Sunday, August 28, 2011

Black and White Strawberry Tart

I think everyone remembers the first time they tasted a chocolate-covered strawberry, whether it was the real thing or just sliced strawberries and chocolate syrup on an ice cream brownie sundae.  As I kid I thought they were the epitome of elegance and romance, and as an adult, I still feel there is something intrinsically elegant and romantic about the pairing of chocolate and strawberries.

When my sister got married, following the intimate ceremony of family and just a couple friends, she and my brother-in-law held the reception at their house.  The cake was catered, of course, but she and I made everything else.  Shortbread cookies and a few other treats wrapped up in pretty Chinese take-out boxes from a craft store as favors for the guests.  And strawberries dipped in white and milk chocolate.  Unfortunately, we used the wrong kind of chocolate which didn't stick very well to the strawberries, so when we picked them up, the chocolate slipped off the strawberries in a big glob.  But they still tasted great!

When I was dreaming up this tart, I pondered over a few names to describe the bittersweet chocolate crust, the creamy white chocolate vanilla filling and fresh strawberries such as "Strawberries on a Cloud", "Sunny and Stormy Strawberry Tart" and "Double Chocolate Strawberry Tart".  But in the end, I liked Black and White Strawberry Tart the best.  What do you think?

My parents came over for dinner last night, and I knew that this was the dessert I wanted to make.  Strawberries and chocolate are such a a wonderful combination, and this pretty tart showcases all the flavors in a beautiful presentation.

I only needed a recipe for the crust, and researched lots of chocolate tart dough recipes, not finding one that was quite what I wanted.  So finally, I just adapted Dorie Greenspan's recipe for sweet tart dough, substituting cocoa powder for some of the flour, and hoped that it still worked as well as the original.  The crust turned out beautifully - rich with bittersweet chocolate, only slightly sweetened from a little powdered sugar and a buttery cookie texture.  

Baked in a tart pan, the dark chocolate fluted edge makes a lovely shell for the creamy white chocolate cream filling that was speckled with vanilla bean seeds from the addition of vanilla bean paste.

Sliced strawberries and a sprinkling of grated chocolate finishes the tart and makes it impossible to resist a slice.

Black and White Strawberry Tart

Chocolate Shortbread Crust (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold butter, cut into small pieces (freeze butter for 10 minutes for optimal temperature)
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom
White Chocolate Vanilla Cream Filling
  • 6 ounces white baking chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
Strawberry Topping
  • 1 pound strawberries
  • 1/2 ounce semi-sweet chocolate

1.  Prepare the Crust:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, powdered sugar and salt.  Add the butter, and using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until you have coarse crumbs.  

Add the egg yolk, a little at a time, and incorporate into the mixture with your fingers.  Continue to use your fingers to work the dough until it starts to moisten and hold together (this will take 1-2 minutes).  Gather the dough into a ball.

Thoroughly spray the sides and bottom of the tart shell with non-stick baking spray (or butter well).  Press half the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Press the other half of the dough around the sides, making sure the dough comes all the way up to the top of the pan.

Freeze for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Take the tart pan from the freezer and spray the shiny side of a piece of foil with non-stick baking spray.  Fit the foil inside the pan against the dough, sprayed side down.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Carefully remove the foil, pressing down any parts of the dough that have puffed up with the back of a spoon, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack on the counter for 10 minutes, then cool in the refrigerator while you prepare the white chocolate filling.

2.  Prepare the Filling:

Melt the white chocolate according to the instructions on the package, then cool to room temperature for about 30 minutes.

With an electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla bean paste until smooth and creamy.  Gradually add the melted chocolate and beat well.

In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form.  Add the whipped cream to the white chocolate cream cheese mixture, a spoonful at a time, beating on low until mixture is smooth.

Spread white chocolate filling in the cooled crust.  Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.

3.  The Final Flourish:

Wipe the strawberries clean with a damp paper towel and cut the leafy tops off.  Place one whole strawberry upside down in the center of the tart.  

Slice the remaining strawberries, and arrange the strawberry slices, starting at the center, in a circular pattern.  Repeat with a second layer, if desired.  Top with grated semi-sweet chocolate or chocolate curls.

To serve, take the tart out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Carefully, press the bottom of the pan up to loosen it from the side.  Remove the side, and set the tart, still on its metal base, on a serving dish.