Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chocolate and Strawberry Ganache Tart (The Deerfield Senior Dessert)

I have a week off university, and therefore decided to indulge my urge to bake. At the suggestion of my amazing friend Amanda, I chose this, the Deerfield Senior Dessert. A quick email to the very obliging people in the Deerfield Dining Hall, and I had the recipe. Unfortunately, it was in some strange archaic, arbitrary measurement system, but google fixed that. For the sake of those still metrically impaired, I’ve left those original measurements in. Converting from all purpose to cake flour was tricky too, there is a difference, but I played that by ear, as it were, and it worked!
Obtaining half a litre of fresh satisfactory strawberries was slightly harder, but I soon had those in hand too. 

The result, a sugary strawberry and chocolate nostalgic walk down Albany Road.

The Deerfield Senior Dessert
Chocolate Pastry Shell
  • 85g (3 oz) of Unsalted Butter
  • ½ a cup of Sugar
  • ¾ of a teaspoon of Vanilla
  • ⅛ of a teaspoon of Salt
  • ⅜ of a cup of Cocoa Powder
  • 85g of sifted Cake Flour (¾ cups of All-purpose Flour)
  • ½ a cup of Double (Heavy) Cream
  • 114g (4 oz) of Milk Chocolate (Bitter- or semi-sweet as per the original recipe)
  • 114g (4 oz) of White Chocolate
  • ½ a litre (1 pint) of fresh regular Strawberries, quartered

I tried - out of habit - to use our automatic mixer, but the quantity just isn’t enough; either for the dough hook to reach, or to warrant its use. It’s better just to mix it by hand with a flexible spatula or similar utensil, but nothing as thick as a wooden spoon, or as flimsy as a whisk.

Sheer to the point of reflection
Chocolate Pastry Shell
Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth, and then add the cocoa powder and mix to a paste. Add the flour and continue to mix until the mixture forms a consistent dough. My dough had a glorious aroma and a moist but slightly crumbly texture; by this point, yours should too.

Now, here the recipe and my method diverge slightly. The recipe follows the proper way of preparing pastry, but I’ve always found my way works well enough and avoids the chance of everything going irreparably wrong, so first – the proper method.

Form the dough into a disk between two sheets of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Remove and roll the dough – between the plastic – until it is about 3mm (⅛”) thick by 28cm (11”) in diameter. Remove one piece of plastic and invert the dough into a 23-25cm (9-10”) fluted tart pan. Press the dough into the pan, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Bottom to top: Divine chocolate pastry base, Thick dark ganache, Temperamental white ganache, Fresh strawberries, White and milk chocolate curls.

Now, my method, which is a bit of a cheat, really, but it works for me and makes me think I’m a pastry chef. Flatten the dough into a flattish disc, don’t worry about the edges breaking. Place the disc in the middle of a 23-25cm (9-10”) fluted tart pan and press from the middle outwards, making sure the dough is evenly spread and being careful not to break through with an over-eager press. Once you’ve reached the edges of the pan, press the dough up so it covers the sides of the tart pan too. Use two fingers on the outside of each ‘flute’ against a thumb on the inside to get the dough to mould to the shape of the tart dish.
Keep working the dough outwards with your fingers until the pan is covered to a depth of about 3mm (⅛”). Use whatever dough creeps over the edge to fix any holes. To achieve a uniform base, anything with a flat bottom will do; I use the ½ cup measurement cup to press the base into shape. When you’re satisfied with the lay of the dough, use a sharp knife and a deft cut to remove any excess dough around the lip. Once you’re satisfied, refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.

Prick the bottom with a fork and then bake in a preheated oven at 190°C (375°F) until set around the edges, about 12 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before filling.

Chop or grate the dark and white chocolates (I prefer grating; it goes quicker and is infinitely more gratifying) and keep separate. Two ganaches will be made, each using half the double (heavy) cream, that is, ¼ of a cup.

For each ganache, heat the cream over a medium-high heat in a small saucepan or heavy bottomed pot. As soon as a boil is achieved, remove from the heat and add all the chocolate. Stir with a whisk until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. I waited to make each ganache until I was absolutely ready to pour them in, but once mixed, they don’t set immediately so you have a little flexibility there.

Just a little touch of nostalgia.
Assembling the Tart
Spread the dark chocolate ganache in the cooled shell, working quickly before it stiffens, and then refrigerate until it has hardened significantly – it should resist a tap with a fork. Spread the white ganache over and refrigerate until slightly set. Cover the surface with the quartered strawberries, pressing in very slightly. Beware, the strawberries can stain the white chocolate, so commit before placing each strawberry. I went for concentric circles, but I think a spiral could be quite pleasing too.
Garnish with chocolate shavings or curls and refrigerate until fully set. And you’re done! Enjoy :)

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