With such a chilly start to the new year, I need all the sunshine I can get to keep me from immobilizing into a blanket-wrapped mound in front of the fireplace. (I know; when I moved into my new place last year, I viewed the gas fireplace as an unnecessary but aesthetically-pleasing bonus. And, ok, so temperatures, while definitely low, are not pile-on-the-firewood cold. But when it’s dreary, cement-block gray outside and the twilight-blue shadows sprawl over the hills entirely too early, one feels a defiant contentment in having a rustling, flickering, ruddy fire to chase away the chill.)
Surely, subconsciously, that might have influenced my decision to make these chocolate passionfruit mousse tarts. They practically glow neon against my white plates, and their intensely tropical-tart flavor makes me feel like I’m somewhere warm and vacation-y instead of trying to dodge the doldrums of winter.
The tarts start with a chocolate pâte sucrée crust, crisp and not too sweet (despite the name). I spread a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache on the bottom, which made a perfect cushion for a top layer of passionfruit mousse. The mousse, a simple concoction of passionfruit puree, sugar, butter, eggs, and a smidge of gelatin, has the additional benefit of making the entire kitchen smell like a tropical fruit grove, which, if you’ve got the fire a-blazing or perhaps the heater turned up, could make for a passably enticing illusion indeed.
The shards of chocolate poking jauntily out of the passionfruit depths are just a bit of gilding the lily – and after all, I’ve still a lot of chocolate from that candy book-writing adventure! A bite of this tart is just the sharp, sweet perk-up for a gloomy day, like a errant beam of sun slicing palely through gunmetal clouds. Bundle up, or go jump in the snow, whichever is your wont – happy January!
Chocolate Passionfruit Tarts
makes about 15 tarts
Chocolate Pâte Sucrée
2 sticks (1 cup, 8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups (11 oz) cake flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 stick (2 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup passionfruit puree
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3 teaspoons powdered gelatin
For the tart shells: Place the butter in a food processor and process until soft and creamy.
Add the confectioners’ sugar and process until well blended and smooth.
Add in the cocoa powder and salt and process until well blended.
Add in the egg and egg yolks and process until just blended; scrape the bowl down as necessary.
Add the flour and pulse just until the dough starts to come together into a ball; don’t overprocess. The dough will be very soft like cookie dough.
Scrape the dough out of the food processor and make into a ball. Flatten out into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours until it is firm enough to handle.
When you are ready to bake off the tart shells, take the dough out of the refrigerator – let it warm up a bit if necessary but not too much because it will start melting fast.
Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap to 1/8″ thickness. If the dough gets too soft, place back in the refrigerator to firm up.
Place the tart rings you will use on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
Cut out circles of dough to fit into desired tart rings. Press the dough carefully into the tart rings and up the sides, being careful not to stretch the dough or it will shrink when baked. Place the rings into the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes. Trim off the excess dough from the top of the rings.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F while chilling the tart shells. When you are ready, line the shells with parchment and fill with beans or rice to keep the shells weighed down.
Bake shells for about 15-18 minutes until they are lightly colored and the shell feels dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and place on a rack. Remove the beans and parchment and brush the bottoms of the shells with a light egg wash (made from an egg white and a bit of water).
For the ganache: Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
Bring cream just to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over the chocolate and let sit for a minute. Stir with a wooden spoon until chocolate is melted and ganache is smooth.
Add butter and stir until it is melted and incorporated.
Spread a thin layer of ganache in the bottom of the cooled tart shells and let ganache set while you make the mousse.
For the mousse: Combine passionfruit puree, half of the sugar, and the butter in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar and butter are dissolved and incorporated. Remove from heat.
Place gelatin in a bowl and add about 1/4 cup cold water. Let gelatin bloom.
Combine eggs and remainder of sugar together. Add to the passionfruit mixture and place over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent eggs from cooking. Cook until mixture thickens slightly, about 2-3 minutes.
Add in gelatin and stir until melted and incorporated. Remove and let cool slightly
When passionfruit mixture has cooled but not set, divide among tart shells, filling to just below the top. Place in refrigerator and chill until set, a couple hours.