Boy, have I! I need to backtrack to September at this point, because of how much I haven't told you.
September was Eric's birthday, so of course I baked for that party. And he had a request. An intimidating, fairly arduous request. He wanted a Praline and Cocoa Nib Tart from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook he got me for our anniversary last March. If you don't know, the Bouchon Bakery is owned by Thomas Keller and run by executive pastry chef Sebastien Rouxel. These are some big shoes to fill. Huge.
That one little 8" tart required five different recipes to make. And with French pastries, apparently, everything is a process. Freezing for hours in between steps. Baking, turning, baking some more. And with Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel specifically, some interesting ingredients!
I'm a baker. I've been a baker since I was a kid. I come from a line of bakers, my mom won first prize for her French apple pie and her mother actually baked for schools. Her sister, my aunt, baked for diners. So I know my way around a canister of flour. But trimoline? (Invert sugar) Glucose? (Another form of sugar that's honestly a royal pain to work with; it's a stiff goo) Cocoa butter? (Good thing we make soap and our cocoa butter is food grade, since this is not easy to find at the supermarket!) Hazelnut-almond praline paste. (Huh?) 64% dark chocolate. (Specifically 64%. Did you know you can't find that in the supermarket? Not even Fairway. They've got 62%. and 70%. No 64%. Damnit.) And Feuilletine. (WTH?)
Yeah. Well, it's a good thing Eric's into molecular gastronomy because he got a good chuckle as I placed my first order with one of "his" websites to get this stuff. At least I could find European butter, 40% milk chocolate, blanched hazelnuts, cocoa nibs, unsweetened cocoa powder, almond flour, and everything else I needed at one or the other of the two supermarkets I tried.
But Feuilletine? Ha. I tried Fairway, which has a stellar baking section, and is where I found the vanilla paste (as opposed to extract) for my foray into making Sebastien Rouxel's Better Nutters over the summer. I tried calling a local restaurant supply store. I tried local French bakeries to see if I could either buy it from them or get hooked up with their supplier.
Finally, I found a recipe for it online. It's a pain to make, but holy crow, is it good. It's kind of like crumbled up chocolate sugar cone, but better. It just takes forever to spread really, really thin and bake just a couple pans at a time, since the recipe makes a ton. On the bright side, the recipe makes a ton, and the tart recipe only calls for 60 grams of it, so I saved the rest in a cereal tupperware wa silica packet to keep it dry and crunchy. For the record, feuilletine is also excellent on ice cream.
So that was recipe #1.
Then came the tart crust, called pate sucre. It's amazing, and tastes a lot like shortbread. Really, really great shortbread. Recipe #2.
The base of the tart is a praline, and that's where the feuilletine comes in; it's an ingredient in the praline. Yes, I spent hours making an ingredient. Recipe #3.
And then the chocolate ganache. That's where we get to the glucose, trimoline, and 64% dark chocolate. Wow. Recipe #4.
Then, the dentelle. Crushed toasted blanched hazelnuts, cocoa nibs, and other goodness that turns into a crunchy crust. Finally, Recipe #5.
The best way to make this tart, I've determined, is over the course of several days, in parts. The dough needs to be frozen before and after being rolled out. The praline needs to be frozen too. So, yeah. Days is best, unless you're getting up at 6 a.m. to start and serving it late at night.
So worth it. So. Freakin'. Worth it.
I've done it twice since. The pate sucre recipe is enough for two tarts and can be frozen for a month, so I used the other half of this first batch on a second tart for our Halloween party.
And then I made another batch, and brought the third tart to my office holiday party last Friday. I don't think I need to explain what a hit it was.
The one thing that gets me is that when I roll out the pate sucre nice and smooth and lay it nicely on the cookie sheet in the tart ring, I roll over it, and get a beautiful, flat, even edge for my tart. But then I've got to blind bake it before putting in the praline and ganache, so I follow Rouxel's instruction to use parchment paper filled with rice so it holds its shape. The only problem with that is that parchment paper is crinkly and the dough is soft. The paper mars the dough and ruins my nice, even edge!
Oh, geez. As I was typing this, about to ask for input, I realized I should freeze the dough before doing that. Frozen dough won't be marred by the parchment paper when it goes in the oven! Don't mind me, I'm running a little behind in the brain cell department these days. I plan to do the 4th tart for my book club meeting in January if I can get more hazelnut-almond praline paste and cocoa nibs, both of which I've used up. I'll definitely let you know how it goes.
And my next post? Plum Kuchen!