one will judge if you dip your spoon into the ganache bowl and enjoy it sans tart shell). 

G and I sampled two of the mini tarts this evening, the chocolate crust with Christian Constant ganache, and the sweet tart crust with Lindt ganache. G prefers the latter, and I love both. The chocolate-chocolate combination could be too much chocolate for some—you know people like this, don't you?—but not for a hardcore chocophile like yours truly. And yet, the contrast of the rich ganache and crisp sweet tart crust satisfies just as well. 

Tonight, I wanted—and needed—the chocolate-chocolate. A little intense, a little overwhelming. A lot delicious and worth everything (euros, calories, etc.).

Thank you for baking with me this week, friends, and may your week be filled with dreams and magic and deliciousness. A special thank you to Laurie for creating this awesome group, and, of course, the incomparable Dorie Greenspan for fueling my imagination and bringing Paris to my kitchen in Wisconsin.

Tarte Noire
from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, page 351

While this is one of the most sophisticated tarts in a Parisian pastry chef's repertoire, it is also the simplest—and the darkest, sleekest, and chicest too. It has only two components—a sweet shortbread crust and a slender layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache. Made with fine chocolate (the only kind you should use for a ganache) and served at room temperature, when the texture of the filling resembles the center of a fine bonbon ad the contrast between the soft ganache and the butter-rich crust is marked, the tart becomes an exemplar of understated elegance. It is infallibly pâtisserie perfect. 

Because the ganache is made with just chocolate, cream, and butter, the flavor of whatever chocolate you choose will be the same from the time you chop it into bits to the time you taste it in the tart. For this reason, you should use only chocolate you enjoy eating out of hand. I like to make the tart with Valrhona Manjari or Guittard Sur del Lago, both bittersweet chocolates. 

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (page 444) or Chocolate Shortbread Tart Dough (page 446), fully baked and cooked

Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or a rubber spatula at hand. 

Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Working with the whisk or spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at the center of the bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motion. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don't stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients—the less you work it, the darker, smoother, and shinier it will be. (The ganache can be used now, refrigerated, or even frozen for later.)

Pour the ganache into the crust and, holding the pan with both hands, gently turn the pan from side to side to even the ganache. Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes to set the ganache, then remove the tart from the fridge and keep it at room temperature until serving time. 

Makes 8 servings. 

Serving: Purists will want to enjoy the tart at room temperature and au naturel. Having gone to pains to use great chocolate for the tart, you might want to show it off solo. Hoever, like all good things chocolate, the tart is lovely with just a little lightly whipped, very sparingly sweetened, cream. I wouldn't serve this with ice cream—the contrast between the thich room-temperature filling and the frozen ice cream would be too jarring. 

Storing: The tart should be served the day it is made. However, the ganache can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When you are ready to use it, allow it to come to room temperature, then heat it gently in a microwave oven, using 5-second spurts of heat and checking on its progress vigilantly, until it is pourable. O you can put the bowl of ganache in a larger bowl of hot water and stir every 10 seconds until it can be poured. You can even freeze the ganache, tightly covered, for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature, and then warm it in a microwave oven or bowl of hot water until it is pourable. 

Sweet Tart Dough
Makes enough for one 9-inch crust

In French, this dough is called pâte sablée because it is buttery, tender and sandy (that's what sablée means). It's much like shortbread, and it's ideal for filling with fruit, custard or chocolate.

The simplest way to make a tart shell with this dough is to press it into the pan. You can roll out the dough, but the high proportion of butter to flour and the inclusion of confectioners' sugar makes it finicky to roll. I always press it into the pan, but if you want to roll it, I suggest you do so between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper or inside a rolling slipcover (see page 491 of the book).

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons)
very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in—you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change—heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy-handed—press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).
To fully bake the crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust's progress—it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.

Chocolate Shortbread Tart Dough
Good enough to eat on its own, this crust is delicious filled with pastry cream and fruit, ganache, or pudding. Choose it whenever you want the full deep taste of chocolate. 

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablesppon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, cocoa, confectioner's sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in—you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change—heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly and sparingly knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. 

Press the dough into the pan. To bake it, follow the directions for Sweet Tart Dough. 

Makes enough for one 9-inch crust.

Storing: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer—it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time. 


  1. Great pick this week! Everyone here really loved it. My kids have already asked when I'm going to make it again. =)

  2. Oh how I love, love, LOVE Paris! I'm glad you loved it too! Thank you for choosing such a simple yet elegant dessert!

  3. No, thank you! for picking this recipe!! I think it's my favorite so far. I made the chocolate crust and added a thin layer of caramel to the bottom. OMGoodness!! Heavenly!! :) Your tarts look great! I love that you made two crusts and used two different chocolates.

  4. All the tarts look wonderful. I'll be baking one when I return from vacation.

  5. I just have to say "Bravo!" I can't speak for the whole TWD community but this is undoubtedly a favorite go to recipe. You just can't argue with the beauty of this simple little black tart. Thank you for making such a heartfelt choice.

  6. Can't thank you enough for choosing this recipe - so simple and elegant (I'd almost pass by it in the book). Your tres variations look wonderful! And very envious of your shopping (and non-shopping) spree in Paris, what marvelous experiences you must have had. This is definitely a make-again for me!

  7. Anonymous2:27 AM

    Great story! It's always so awesome when you can bake along with your life and make meaningful things. The recipe was delicious - thanks!

  8. This recipe was DIVINE-thank you for such a wonderful selection!!!!!

  9. A simply made dessert - Perfect choice! Thanks so much. We loved this one.

  10. The marbled crust is quite an interesting concept. I really like the looks of it.

    Interesting story. I loved Paris too--until I had my plane ticket stolen on the subway. Just like everybody else says, I didn't think it could happen to me. But I would go back again just to buy some pans like you got.

  11. What a lovely post! Congratulations on making your dream come true. :) And thank you so much for picking out this tart of tarts. It proved that like so many things in life, less is more.

  12. This was a lovely choice!! We loved it at our house! :) Simple, elegant and delicious!

  13. Great pick! Your mini tartes look wonderful!

  14. Thank you for hosting this week! I LOVED this tart!

  15. Paris..ahhh what a dream! Thank you for hosting this week. I made a little version of the recipe! It was so easy and yummy!
    I love your blog!

  16. Wonderful pick. Decadent, dark, and delicious. Paris is so romantic, yet mysterious. Glad you had a fantastic time. As if you wouldn't.

  17. even though i don't participate in TWD, i like the recipes & i follow several blogs. THANK YOU for choosing this recipe for 2 reasons :
    1. i am a CHOCOHOLIC and LOVE LOVE LOVE anything chocolate so it definitely appeals to me
    2. i have been wanting a recipe for a tart like this for the last 2 months since i tasted it here in the south of France (i live in marseille).
    so, just to say, thanks a bunch & keep up the good work :)

  18. What a beautiful story. I enjoyed reading it. Although I only made a brief stop at the Paris airport last month, to catch a connecting flight, I was happy to see the Eiffel tower through the window of my plane right before landing :o)

    It's my first time on your blog. I'll definitely have to come back for more. After all, we're (practically) neighbors (I'm from MN) :o)

  19. Thanks for the wonderful pick and the lovely post! I'm so glad you finally got to go to Paris and loved it. :) I'm a fan of Clothilde and will definitely check out her edible guide next time I am lucky enough to visit grand Paris.

  20. Your little story gave me the hope I needed to keep my head up about going to Paris. I will make it there someday :)

    Your tarts look great. Thank you for such a wonderful and thoughtful pick :)

  21. glad you finally made it to paris, and i'm sure it lived up to your fantasies! thanks for the pick-- a great one in both in terms of ease and taste!!

  22. Thanks Dharma for the pick! This recipe certainly help me tide over some heartaching issues. *beams*

  23. What a beautiful post! I had tears in my eyes by the end! This, as you know, was a superb pick that transported so many of us to Paris. I am so happy that you finally got to experience Paris after longing for it for so long. I have spent many hours combing the shelves of Dehillerin and still get a thrill when I see it in the distance as I walk from the Metro. Once you've been there, Paris never leaves you. This dessert is perfect for recalling its beauty and magic. Thanks so much for choosing it.

  24. Anonymous4:19 PM

    Excellent choice, Dharma. This tart was well-received at my house! Thanks for sharing a little of your trip to Paris with us.

  25. Thank you so much for transporting us to Paris with you. I love how your trip was a culmination of so many years of dreaming and planning, and that it turned out so beautifully. Just like your tarts! Both sound good to me; I'd probably have to have one of each just to check! Thanks for the fabulous pick!! I wish I could have grabbed some Parisian butter to bring home. Le sigh...

  26. Thanks for hosting us this week. I love your story about your growing Francophilia - and what is not to love about it? The photo of you outside the shop is gorgeous - my idea of bliss.

  27. These tarts look amazing! And it's wonderful that you finally got to Paris...you're writing made me feel like I was on my way to turning into a Francophile.

    I'd like to invite you to become a member of www.PinkPangea.com, a new community for women travelers to get real travel information geared specifically to women.

    It would be great if you could post about your travels to France, providing anecdotes and photos from your time abroad as well as tips for women travelers who also want to see the world.

    I look forward to hearing more about your experiences abroad!

    Hope to hear from you soon,


  28. Paris Sweets has always been one of my favorite books....Paris being my favorite city in the whole world....sigh....
    but you my dear are amazing!! What an accomplished baker, I am in awe!!
    I am so glad to have found your blog..
    all the best

  29. Anonymous8:09 PM

    Yay! How cool that you baked using pans and ingredients from Paris! I'm so sorry that I didn't bake along this week; I know I would have loved the tart.

  30. THANK YOU for choosing this! It is one of my absolute favorites. :)

  31. Thanks for hosting this week - this recipe has been calling my name since the first time I flipped through the cook book.

  32. What a fabulous story about your trip to Paris! i am jealous! Sounds like you had a wonderful experience! Great pick this week!! I really enjoyed this tart!! And it was so simple to prepare, so double thank you!!

  33. This was such a great post, I relished every word of it! Thanks for picking this...it was easy, fun, and will definitely be a repeat as the guys just loved every forkful! Now that I have found your blog, I shall return. Anyone who uses Wharton in a blog entry has my attention immediately.

  34. Jessica, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your post! It is enough by itself to turn anyone into a Francophile. The holiday weekend and visiting family got in the way of my best-laid tart making plans, but I fully intend to make this and post it late. Both of yours look wonderful. I'm thinking I'll have to go for some double chocolate action myself . . .

  35. Great post- made me want to go to Paris all o9ver again! I just got to the recipe to post for tomorrow and I loved it- so simple and wonderful.

  36. I always love reading the bakers' reasons for selecting a recipe and your post is fabulous! I'm glad you had a chance to go to Paris this year and also that you selected this tart, it's wonderful. Both your versions look amazing.

  37. I finally got my post of your pick up. I loved this tart. It's so elegant and perfect!