Chocolate Truffle Tart with Vanilla Crème Brulee

Best Pie Bakeoff 2008 Entry #20

Recipe: Mary's Chocolate Truffle Tart with Vanilla Crème Brulee Category: Original

Twenty pies! There are just a few more to go this week as we count down to a reader vote-off for the category winners in this Best Pie Bakeoff. Next week we'll show you our editorial picks for Special Mentions. And we all go home the richer for some fabulous new recipes.

Here's the next up in that list of new recipes: another chocolate truffle tart. (Did you see the chocolate bourbon version last weekend?) This one has a full round of one of our favorite flavorings: vanilla, as well as the best of both worlds for two of our favorite desserts. Read on for more of Mary's sweet creation.

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Where is this recipe from? My blog: Alpineberry, but it was inspired by a photograph in "The Secrets of Baking" by Sherry Yard.

Why is this the BEST pie recipe you've got? My chocolate truffle tart with vanilla crème brulee is the best recipe because it combines the best of both worlds. I love crème brulee and I love chocolate tarts. Indecision inspired me to combine the two into one single dessert. I know it seems like a crazy concoction, but everyone agreed that it was delicious. The creamy custard with the crispy caramelized sugar combined with the rich chocolate truffle encased in a sweet sugar cookie crust is the ultimate indulgence.

I'm not very good at rolling out dough for pies or tarts. My rolled doughs usually end up looking more like Wisconsin than a nice circle. But this dough is easily pressed into the tartlet pans which is so much easier than rolling. And because heavy cream is used instead of water, very little gluten develops so the scraps can be worked several times without toughening. Sugar also helps keep the dough tender. You end up with a delicate and sweet crust much like a sugar cookie.

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Chocolate Truffle Tart with Vanilla Crème Brulee

Ingredients for Crème Brulee
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
6 large egg yolks
Additional sugar to caramelize the tops

7 (4 3/4-inch x 3/4-inch) tartlet shells made with Sweet Almond Cookie Crust, prebaked (see recipe below)
1 recipe Chocolate Truffle Cake Batter (see recipe below)

Directions for crème brulee:

1. Preheat oven to 300F. Make sure you have a 9x13 inch baking pan and another baking pan large enough to hold the 9x13 inch pan.

2. Bring the cream, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla bean and scraped seeds to simmer in a large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover pan with lid and let cream steep for 15 minutes.

3. Gently whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl.

4. Remove the vanilla bean and gently whisk the cream into the egg yolks. When the cream and egg yolks are incorporated, strain the mixture through a fine meshed strainer into a clean heatproof bowl.

5. Pour the mixture into the 9x13 inch baking pan and set it in the larger pan. Add enough hot water to the larger pan to come up halfway up the sides of the 9x13 inch pan. Cover loosely with foil (Take care not to let the foil touch the crème brulee.) Bake at 300F until crème brulee is set, about 40-45 minutes. Remove pan from water bath and set on a cooling rack for 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

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6. Remove crème brulee from the freezer. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet pan. Run the edge of a paring knife dipped in hot water around the crème brulee. Flip the crème brulee out onto the parchment paper. (If you have trouble getting the crème brulee out of the pan, place the inverted pan on the parchment paper lined baking sheet pan, and warm the bottom of the pan with a warm towel or with a hair dryer. The heat will "loosen" the crème brulee.) Cut out seven circles using a 3 1/2- or 4-inch cookie cutter. Immediately place the circles back in the freezer until it's time to brulee the tops and assembly your tarts. You will have some crème brulee leftover.

Chocolate Truffle Cake Batter
(Yields enough cake batter to fill seven 4 3/4-inch x 3/4-inch tartlets shells)

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour, sifted

Directions for cake batter:

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water), combine the chocolate and butter and stir occasionally until smooth and melted. Set aside.

3. In the bowl from a stand mixer heat the 4 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk and sugar, set over the same pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally to prevent curdling, until mixture is just warm to the touch.

4. Attach bowl to the stand mixer, and using the whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until just lemony yellow and doubled in volume.

5. Whisk the flour into the chocolate mixture. On low speed, add the chocolate mixture to the eggs all at once. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to mix until well combined, about 1 minute. At this point the cake batter can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for up to 5 days. Or you can use it right away.

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Sweet Almond Cookie Crust
(Yields enough dough for seven 4 3/4-inch x 3/4-inch tartlets)

2 ounces ground blanched almonds
3 tablespoons superfine or granulated sugar
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1-inch cubes
5 ounces (1 cup) all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions for dough and prebaking the crusts:

1. In a food processor, add the ground almonds and sugar and pulse to combine. Add the butter cubes and pulse about 15 times or until no loose bits of almonds/sugar remain. Add the flour and salt and pulse about 15 times or until the butter is about the size of small peas.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and the cream. Add it to the mixture in the food processor bowl and pulse until the ingredients are just barely incorporated, about 8 times.

3. Dump the mixture into a plastic Ziploc bag and flatten the dough. Chill dough in refrigerator for 30 minutes or until firm enough to pat into the tartlet pans.

4. For seven 4 3/4-inch x 3/4-inch tartlets, divide the chilled dough into 7 equal portions. Press each piece of dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of each tartlet pan. Chill the tartlet shells in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before baking.

5. Preheat the oven to 425F. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F. If the dough starts to puff in places, prick it lightly with a fork or press down lightly with your fingertips. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F and continue baking for another 5-8 minutes or until it turns pale gold, feels set but is still soft to the touch. Cool tartlet shells (still in the pans) on a wire rack.

To assemble the tarts:

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Pour cake batter into the seven prebaked tartlet shells. It's okay to fill the shells all the way to the top. (You might have some batter left over.) Bake at 375F for 13-16 minutes until the filling is just set and slightly wobbly in the center. Allow tartlets to cool for at least 30 minutes. Carefully remove the tartlet from the pans.

2. Remove the crème brulee circles from the freezer and place one circle on top of each tart. Sprinkle each circle with about 1 tsp sugar and caramelize the tops using a kitchen torch. Serve immediately.

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(Images: Mary of Alpineberry)

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