Sunday, July 17, 2011

Not then, not now, not ever

The first time I went to France, I was eight years old. It would be the very first time I'd travel outside of Greece and the very first time I'd get on an airplane. I remember feeling so excited about the prospect that I couldn't sleep for days before the trip.

My dad, mom, my brother and I were about to embark on a winter vacation around France with some very close friends of my parents, one of whom was French, and their three kids.

We traveled to Lyon and Grenoble, Rouen and Bordeaux and of course Paris. That was the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, the first time I tasted crème brûlée and tarte tatin aux pommes (with apples) and the first time I spoke French. The eldest daughter of my parents' friends taught me a single phrase and I managed to drive everyone crazy by repeating it again and again.

Even though it's been more than twenty years since that first visit to France, my memories are still incredibly vivid. One of those memories involves a lot of chocolate and a serious tummy ache. I couldn't control myself when it came to chocolate; not then, not now, not ever. And chocolate was again on my mind when S and I visited Paris late last month. Chocolate and our anniversary.

S and I have been together for many years and this anniversary was really special to us. So when he suggested that we take a short trip to Paris in order to celebrate it in style, I jumped for joy. He didn't have to say it twice.

Paris is only a two and a half hour train (Thalys) ride from Rotterdam which in turn is only a half hour train ride from The Hague were we live. It is ridiculously close and we couldn't believe we haven't ventured into France sooner.

Apart from all the wonderful places that we visited during our stay, the sights and sounds of the city that we soaked in, the tantalizing food that we enjoyed, I also could not resist the allure of the patisseries of Paris. Being an obsessive chocoholic, it was only natural.

The most memorable dessert experience was the tasting of a layered, bitter chocolate dessert from Pierre Hermé. S and I decided to share it (big mistake) and in the end we were fighting over the last bite. We couldn't get over how smooth and light its texture was.

Since returning from Paris, I have been yearning for the sinful decadence of chocolate. So what if it's summer and most people go for fruity desserts? This French chocolate tart or tarte au chocolat never ceases to excite me. It's not your ordinary tart though with a crust and a filling. It is a light, moist cake almost like a sponge cake, with a luscious chocolate glaze.

The eggs and sugar are beaten together ferociously until a mousse-like texture is achieved and then the sifted flour is rained and folded in, followed by the melted chocolate. You put the mixture in the oven and once baked, out comes a silky cake that is then covered with a rich chocolate glaze that intensifies its flavor.

This voluptuous tart has an extraordinary flavor and a velvety texture that, dear reader, you must try. It's all that you'll ever want from a chocolate tart and more.

Tarte au Chocolat - French Chocolate Tart
Adapted from Georges Blanc

The most important ingredient of this tart is of course the chocolate. Use good quality chocolate; it will make all the difference.

The dusting of cocoa powder over the chocolate glaze gives a bitter finish (which I love) to the tart, balancing its sweetness. You can omit the cocoa powder, leaving the tart looking all glossy from the chocolate glaze.

Yield: 1 tart/ 8-10 servings

130 g good quality dark 55% chocolate, roughly chopped
100 g butter, unsalted plus extra for buttering the tart pan
4 medium-sized eggs
150 g sugar
50 g all-purpose flour, sifted

for the chocolate glaze
100 g good quality dark 55% chocolate, roughly chopped
80 ml cream, full-fat
20 g butter, unsalted

Dutch-processed cocoa powder for dusting over the tart

Special equipment: sieve, stand or hand-held mixer, fluted tart pan 28 cm in diameter with removable bottom

Butter well the bottom and sides of the tart pan.

Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring often and making sure the chocolate doesn't burn. The bottom of the bowl must not come in contact with the simmering water. Once the mixture is smooth and melted, remove bowl from the top of the pan and set aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl and with a hand held mixer), beat the eggs with the sugar on high speed until you have a mixture with a mousse-like texture, that is fluffy and airy. Fold in the sifted flour with a spatula, being careful not to knock all the air out of the mixture. Then fold in the cooled melted chocolate. The batter will become less airy and will deflate a bit but that's normal.

Empty the batter into the buttered tart pan and place it on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out with some dry crumbs attached to it or even clean.

Place the tart pan on a wire rack so the tart can cool slightly and then remove the sides of the pan leaving that tart on its base. Let tart cool completely.

for the chocolate glaze
Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate glaze.
Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring often and making sure the chocolate doesn't burn. The bottom of the bowl must not come in contact with the simmering water. Once the mixture is smooth and melted, remove bowl from the top of the pan. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan and pour it into the melted chocolate. Beat cream well into the chocolate mixture using a spatula.

When the tart has cooled, pour the chocolate glaze over the top and with the help of an offset spatula, spread the glaze around. Allow the glaze to cool off and set before dusting the top of the tart with the cocoa powder.

Keep the tart covered, at room temperature, for 3-4 days.


  1. Dear Magda,

    You have outdone yourself!! Fantastic writing, loved your story of France with your parents and Paris with S. My wife and I enjoyed reading you. Your chocolate tart sounds great and you explain beautifully. We shall definitely make it. Ela kai kala stefana!!

  2. Love this post - I look forward to going to Pierre Herme on our next visit to Paris! Your cake looks like sheer perfection - thank you for sharing the deliciousness:)

  3. I loved the story and the tempting pictures of this cake. I have never actually had a tart like this - the ones here are super dense like biting into a half melted bar of chocolate unlike yours which seems to have the perfect balance of everything. Love the dusting of coca powder too :-) Great anniversary in Paris ;-)

  4. your tart is a chocolate dream, and your description of its preparation--like the ferocity of beating the egg and sugar together--is so well done. simple ingredients, but it's the technique (and quality of chocolate) that makes it.
    wonderful post, Magda!

  5. So beautiful, as always, Magda! This tart looks truly special and, being a chocolate fan myself, you can be assured I will be making this soon. Thanks for a wonderful post - David

  6. If you are a real chocoholic, like you and me, there is no season for chocolate. It reigns, always. This is a beautiful, elegant chocolate tart if there ever was one!

  7. Oooohhh, fantastic! That divine looking tart is just irresistible. What a droolwothy treat.



  8. Just found your wonderful blog from Spain. OMG! your pictures are truly decadent. I was salivating just looking at them. What a talented lady you are ;-)

  9. I can relate; I have eaten many chocolates and baguettes and chocolate in baguettes while living in France; I still remember the time I walked into La Maison du Chocolat as filled with anticipation.
    This tart is a keeper. I will be trying it soon, as for me there is no bad weather for chocolate, it is good under any climatic conditions !

  10. I apologize for asking but there is something in a few of the photos that I do not see in the recipe. There looks to be a sort of white filling between the cake and the glaze but not in all photos. Would you mind letting me know what this is so I can stop wondering? This looks divine and makes me want to make it even though I don't consider myself a baker at all.

  11. Wow that looks like complete and unadulterated chocolate heaven!

  12. Dear Magda, Your chocolate tart is such an indulgence - it does really look worthy for an anniversary treat. How lucky you got your partner to take you to Paris... especially for the anniversary. Very romantic

  13. Holy hubcaps, that's beautiful. Looks incredible. What a treat, a gorgeous drool worthy, computer licking tasty treat. Oh to take a chunk out of that. Mmmmmmm.

  14. I love your story about Paris. How I miss it. The dessert looks phenomenal. Absolutely delicious!

  15. Toni — of course there's no need to apologize. There is absolutely nothing between the cake and the glaze. Believe me, if there was, I would include it in the recipe :)

    Thank you all for taking the time to comment!

  16. I have exactly the same problem with chocolate so I tend not to bake too much of it unless I know I am going to share with a lot of people. However this wants me to have it all by myself.

  17. The most stunning tarte au chocolat I've ever seen, worthy of Pierre Herme. I can feel your love of France in every word and photo and am also nostalgic for Lyon and Grenoble because I know them so well. I have to make this very soon and can buy Valrhona chocolate in Berlin. Once I went to the place they make it, Tain l@Hermitage and think this would be a good destination for you as you can smell chocolate everywhere and sample many different kinds.

  18. What was that phrase they taught you on your first trip to Paris? That tart!!! It looks naughty! Chocolate is one of the wonders of the world as far as I'm concerned. What would we do without it?!

  19. Magda, what a lovely story -- that tart au chocolat is absolutely gorgeous! it reminds me a bit of the sachertorte i had once in vienna. mmm pure decadence.

  20. This dessert looks heavenly, and your pictures really do it justice. Beautiful!

  21. lacaffettierarosa — I try to never bake with chocolate when it's just for me. That would be disastrous for my figure ;)

    Emily Vanessa — with Valrhona this tart would be even better. The smell of chocolate everywhere?? Oh, I have to go there!

    Nicole — "Je voudrais un peu de l'eau s'il vous plaît". I drove every waiter in every cafe or restaurant crazy with that.

    Denise — thanks

    Steph @ Lick My Spoon — yeah, it kind of looks like a sachertorte doesn't it?

    Madeleine — thanks!

  22. What an intense serving of chocolate bliss that must be, I can almost taste it!

  23. Thanks Sylvie! Nice of you to drop by!

  24. Did it yesterday! But today is even better/more perfect:) You're right it's important to have a gooood quality chocolate.
    Love your writtings, photos and blog in general.
    Thank you!

  25. This looks fabulous. I am going to make it for a lunch this week. I only have a 24cm tin and no chance of picking up a larger one beforehand, I guess I will put in as much mixture as the tin will take and then make a mini one as well.

    1. Yes, that's a great idea. You can make a smaller one to keep for yourself :) Good luck!

  26. Hello! I made this and it was delicious! However, my tart did not look pretty :( when I pulled it out of the oven, a crust had formed and as it cooled, the crust deflated and cracked. Where did I go wrong? Did I beat the eggs and sugar mixture for too long? Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Mike. That's how it should be, with a crust and some cracks. And it does indeed deflate. It's not supposed to look pretty, that's why you glaze it. :) Glad you liked the flavor!

    2. Thanks for the reassurance, magda!