Writer: Lisa Holderness Brown; Photographer: Blaine Moats
Janice Thomas gladly tells students at the Savory Spoon Cooking School in Door County, Wisconsin, how to make her Bittersweet Chocolate Tart. But then she urges secrecy. No one who eats it needs to know how hard you didn’t work.
The shortcuts start with the crust, an easy stir-and-pat dough that bakes up crisp without the tasks of cutting in butter or rolling pastry. The bittersweet filling has just four ingredients, and to set it, you briefly pop the tart in a warm, turned-off oven—kinda genius.
Because it’s so simple, the recipe begs for customizing. “You can add grated orange peel to the crust, showcase seasonal fruit as garnishes, or embellish the filling with a pinch of cinnamon or a sprinkling of sea salt atop,” Janice says. Honestly, though? It’s darn good as-is, so if you’d rather stick to the original, your secrets (all of them) are safe with us.
Psst! No pale, wimpy crust here. Bake this shell to a rich color for the nutty taste of browned butter—without the work.
Bittersweet Chocolate Tart
1. The Crust
In a medium bowl, stir together 1⁄2 cup melted butter, 1⁄4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt. Stir in 1 cup flour. Press mixture evenly into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake in a 400° oven for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden brown, covering edges with foil, if needed, to prevent over-browning. Transfer to a cooling rack while still on the baking sheet. Leave oven on.
Tip: “People hear the word pastry and freak,” Janice says, but this is a cinch. Pat the mixture into the sides first—don’t skimp, they need to be sturdy—then fill in the bottom crust.
Tip: The dough will seem oily and may seep a bit onto the baking sheet underneath. That’s normal for a pastry that starts with melted butter.
2. The Filling
While the crust bakes, finely chop 7 ounces of bittersweet chocolate. Set aside. Heat 1 cup half-and-half and 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; stir until mixture is smooth and glossy. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 egg until foamy. Whisk 2 tablespoons of the warm chocolate mixture into the egg. Drizzling slowly, whisk in remaining chocolate mixture.
Tip: Janice recommends using good-quality chocolate that is 60 to 70 percent cacao. Chop into uniform small pieces for even melting. If flecks remain after stirring, return pan to low heat for a moment to finish.
Tip: Some chocolate tarts eat like oversize truffles, but Janice adds egg to her filling for a creamier, more pudding-like texture. Slowly adding the warm chocolate prevents scrambling.
3. The Finale
Pour filling immediately into the warm crust. Return baking sheet with tart to the oven, then turn the oven off. Let the tart sit in the hot oven until filling sets around edges but center 4 inches jiggle when gently shaken, 12 to 13 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour, before removing from the pan to slice. If desired, serve with sweetened whipped cream
or fruit, such as berries.
Tip: To make ahead, refrigerate after cooling. Bring tart to room temperature to serve. It won’t be as pretty and shiny but will taste as good.
Get to know: Janice Thomas
Nurse-turned-cooking instructor. Trained by Le Cordon Bleu in Paris—and her mom. Loves chocolate best.