I’ve had several baking failures the past few weeks, but these little pretties came out perfect. I had used the bittersweet chocolate filling many times at a coffeehouse I baked at so I knew it couldn’t miss, only then it was in a large tart form with a shortbread crust. But I had been intrigued by Kim Boyce’s spelt pie dough, and decided to try it out here. It was perfect: flaky and flavorful, adding great balance to the silky smooth chocolate filling. A little hit of crème fraîche on top, and my afternoon was perfect.
There is lots of room for experimenting here: infusing cardamom in the heavy cream or adding a vanilla bean, a tablespoon or two of bourbon in the whipped topping would also be lovely. I find I’m also dreaming of this spelt crust filled with grapefruit or blood orange curd, topped with some sweet rosemary cream. Maybe next week.
Bittersweet Chocolate Tartlets with Flaky Spelt Crust + Crème Fraîche
The crust is adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce, and the filling adapted from The Joy of Cooking
The tart dough is made with a technique called frisage, and it guarantees a wonderful, flaky crust. Basically you are starting with a pie dough, but instead of rolling it out you create strands of butter and dough by smearing the dough with the heel of your hand. This recipe will make 8 tartlets (or one 9-inch tart, if you’d rather).
There will be one disk of dough leftover; you could freeze it and use it in another application, or double the filling and make a lot of tartlets.
1 cup spelt flour
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup ice water, as needed
8 tartlet rings [mine were 3 inches wide by 2 inches deep], or one 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom
Place the flours, sugar, and salt in a large bowl, and whisk them together. Cut the butter into one-inch pieces and add it to the bowl. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour until it is the size of small peas. Add 1/3 cup of the ice water to the flour mixture, and mix together with a spatula just to moisten the flour. The dough needs to come together in one lump, with a few small, shaggy pieces. If the dough is too dry to come together, add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until it is ready.
Flour your work space, and transfer the dough to it.
to fraisage the dough
[also, a video here to help you]
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it into a rectangular shaped pile. Start at the end of the rectangle farthest away from you, and use the heel of your hand to smear a small amount of the dough against the work surface. Continue to do this until all the dough has been worked. Gather it into a pile again, and repeat. Separate the dough into two equal pieces, and wrap each piece in plastic and chill for one hour [or up to 3 days]
forming the tartlets
Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
After the dough has been chilled, roll one round out very thin, about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Use the tart ring to cut out a circle, which will be the bottom of your crust. Place the tart ring on the lined baking sheet, and put the circle of dough in the ring, on the parchment paper. Next cut a one inch thick strip from the dough, 9-10 inches long, and line the inside of the tart ring, making sure the strip is touching the bottom circle (this may seem a little hodgepodge; you may have to piece some strips together a bit when you line the tart ring to make them long enough. But you will have enough dough, and they will still look pretty when baked). Press gently into the sides of the ring. Repeat with remaining tart rings. With a fork, prick small holes on the bottom of the crust. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Line the dough and rings with parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until the crust is light golden brown. Remove the parchment and the beans, and brush the crust with the egg wash (see below). Bake for 2-3 more minutes, until wash is set and the crust has browned a bit more. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly while preparing the filling.
1 teaspoon water
pinch of salt
Whisk all the ingredients together.
1 cup heavy cream
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 large egg
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
crème fraîche for serving
In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Remove it from the heat and add the bittersweet chocolate, whisking until the chocolate is completely melted and is perfectly smooth. Whisk in the egg, vanilla bean seeds, and bourbon (if using). Spoon the mixture into the tart shells, almost to the top. Bake until the center seems set but is still quivery when the pan is nudged, 8-12 minutes. Remove the sheet pan to a wire rack and let the tartlets cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, with crème fraîche, whipped cream, or sweetened sour cream.