Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A return to the kitchen...Fresh Mint Chocolate Tart

Wow, I did not realize how long I was away from blogging. After our trip to England, I had grand plans to return home and bake, cook, clean and craft while Steve remained in England to work. However, I did none of that. I returned home to some events that absorbed most of my time. In my spare time, I needed to escape the stress I was feeling, so I turned to reading. I read more in 3 weeks than I have read in 3 years (don't be too impressed, it was only 3 books). I've never been a big book person, mostly because my reading comprehension is terrible (give me calculus equations any day) so I'm slow, but the books I chose captured my attention and brought me some happiness.

After the storm had passed, I returned to the kitchen but not for me. My favorite cousin who lives in Spain was returning to the States to have her marriage blessed in a church ceremony and to have her beautiful daughter baptized. She asked if I could help decorate a plain cake she wanted to get at the grocery store, but I decided that just wouldn't do. I volunteered to make her cake so I packed all my pans and tips and supplies and flew home to Wisconsin to spend a long 27 hours baking, stacking, and decorating. It was so good to get into the kitchen again, and I always relish the feeling of calm I get when baking, even if I'm making a cake for 100 plus people.

Since I've been home, my head has been overflowing with ideas and flavors that I can't wait to try. My biggest complaint is that I can never seem to find enough time in the kitchen, and with work picking up for the next couple of weeks, I woke up early this past weekend to make this fresh mint tart. It was quite delicious and the mint flavor was infused in both the tart dough and the filling. I'm not a huge chocolate fan, but this hit the spot.

Fresh Mint Chocolate Tart (Adapted from Williams-Sonoma)
Makes 1 14-inch x 4-inch tart, Serves 8

For the tart crust:
1 egg yolk
2-3 tablespoons very cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2-3 sprigs fresh mint, roughly chopped (4-6 leaves) (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and chilled until firm

In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, vanilla and 2 tablespoons cold water. In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, fresh mint and salt. Pulse the food processor to combine and chop the fresh mint into smaller pieces. Add the butter and pulse in quick short bursts until the texture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk mixture and pulse until the mixture forms a ball. If necessary, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough comes together.

Turn dough onto a work surface lightly dusted with flour and form into a rectangle. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Return dough to floured work surface and roll into a rectangle, making sure to rotate the dough to prevent sticking. Roll the dough until the rectangle measures about 16 x 6 -inches, 1/8-inch thick. Lightly dust top of dough and fold in half to transfer the dough to the tart pan. Unfold the dough into the tart pan and gently push the dough to the sides of the pan. Roll your rolling pin over the tart pan to trim any excess dough. Refrigerate for another 15-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When ready to bake, line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the shell no longer looks wet under the parchment. Remove parchment and weights and continue baking an additional 7-10 minutes until shell is lightly golden. Transfer tart shell to cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

For the tart filling:

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
5-6 springs of fresh mint (about 20 leaves)
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
confectioner's sugar and extra mint leaves for decoration

Place the finely chopped chocolate in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream and fresh mint over medium heat until the cream comes to a boil for 1 minute. Strain the cream through a fine mesh strainer into the chocolate to remove the mint. Let sit for 1 minute. Gently stir the cream and chocolate and stir until combined. (If needed, place bowl over simmering water and stir to continue melting chocolate). Add the corn syrup and stir until smooth. Pour the filling into prepared tart shell. Refrigerate tart until well chilled, at least 1 hour.

When ready to serve, transfer tart to serving platter and dust with confectioner's sugar. Garnish with additional mint leaves.