Baking is like dominoes. Not the actual game, which I have no idea how to play. Baking is like when you line up all the dominoes in a row, split it into two rows, make one row climb up a pile of books and the other row curl into a spiral, and then you accidentally knock down one of the dominoes in the middle with your knee when you stand up, and you say some less-than-lovely things and start all over.
Sometimes baking is really that maddening. Other times, baking is just like the fun part when you get to knock all the dominoes over from the end, but not as anticlimactic.
One day this summer, I made zongzi, which is a Chinese dish of glutinous rice stuffed with sweet or savory filling and steamed in bamboo leaves (plain zongzi or zongzi with sweet filling are incredible unwrapped and rolled in sugar). I decided to make lotus paste and sweet mung bean paste to stuff my zongzi. I had lotus paste left over, so I hatched a plan to make lotus bread based on a banana bread recipe (I added some milk to make up for the dry lotus paste). Once I finished the lotus bread, I had egg yolks left over, so I had no choice but to make pastry cream for a fruit tartlets (which inspired my blog header; the clipart is a replica of one of the tartlets I made, and if you look closely, you can see that the strawberry is a cutout from a picture I took). See, just like dominos.
I also had a miniature domino experience over spring break. Because my ganache wouldn’t roll out into truffles, I made molded chocolates, and ended up with a ton of leftover, completely irresistible Cointreau ganache. The solution? Chocolate Cointreau Tartlets! I used this recipe for the 4 inch chocolate shells, and I rolled the dough for a prettier finish even though the recipe says to press the dough into the pan.
The filling is pure Cointreau ganache. It was already pretty set from being in the refrigerator, so I piped it into the shells in spirals (if you make the ganache at the same time, it will be liquidy and you can just pour it into the tartlet shells and then let them set in the fridge). I wrapped up the tartlets and left them in the freezer for my family—god forbid they should go hungry while I’m gone! I froze them overnight in dishes with deep sides to protect the ganache swirls, and then wrapped them individually in aluminum foiled and plastic bagged them.
I promise I’ll put up the ganache recipe when I get home and have access to it. For now, here’s the recipe for the tartlet shell.
Chocolate Tart/let Crust
Adapted from Epicurious’ Cashew-Coconut Tart in Chocolate Crust
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon (generous) salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 ½ tablespoons ice water (or more if you want to roll the dough)
Spray the tartlet shells or tart pan with nonstick spray (with regular tart dough this isn’t necessary, but this dough doesn’t naturally separate from the sides of the tart pan, and if you don’t spray you’ll have to ever-so-gently pry the tartlets out of the pans. I should know).
In a big mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. You can do this in a food processor if you want to. If you’re using a food processor, add the chunks of butter (small chunks, about half a dice size each) and process away. If you’re like me and you prefer hands-on baking, crumble the butter into the flour with your fingers (some recipes say to use two knives to “cut” the butter in, but I’ve never quite figured that out). What I do is simultaneously mash the butter chunks between my fingers and coat them in the flour etc until the mixture is crumb-like and the biggest pieces are the size of small peas.
The recipe calls for 1 ½ tablespoons of ice water, which makes for a crumbly dough that you can press into the sides of the pan. If you want to roll your dough like I did, keep adding water a ½ tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together.
Either press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, or roll it out. To roll for tartlets, roll out a fistful of dough on a flour surface, put a tartlet shell on top of the dough, and use a sharp knife to cut a circle about an inch bigger than the pan on all sides. Lift the circle of dough into the tartlet pan, fit it in, and drape the extra dough over the rim. Run a rolling pin over the top of the pan to cut off the extra dough.
Put the tartlet shells on a baking sheet, and bake them in a 350-degree oven for 15-18 minutes. The crust should be dry and puffy. Set on a rack and cool completely.