Tart Schmart

I should say this upfront. I’m not a baker. Never have been. Every attempt I’ve made to bake something have always taken disastrous turns. And hence, I steer clear from anything to do that involves mixing eggs, butter, flour and sugar together.

Now that I’ve established this fact, I’m gonna follow up by saying: Whooppee!! I made pie!!

For the last few days, I’ve been ashamed to call myself a blogger…considering that I’ve done nothing but post photographs from my gorgeous *insert orgasmic sound here* vacation in Paris. But, I intend to change that very soon. I’ve drowned myself in more coursework and in learning how to make Parisian Macarons. That’s right. Just when you thought I couldn’t get any cuter.

Over the batches of flat, soggy meringues that came out of my uncontrollable oven, I have wondered whether all French bakers (specializing in macarons) have filthy mouths. Because I sure have developed one, trying to whip up ‘magma-like’ batter.

Its not that my mouth was any un-filthier before, than it is now, but I sure have learnt a few choice words in French.

But with any luck I will succeed…and you will know about it. For now, let the egg whites rest for another day.

My earliest memory of baking is the one when I baked my first cake at the age of 10. A chocolate one too. And it was a disaster.

Given that I don’t have much of a sweet-tooth (not as much as my friends and family), I wanted my cake to taste just right and I doubled the recipe, without doubling the amount of sugar. I still remember that the recipe asked for 220gms of flour and 200gms of sugar. And I put in 200gms of sugar alright, but doubled the flour to 400gms. The cake came out beautifully…out of one of those old aluminum toaster ovens. It was soft, melt-in-your-mouth and was the perfect shade of chocolate. Except that you couldn’t eat it without gagging.

I should have known then, but no…I waited 15 years to finally learn that I’m no baker.

However, cravings have a way of creeping up on you from behind. And then the Universe does everything to make every parameter fall into place. I was greeted by Chocolate & Zucchini when I came back home from the library yesterday. I had umpteen bars of chocolate in the refrigerator (as I always do). I had a full block of unsalted butter, along with a fresh carton of eggs and a can of double cream. And moreover, I also had dessicated coconut that I had bought a few days back — all waiting for me to gather them into a pie!

So I faced the nagging voice at the back of my head that kept murmuring, “You know what happens when you try to bake….”, rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

I’m not trying to be ambitious, so you’ll forgive me for using tiny moulds to make tartlets rather than a full-on pie, aren’t you?

The filling is a dark chocolate ganache (did I just hear someone say, “Playing it safe, bitch?”). And yes, in my eagerness to tuck into the tartlet I burned my tongue on the hot ganache, so, do let it rest to cool, after you’ve filled the tartlets in, and definitely before you plop whipped cream on it (warm ganache = oozy cream for garnish = mess).

Chocolate Espresso Tartlets

To make the crust:

Adopted from Clotilde’s Pâte Sablée recipe

Ingredients:

  • 75gms chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 75gms sugar
  • 150gms plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1-2 tbsp cold milk

Combine the sugar, flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter into the mixture with fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add a tablespoon of milk and blen it in, handling the dough as lightly as possible. The dough should be crumbly but should clump if squeezed in a handful. If not, then add some more milk (teaspoon by teaspoon) and mix in, till it reaches the clumpy stage. Plop a bit of mixture into a greased tartlet mould, and use the back of a spoon or the heels of your hands to press down the dough to make the crust. The dough might feel a bit dry, but that’s normal (at this point, I used quite a bit of milk, so my dough wasn’t as dry as I thought it would be). Cover tightly with film wrap and chill for 30 minutes, or upto a day. The remaining dough (left after you’ve lined as many moulds as you want) can be wrapped tightly in cling film and frozen for later.

With a fork, puncture the base and sides of the chilled crust. The crust will still puff up a bit while baking, but it’ll be fine once it cools down. Alternatively, place ceramic baking balls in it before popping it in the oven.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C (fan-assisted) and bake the tart for 15-20 minutes, till the edges are a nice golden colour. Given that my oven is moody about temperature, I kept a sharp eye on the colour. Cool on a rack.

To make the filling:

Ingredients:

70gms dark chocolate, good quality and chopped into bits (This is enough to fill two tartlets)

80ml double cream

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1 tablespoon water, warm

Whipped cream and/or dessicated coconut to garnish

Place the chopped up chocolate in a bowl, stainless steel preferably. Make espresso out of warm water and coffee. Put the cream in a saucepan to heat. At this point mix in the sugar. Heat the mixture till it just begins to boil, but do not let it boil over!

Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolatee bits and let stand for about minute. Start stirring from the center of the bowl outwards to incorporate the cream and chocolate and mix well till no streaks remain. Stir in the espresso. Pour the ganache into the baked (and cooled) tartlets. Garnish with caramel tuiles, whipped cream or coconut shavings. As you can see….I opted for a smiley face!

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My kitchen at 7:00 A.M.

…is an unusually quiet place to be.

Soft sunlight through the shady panes, breezy drafts from the adjoining terrace garden, the odd vegetable lying around, empty Martini bottles stacked in a corner from the party last night and the subtle sizzle of portobello mushrooms cooking in cream and mozzarella.

Bucatini pasta with Portobello Mushrooms, Aubergine and Martini
No, I haven’t gone completely crazy yet. But I admit I’m on a quest to use up all the alcohol that we have at home, mostly left over from parties. Generally speaking, I love my pasta best with wine.

This recipe uses Martini (Rossi).

What you need:

Bucatini pasta (I was cooking for two, so I used a big handful, about 100-120gms)

– 100 ml Martini & Rossi (you could substitute with Vermouth….or better yet, WHITE WINE)

– Half a cup of portobello mushrooms, sliced finely

– Half a cup of chopped aubergine (egg plants, brinjal, baingan, etc..)

– 2 tablespoons of good quality unsalted butter

– 2 spring onions, chopped (a better substitute would be red onions)

– 8 cloves of garlic, smashed (try using a side of your kitchen knife)

– 1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns

– 200 ml of fresh cream

– Half a teaspoon of dried oregano

– Half a teaspoon of dried basil

– 150-180 gms of mozarella (try not using the “rubbery” type), chopped into “melt-able” cubes

– Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (depends on how hot you like it…)

– 1 teaspoon of sugar

– Salt to taste

– 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

– Freshly chopped parsley

Directions:

Boil three cups of water and a measely teaspoon of salt in a deep bottomed pan. Add the pasta when the water boils. Cook for 11-15 minutes.

– Before straining the pasta, keep aside a cup of the starchy water it boils in, to be used in the sauce later.

– Strain the pasta and run cold water through it.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the onions, garlic and peppercorn and saute till the onions turn translucent.

– Add the mushrooms and aubergine. Cover and cook on low heat till the veggies soften.

– Pour in the alcohol and add sugar. Stir well. Cover and cook for another minute before adding the rest of the ingredients (except salt, olive oil and parsley) slowly.

– Cook on low heat till the chesse has melted completely and the cream starts to bubble up slightly.

– Do a taste check and add salt accordingly.

– Pour in the water, saved from the cooking pasta. and stir well.

– Cook for another five minutes.

– Combine the pasta and sauce well. Sprinkle olive oil and chopped parsely. Mix well.

– Eat.