It’s finally a week till Christmas! The holiday of presents wrapped with sheer sparkly ribbons, when strings of lights illuminate the streets in festive hues wherever you go, of familiar tunes sung by the most angelic voices, trees with their forest green branches decked out in glittery elaborate baubles of red, gold, and silver, and maybe – just maybe – gentle showers of miniature snowflakes painting the ground a white so blindingly bright.
‘Tis the season to be jolly.
I made these more than a month ago but I’m only currently getting around to writing this post because the past few weeks have just been an onslaught of tests and papers to write. Tragically, school’s going to get busy again in January but for now, mercifully, I have a couple of weeks of to chill so hard I get frostbite.
The inspiration for these tartlets stemmed from a bag of chocolate tea I received from a friend. Predictably, one idea led to another and I ended up with these – a creme brûléed chocolate tea custard baked in a cocoa tart shell with cocoa nibs that is painted with a thick layer of dark chocolate on the inside. In all honesty, all the other chocolate components regrettably overwhelmed the chocolate flavour of the tea in the custard, but the it was still pretty magical nonetheless. There are so many textures in these tartlets – the crumbliness of the tart shell, crunchiness of the cocoa nibs, silky smoothness of the barely set custard and the crisp-crunchiness of the burnt sugar on top that shatters so satisfyingly with a slightly forceful poke with the tines of a fork.
These aren’t laborious at all to make although there’s a lot of chilling time involved, so heads up.
Chocolate Tea Creme Brûlée Cocoa Tartlets
makes 12 mini tartlets
For the custard:
360 ml cream (35% fat)
4 teaspoons loose tea leaves
5 egg yolks
40 grams sugar, plus extra for topping
For the tart crust:
170 grams all-purpose flour
21 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
60 grams confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
128 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
around 60 grams of dark chocolate, broken into chunks
Make the custard: Place the cream in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Stir in the tea leaves and let them steep for about 15 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Reheat the infused cream until it reaches a simmer, strain the warm cream into the bowl with the egg yolk-sugar mixture, whisk well to combine.
Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the custard has thickened. Be sure to keep a close eye on it and not let it curdle. Remove from heat and whisk a bit more to hasten the cooling process. Allow the custard to cool to room temperature, whisking every 10 minutes. When the custard has cooled, wrap the bowl with plastic wrap, making sure that it touches the surface of the custard as well, and chill in the refrigerator overnight to set.
Make the tart crust: Put the flour, cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to blend. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely. Stir the yolk just to break it up and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is incorporated, add in the cacao nibs and process in long pulses of about 10 seconds each until the dough forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this clumpy stage, stop pulsing and turn the dough out onto a work surface; finish mixing the dough by hand.
Butter 12 tartlet molds. Press an adequate amount of dough evenly onto the bottom and up the sides of each mold. You may have some tart dough left over. Prick the crust all over with a fork and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Bake the tart crust: Preheat oven to 375F. Bake for about 15 minutes. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a small spoon. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes. Divide the broken chunks of dark chocolate amongst the baked tartlet shells while they are still hot. When the chocolate has melted, spread it evenly over the inner surfaces of each tartlet with the back of a small spoon. Allow the tartlets to cool on a cooling rack.
When the tartlets have cooled, fill them to the brim with the chilled custard. Refrigerate for about 4 hours to set. Evenly sprinkle the surface of the chilled custard with a thin layer of sugar and caramelise with a blowtorch; serve.
Note: the tart dough recipe is taken from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi and the custard recipe is inspired from Bourke Street Bakery.