Desserts Pies + Tarts

bittersweet chocolate tartlets with flaky spelt crust + crème fraîche

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.

egg wash
1 egg
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.

  • Reply
    Millican Pecan
    Friday, July 5, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    Yes, I agree with all the comments above…the photos are gorgeous, the chocolate is calling out to all those that NEED it in their daily lives…did anyone say that? I guess that was me. I don’t have mini tart pans, let alone a regular sized pan, but it is on my list of things for my kitchen. I am a dark chocolate fanatic, and this is just beautiful. Can’t wait to try it.

  • Reply
    Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 8:46 am

    These are the most beautiful little tarts! I can’t wait to try them as soon as I get my oven fixed!

  • Reply
    Monday, May 20, 2013 at 3:25 am

    Amazing photos! I’m so happy that I found your blog. Lured through your recipes:)

  • Reply
    Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 12:26 am

    This looks/sounds like the perfect Valentine for my Sweet! Can’t wait to bake it for him!

  • Reply
    Friday, February 1, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    These are gorgeous! I’ve never fraisaged before because I’m kind of a lazy cook, but for bittersweet chocolate, crème fraîche, and spelt all in one tart, I’d do just about anything.

  • Reply
    Friday, January 25, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    I love that you used spelt! I decided to switch in the past year from whole wheat to spelt and have never looked back. These little tartlets look amazing. Perhaps they will be the perfect thing to finally convince me to buy the mini springform pans I’ve been eyeing…

  • Reply
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    These look fabulous and absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been intrigued by Kim Boyce’s spelt dough as well but haven’t given it a go. Perhaps now is the time. (:

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:35 am

      Yes! I think you should. I am going to try a fruit pie next with it.

  • Reply
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I don’t usually use many different kind of flour but the filling you used is making me drool!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:35 am

      I was very happy with the spelt; I usually stick to all-purpose for tarts, but had to try it out. It was very good.

  • Reply
    Stefanie @ Sarcastic Cooking
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    I think the baking fails were so worth it because it all led to this beauty!!!

  • Reply
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    I’m completely fascinated by fraisage! Will have to watch that video again, I really want to try this technique.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:34 am

      I love it. America’s Test Kitchen has a good recipe with an all-purpose flour dough that I use a lot in the summer – it’s for rustic peach + raspberry tarts. So good. And so flaky! It’s like a little miracle.

  • Reply
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    I always love your photos, but this set is particularly beautiful, Sarah. Love, love, love. Wonderful tartlets. Wonderful you.

  • Reply
    Bev Weidner (Bev Cooks)
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Ohhhhhh my goodness let’s get married.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:33 am

      Totally. You make one of your tasty meals, and I’ll bring dessert. It’s a date.

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    These are so gorgeous. Awesome recipe + photos!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:32 am

      Thank you Katrina! You’re always so encouraging. 🙂

  • Reply
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    You are awe inspiring. These are just gorgeous, Sarah.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:32 am

      Thank you, Ms. Ashlae. Did you see your vanilla made a guest appearance? I love that little bottle.

  • Reply
    london bakes
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    These are, as ever, really lovely. The spelt pastry sounds like a perfect base to that rich chocolate filling. Your photographs are just beautiful too.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:31 am

      Thank you Kathryn! I highly recommend the spelt pastry. 😉

  • Reply
    Veronica Armstrong
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 11:04 am

    These are gorgeous. Im in the UK for a bit and the creme fraiche is so much easier to find than when I’m back in the US. I will definitely give these a try. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:31 am

      Yes, creme fraiche is hard to track down. I’ve seen it at Trader Joe’s on a regular basis. However, it is very easy to make! I included a link to a recipe above.

  • Reply
    la domestique
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 5:08 am

    As a chocoholic I fully endorse these tartlets! I’ve been thinking about crusts that incorporate whole grain flours lately, and will certainly add this spelt crust to my list to try. The photos are killing me- yum!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:30 am

      Thanks, Jess. I really liked the crust – I didn’t have my hopes up about it, but it is great. I’m going to have to try a fruit pie with it now.

  • Reply
    Angela @ the fairy bread chronicles
    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 4:51 am

    yep. this pretty much looks like everything good in the world in a baked treat. thank you.

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