Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets

22 08 2010

Fresh raspberries and dark chocolate are an unbeatable combination in these mini-tarts.

Raspberries are at their peak right now and it’s a real treat to use fresh berries in pies and tarts.  Local raspberries can be found at roadside stands, farmer’s markets and most supermarkets by the end of August.  However, they are very delicate and don’t store well so they should be used within a day of purchase.

These mini-tarts are very easy to make but they do require a bit of time between steps so the ingredients can cool.  They’re great for entertaining because they can be made in advance and the shells won’t get soggy thanks to a layer of chocolate protecting the tartlet shells.  You could also make one large tart instead of mini tartlets.

Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets

Makes 8 mini tarts (about 3″ each in diameter).  Recipe can be doubled or halved as desired.

  • 8 mini tart shells – I sometimes use Tenderflake frozen mini-tart shells or you can make the pastry from scratch: Basic Pastry
  • 2 ounces / 57 grams dark chocolate (70% cocoa).
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch + 2 Tablespoons water
  • A pinch of salt
  • 8 fresh raspberries for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  If using frozen shells*, let them stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.  Use a fork to prick the bottom of the shells.  Place on a baking sheet and blind bake (ie. bake the empty shells) until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.      *If you are using freshly made pastry, line mini-tart pans or a muffin tin with the pastry and crimp the edges.  Prick the bottoms with a fork and bake until golden, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove baked pastry shells from the oven and let them cool completely.  They can be baked a day or two in advance and kept in an air-tight container until ready to use.
  3. To prepare the chocolate layer:  Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler or in the microwave in one-minute increments.  Spoon some of the chocolate into each tart shell and use a pastry brush to coat the entire inside of the shell. Refrigerate the shells until the chocolate has hardened.
  4. To make the raspberry filling: In a medium saucepan, add 2 cups of raspberries, 2 Tablespoons of water and the sugar.  Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Cook until berries begin to soften, about 8 minutes.  Lightly mash berries with a spoon.
  5. In a mug or glass measuring cup, mix together the cornstarch and water until smooth.  Pour into the saucepan of raspberries and stir to combine. Cook raspberry mixture until it becomes glossy and thickens, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Remove the raspberry filling from the heat and let cool slightly.  Spoon filling into the chocolate-lined tart shells and refrigerate shells until the filling is cool and firm.
  7. Garnish tarts with fresh raspberries and serve.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Dark Chocolate Fondue

18 02 2010

 

Dark chocolate fondue with a plate of fruit and cake is a fun way to enjoy dessert by the fire.

 

We’re mid way through February, a month many consider to be the grimmest of the year.  However, we can make the best of the season by enjoying winter activities such as skiing and skating.  What better way to end a day of outdoor activity than by putting on a fire and gathering to enjoy some chocolate fondue?  Almost anything goes when it comes to dippers – you can try everything from fruit to cookies to cake (or let your imagination run wild!).  Fondue is also a great casual dessert for a romantic date. The fondue sauce and dippers can be prepared in advance, making things simple after dinner.

Visit Suite 101.com for a great dark chocolate fondue recipe and some dipper suggestions: Dark Chocolate Fondue.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Hot Chocolate

11 12 2009

 

Homemade hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream and grated chocolate

 

Even though it’s still officially fall for another ten days, winter has arrived in most parts of Canada.  We finally got our first snowfall and the temperature has plunged. As soon as the weather turns cold, I start to crave hot chocolate.  I’ve tried all of the big coffee chains and a few independent places but nothing quite suits my tastes. I prefer a cocoa that is dark and chocolaty but not too thick. I find most coffee shop hot chocolates tend to be too sweet, too milky or too artificial tasting.  The logical solution to this quandry?  Make my own!

It’s very easy to whip up some homemade hot chocolate and you can adjust it to suit your taste.  If you prefer it thicker, use some cream or evaporated milk.  Prefer it sweet?  Add more sugar.  You can also add flavourings or liqueur to your cocoa to dress it up (see below).

The key to good hot chocolate is to use a good quality cocoa powder.  I use a mix of Valrhona 100% Cacao Gastronomie and plain old Fry’s Premium Cocoa which can be purchased at any grocery store (the Valrhona is a little intense by itself).   Scharffen Bergen, Green & Black’s, Droste and Callebaut are other popular brands.  Top your cocoa off with a marshmallow or dollop or whipped cream or try one of the variations below.  If you’re interested in a bit of history, you can read about France’s King Louis XV’s love of hot chocolate, which he would sometimes prepare for himself: Chocolate at Versailles – Louis XV’s Favourite Drink.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Makes 2 large mugs of cocoa

  • 5 Tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cups milk – low fat or whole
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  1. In a mug or glass measuring cup, add cocoa powder and sugar.  Pour in ½ cup of the milk and use a fork to whisk the ingredients together until smooth.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 2-1/2 cups of milk on medium-high heat.  Add vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Heat milk until barely simmering – do not bring to a hard boil.
  3. Pour cocoa mixture into the warm milk and whisk to combine.  Heat mixture until hot and serve.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream or marshmallows. Or try one of the variations below:

Variations (for adults only!):

Irish Hot Chocolate –  Add a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream to each mug of hot chocolate

Mexican Hot Chocolate – Add ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon and 2 Tablespoons Kahlua to the hot chocolate.  Add a dash of cayenne pepper if you really want to spice it up!

Mint Hot Chocolate – Add ½ teaspoon mint extract or 2 Tablespoons of crème de menthe.  Garnish with a candy cane.

Chocolate-Orange – Add a shot of Grand Marnier to each hot chocolate.  Garnish with a candied orange peel.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Kitchen Tip of the Week – Melting Chocolate

14 10 2008

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and I’m in recovery mode from a weekend of cooking and good eating so I’m keeping things simple. Today’s tip is one that can be used for baking and dessert preparation throughout the year: melting chocolate.  Plus, I’m including a delicious recipe for chocolate pudding that is low in fat! Or at least lower in fat than regular pudding, which usually calls for eggs and cream.  Cornstarch is the secret ingredient, making the pudding taste thick and rich with out excessive amounts of fat.  Perfect for those of us who had too much turkey and pumpkin pie over the weekend!

Tips for Melting Chocolate

Chocolate will burn very easily if exposed directly to heat so you can’t just throw it in a pot and turn up the burner.  It has to be melted with indirect heat, which can be done in the microwave or with a double boiler.  Chopping the chocolate first helps it melt faster.

Microwave Method: Chop your chocolate into chunks and put into a microwave safe bowl.  On medium power (5), heat for 1 minute.  Check chocolate and stir.  Return to microwave and heat on medium for another minute and check again.  Repeat until chocolate is shiny and melted (the length of time will depend on how much chocolate you have and how powerful your microwave is).  Note: it is possible to burn chocolate in the microwave so don’t just put it in for 5 minutes without checking on it!

Stove-top Method: If you have a double-boiler pot, that’s great but it’s not necessary. You can easily improvise using a regular saucepan and a metal mixing bowl.  Pour about 2-1/2″ of water into the saucepan and heat until it is simmering gently (not a hard boil).  Place a metal mixing bowl over the boiling water and put your chopped chocolate into the bowl.  Make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water. Stir chocolate until it melts, holding the bowl steady if necessary (wear an oven mitt – the bowl may get hot!). Watch the steam – water will ruin your melted chocolate (see below).

An improvised double-boiler, using a saucepan and metal bowl

An improvised double-boiler, using a saucepan and metal bowl

You can use your favourite chocolate for melting but avoid using chocolate chips if you want your chocolate to melt smoothly. They are designed to keep their shape while baking in cookies and contain an ingredient to keep them from melting completely.

Make sure no water gets into your chocolate as it’s melting.  It will ‘seize’, meaning it will turn lumpy and grainy.  If water does accidentally get into the chocolate, you can try to save it by adding vegetable oil or vegetable shortening to it and stirring until combined.

‘Tempering’ the chocolate is a technique that prepares the chocolate for dipping or coating items so it retains a gloss.  For detailed instructions on tempering chocolate, check out Tempering Instructions from Godiva Chocolatier.

Chocolate Pudding

This is a great alternative for people who can’t eat eggs, as well as anyone who wants to avoid the high fat content in traditional custard-based puddings.  It’s so creamy and chocolate-y, you won’t even miss the eggs and cream!

Makes 4 servings

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups milk (low fat is ok)
  • 1 Tablespoon strong coffee OR coffee liqueur such as Kahlua
  • 1/2 cup melted chocolate (about 5 oz. before melting)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  1. In a large saucepan on medium heat, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, flour and salt with 1 cup of the milk.  Whisk hard until all of the cocoa powder has dissolved.
  2. Stir in the remaining 1 cup of milk, coffee, melted chocolate and vanilla.  Whisk briskly so the melted chocolate stays smooth and is thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Simmer the pudding mixture on medium-high heat, stirring continuously until it becomes quite thick, about 5 minutes.  At the last minute, whisk in the butter. Pour pudding into individual cups (see below for serving suggestions).  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serving suggestions:

  • Pour into individual martini glasses, wine glasses or other attractive glassware.
  • Pour into small bowls or ramekins.
  • You can layer pudding with crumbled cookies in a glass serving dish for an attractive presentation.
  • Sprinkle with chopped nuts, shaved white chocolate, your favourite fruit or berries, a dollop of whipped cream, etc.
  • Instead of coffee or coffee-liqueur, use orange-flavoured liqueur such as Grand Marnier.  Garnish with a tangerine or clementine slice.

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

Chocolate pudding garnished with chopped nuts and hazelnut biscotti

Chocolate pudding garnished with chopped nuts and hazelnut biscotti