Bitter Chocolate Tarts

tart stack

Just a quickie thats been kicking around in my head for a while now. I liked the idea of bitter chocolate tarts ever since having one at Divido in Mt Hawthorn a while back. I’m not a huge fan of really sweet desserts, so the idea of the bitter chocolate appealed to my savoury sensibilities quite strongly.

I’d been sitting on a block of dark (80%) Spanish cooking chocolate for a while, waiting for the next outbreak of the war on terror to hit and send my stocks through the roof. Fortunately that hasn’t happened yet (although the current one is bad enough), and so my resource speculation will have to take a back seat to my baking.

I picked the chocolate up while visiting the lovely lady at Spanish Flavours in Wembley (who i’ll call Maria for the sake of cultural stereotypes), it’s a great store full of all sorts of Spanish and Latin flavoured products. Anyone familiar with “Steve Don’t Eat It” (go there, its good) will be glad to know there is a place where you can find your very own can of Cuitlacoche to play with.

So Maria pointed me in the direction of this chocolate and said it was just the stuff for baking all kinds of delicious desserts “But not for drinking !” She said… “I got a nice one for you to try for drinking”. So after being softened up by a mug of free hot chocolate, that looked more like chocolate yoghurt in consistency, I made the purchase and was on my merry way.

Now with my recent tart making success during the Moroccan dinner under my belt, it was time to roll onto the next tart based challenge. So here we have…

Bitter Chocolate Tarts

Pastry Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 100g butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream

Bitter Chocolate Filling:

  • 300mL thickened or whipping cream
  • 200g dark chocolate (80 per cent)
  • 50g butter, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
  • 2 tablespoons Butterscotch schapps
  • half a cup of sugar (if you can’t take the bitterness)

bitter chocolate

How I Made Mine

For the crust, combine the flour, sugar, and salt together in a food processor. Mix it all around and then add the butter by cutting it up into small pieces and dropped in a piece at a time until the mixture turns into a rough mixture. Add the egg and cream while the processor is still going at which point it should all come together and turn into a big ball that sticks together quite well.

Take the ball out of the processor and onto a floured surface. Knead it a little and when it seems to be a good consistency that is both soft and a little crumbly, but doesn’t completely fall apart, work it into the shape you’re after and press it into your baking dish. In this case I made a bunch of little tarts. So I broke off small balls of dough and pressed them into discs before lining them into a texas muffin tin. Then prick the bottom of the tarts all over with a fork and put them into the freezer for about 20 minutes before cooking.

When they’re mostly solid and have a good shape after being in the freezer, pop them into a preheated oven at 180C and bake for 15-20 minutes until they’re golden brown. Take them out and let them cool.

For the filling I heated the cream until just below boiling point and then transferred it into a bowl along with the chocolate that had been shaved finely so it would melt quickly. Then let that sit for a minute before stirring in the butter and bringing it all together with the baileys and butterscotch schnapps (which you can quite happily omit if you don’t like cowboys). At this point please taste the mixture… I was going along happily and then I had a taste and realised it was too bitter even for my espresso loving palate (although don’t get me started on the bitterness in espresso debate). So i added a half a cup or so of caster sugar to the mixture and stirred it through to lighten the soul destroying bitterness that was currently lurking in the bowl.

Once it’s cooled, pour it into the waiting tart shells and pop it into the freezer or fridge for a good few hours until solid.

bitter chocolate mini tart with ice cream

Take them out and serve with a good dollop of cream or ice cream to add in the digestive process. Incidentally, mine were still really bitter when I took them out of the fridge the night I made them, but after a couple of days they seem to have mellowed. Don’t ask me how… perhaps all the sugar and alcohol settled at the bottom of the bowl and all got poured into one of the tarts, but either way they tasted great.

The best thing is that if no-one else likes them you can just criticise them for having woefully unsophisticated palates and still come out looking good :) Tasty.

Beetroot Fettucini with King Prawns in Creamy Peccorino Sauce

Beetroot Fettucini with Prawns in Creamy Peccorino Sauce

Possibly my longest recipe title to date, and a very tasty one at that.

This dish is basically the result of getting inspired by the ever inspiring Anthony of Spiceblog. Whilst some cooks take simple homely recipes and tart them up into some kind of quasi-faux gourmet dish (ala Jamie Oliver), I tend to do the reverse. That is, find recipes that are original and inventive and then find a way to bring them down to my level :)

So while Anthony used grated fresh beetroot in his version, I substituted a can of beetroot slices in juice to get the dark purple colour that so often stained my fingers as a child. This was actually the main reason I made the dish, because I was hunting in the back of the pantry, came across the can of beetroot and thought a) what the hell is this doing here ? and b) what can I do with it ?

A quick check of the internet and it was go time. I had some nice ’00’ rated pasta flour and picked up some prawns and few fresh herbs, and it was all good to go.

So… Ingredients:

* Beetroot Slices (Or fresh if you’re not inclined to use anything that comes in a can)
* Pasta flour
* 2 Eggs
* King Prawns – Shelled, Deveined
* Cream
* White wine
* Cheese (Anthony used Gorgonzola, I substituted Peccorino)
* Basil
* Cracked Pepper
* Red Onion

The directions are pretty simple. If you like, you can go and look up some websites that tell you how to make fresh pasta, I won’t be offended… My procedure is pretty simple, so you may want some other options.

Basically take the pasta flour and make a mound out of it, make a hole in the middle and crack the eggs into it. Slowly work the eggs into the flour and when they’re completely worked in, add the beetroot. In my case, I blended the beetroot slices into a puree, which turned into a dark purple viscous concoction. Seeing as it has a lot of liquid in it, you won’t need any more water to get the dough to the right consistency. So at this point I started slowly adding the beetroot puree to my pasta dough, mixing it in slowly to take up all the flour. This was a pretty slow process as the puree was a lot wetter than I thought it would be, so I kept having to add flour to get it back to a nice firm springy level.


Once it feels right start kneading the ball to get some elasticity into the dough. Add more flour to the sticky patches as necessary. Then once you’re happy with how it feels, roll it out flat and work it through your pasta roller and cutter… No pasta maker I hear you say ?? Then just roll it as flat as you can with a rolling pin, or bottle, or vaguely cylindrical shaped object and then use a knife to slice strips off for fettucini.

And thats the pasta done.

For the sauce I fried the onion and garlic in olive oil until it was soft, then added white wine, let it reduce, added cream, let that reduce, added the prawns (which need no time at all to cook), added the peccorino, added the basil and some cracked pepper and let it all simmer away nicely for a few minutes.

Then cook the pasta (which also takes no time at all for fresh pasta) in salted water, plate it up, and cover with the sauce.

Then you can optionally fumble around for a few minutes trying to take a photo of it, and rave to your girlfriend/wife/significant other/pet at how well it turned out… as I did, or you can just eat it and let the creamy goodness work its magic.

Red is the new White