I came back from vacation too late to craft a timely entry for this month’s SHF, but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t still inspired to honor the theme: chocolate! (how could any self-respecting pastry girl resist?)
I also wanted to honor the fact that the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the world’s chocolate epicenters, home to chocolate makers Scharffen Berger, Guittard, and Ghirardelli, as well as an ever-growing group of artisan chocolatiers that include Charles Chocolates, Michael Recchiuti, Michael Mischer, and Coco-luxe. With local gourmet markets stocking Valrhona and Chuao, and chocolate-dedicated stores like Bittersweet and CocoaBella filling out the choco-scape, there’s no reason to settle for the same old Godiva when there are so many other fascinating and tasty options to explore.
My chocolate of choice this month is E. Guittard, a chocolate making company that’s been in San Francisco since 1868. Guittard started out creating chocolate for professional pastry chefs, and the quality of their product has earned them a reputation that served them in good stead when they finally started making their chocolate available to the public. Aside from their tasting bars, which highlight the various origins of their beans (a great way to see how beans from different parts of the world compare), they also sell baking chocolate in the form of little discs, or wafers, as they call them.
If you’ve ever tried to hack up a block of chocolate, you know tiring and difficult it can be. (I mean, they sell a chocolate fork just for the task). How much easier it would be if the chocolate were already in convenient little discs that are easy to measure out and melt evenly and smoothly in a jiffy?
The thing is, chocolate discs have been available to professionals for quite some time. Note: I am NOT talking about the chocolate chips by Nestle’s or Toll House that you see in the supermarket – chocolate chips have additives in them to help them keep their form at higher temperatures, so they will not melt the same as pure chocolate, nor can you temper chocolate chips. These discs made by high-end chocolate companies are real, uncompromised chocolate, in literally cute-as-a-button form.
Charmingly, every company calls their product something different, from Guittard’s "wafers" to Valrhona’s "fèves" to El Rey’s "discos". These little handfuls of baking (and nibbling) joy have slowly started showing up in specialty stores and, finally, online. King Arthur’s Flour has a nice selection of discs from various makers in a variety of percentages.
I like the Guittard wafers not just because of their convenience but for their performance and taste. Guittard chocolate melts nicely, tempers beautifully, and each box I get behaves consistently – a sign of quality. Their 72% bittersweet has an intense, straightforward flavor that makes it ideal for "super-chocolately" desserts like molten chocolate cake.
For my super-chocolately dessert, I chose one of Claudia Fleming’s signature composed desserts from her cookbook The Last Course: a trio consisting of a chocolate souffle tart with a chocolate malted, accompanied by bittersweet chocolate sorbet.
This is an ultra-luxe, no-holds-barred tidal wave of chocolate, a multi-textural exploration of the many forms chocolate can take. The chocolate souffle tart is a delight, a warm ethereal kiss in a sweet shortbread shell. What could better than a souffle…than a souffle in a container that’s edible? It’s a swoon-worthy mix of soft and crunchy, and all chocolate. The malted is almost pudding-thick, the most ridiculously rich version of this soda fountain treat I’ve found. Made with chocolate, cocoa powder, Ovaltine and cream – and that’s before you blend it with vanilla ice cream – it’s delicately nutty and wholly satisfying. The bittersweet chocolate sorbet manages to be both intensely fudgy and cleanly refreshing at the same time – it’s made with just chocolate, cocoa powder, and water.
The amount of chocolate in this dessert is tempered by the miniature size of each component: the tart fits in the palm of my hand, and I actually had to find new dishes and glasses small enough to hold amounts of malted and sorbet proportional to the tart! This petit-four sized plate makes it easy to indulge in chocolate in all its rich and tempting forms.
Warm Chocolate Souffle Tarts
adapted from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course
makes about 2 dozen tartlets – you can purchase 2" tart pans or I find a mini muffin pan works very well.
Chocolate Souffle Filling
10 tablespoons (5 oz) butter, cut into pieces
5 ounces bittersweet (I suggest between 65%-80% cocoa) chocolate, chopped into pieces
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
Chocolate Tart Dough
1/2 cup (4 oz) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
To make the filling: Place the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl and place over a pot of simmering water to create a bain-marie. Let the chocolate and butter melt, then remove from heat and stir to combine. Set aside.
In an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on high speed for 5 minutes until very light and thick. Fold a third of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then very carefully fold in the rest of the egg mixture, being careful not to deflate the eggs. Sift the flour over the batter and carefully fold it in. Cover the filling and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
For the tart dough: In an electric mixer, cream the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until combined. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix together. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and mix on low until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, press into a disc and wrap tightly. Chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour. It will keep for up to 3 days.
To finish the tarts: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 3/16" thickness. Use a 2 1/4 inch round cutter to cut out circles of dough and press then into 2" tart pans or a mini muffin pan. Note if the dough is very crumbly you can simply press it into the pan. Prick the shells with a fork all over and chill for 20 minutes.
Bake the tart shells for 20 minutes, rotating halfway. If you find the dough puffing up I find what works well is to take an ice cream scoop or another tool with a similar-sized handle and use the handle bottom to gently press the dough back down. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
Divide the filling among the tart shells and return to the 325 degree oven. Bake until the filling has puffed up and cracked on top, about 12 to 14 minutes. Use a butter knife or offset spatula to slide the tarts out of the pans carefully. Serve immediately before the souffles deflate.
Black and White Chocolate Malteds
adapted from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course
makes about 5 cups (Note: this recipe is very rich – it says it makes 3 to 4 servings but I think it could be easily twice that if not more, depending on how much ice cream and milk you use!)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces bittersweet (I suggest between 65%-80% cocoa) chocolate, chopped into pieces
1 cup original Ovaltine
1 cup half-and-half
1 2/3 cups vanilla ice cream
1 cup milk
Make a chocolate syrup by combining 1/2 cup water, the sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Place the cocoa powder in a bowl and whisk in about 3 tablespoons of the syrup to make a paste. Pour the cocoa mixture back into the saucepan and whisk well. Let the syrup simmer for about 5 minutes over low heat.
In another saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of the cream to a simmer. Place the chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot cream over the chocolate, whisking until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in the chocolate syrup and set aside.
In an electric mixer using the whisk attachment, combine the Ovaltine and 1/2 cup of the half-and-half to make a smooth paste. Add in the remaining half-and-half, the remaining cream, and chocolate mixture, and whisk all together until smooth. Strain into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 3 hours.
To serve, scoop the Ovaltine mixture into a blender and add the ice cream, then blend to combine. If the mixture is too firm to combine, add some of the milk to help liquefy it (you may want to add the milk to taste in any case). Blend until thick and creamy, then pour into glasses and serve.