I’m a baker. Let’s just be straight and honest about this. I like to bake and I like to bake sweet things. Baking for people makes me feel good. Accomplishment is pulling a batch of muffins or a cake out of the oven. Baking is warm and show-offy. Comforting and welcoming. And while I try my darndest to feed my family healthy things, I really like to bake with eggs, white flour, butter and real chocolate.
chocolate tart

There I have said it….. I feel so much better now.

I should add a clarification. I love to bake when I have time to bake. Nothing frustrates me more than trying to get something elaborate done — because I want to — and rushing to beat the clock. Stresses me out. I get cranky and bossy and I am just no fun to be around.
So here I am faced with a book I promised to review, a book full of elaborate and fancy desserts. Gorgeous stuff I’d pay a pretty penny for at a good bake shop, the kind with a cappuccino bar.  And I’m stressing out because it all looks so hard. 
The book is Graces Sweet Life by Grace Massa Langlois
Grace's Sweet Life: Homemade Italian Desserts from Cannoli, Biscotti, and Tiramisu to Torte, Tartufi, and Struffoli
I’ve been a stalker an admirer of Grace’s blog for a long time. This is one of those sites that I visit for a little inspiration now and again when I want to make something special. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to review her book. But when I said “Sure, send me one”, it didn’t actually occur to me that I would have to make something from it.
Uggg… back to me feeling stressed. This is a book all about indulgent desserts. Beautiful; complicated desserts. Specifically, it is a how-to for traditional Italian desserts. Now, while I have been known to pull off a rich and stately cheesecake or two, I’m more of a cookie and muffin kind of girl. Chocolate zucchini bread I can do. White chocolate mouse layered with raspberries and puff pastry… not so much.  My first reaction – “I can’t do this. This is not my kind of book.”  Actually, that was my second reaction. At first I just said “Oh, no.”
But I had promised an honest review and I decided the least I could do is attempt to make something and take a picture of how these things turn out when a real person , (read me, not a pastry chef) – makes them. I assumed I would feel some shame but could pass it off as “I tried” and call it a day.
To say I was happy and surprised is an understatement! Nope. this did not turn out how I expected.  Not at all. I’m proud to say that my results were similar to the pictures. Grace has laid out the instructions step-by-step so that even I could follow them with my helpers “helping” intermittently throughout the process. There was no guessing and double checking. It’s all laid out in detail.
And bonus… getting back to that stress thing… this particular pie was not as time-consuming as I thought it might be.  I mean, it has four (4!) parts. I have a new respect for Italian cooks. Yes their desserts are impressive, but what’s even more impressive is they have found the perfect balance between effort and beauty.  The steps involved here are precise and economical.  Yes, it will take time to make these desserts. But it’s a reasonable amount of time. You will have time to do other things.  Like finish dinner, clean up after a five year-old and pack tomorrow’s lunches.
And let me tell you , this tart is worth every minute you spend making it.  It is rich, smooth and silky. I tend to take short cuts and I held my short-cutting self in check here. I made the glaze and the mascarpone cream… and I am so glad I did. All parts, taken together, make this a perfect dessert. I am definitely keeping this book in my library for those special occasions when I need something amazing to knock someone’s socks off or when my kitchen ego needs a boost.
Actually this was so stress-free I’m already thinking about making it again, because the first time around I didn’t get to show off to enough people…. no, more people need to experience this tart and see how awesome I am… I mean, it is.
chocolate tart2
And Grace was so kind to allow me to include the recipe to share..

Yields 8

Chocolate Truffle Tart with Chocolate Glaze

decadent chocolate tart - chocolate cookie crust, chocolate truffle filling with chocolate glaze and mascrapone cream. Makes one 8 in tart

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Ingredients

    Chocolate Cookie Crust
  • 11/2 cups (136 g) chocolate cookie crumbs or 23 chocolate wafer cookies (about 5 ounces or 140 g), finely ground
  • 5 tablespoons (71 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • Chocolate Truffle Filling
  • 83/4 ounces (250 g) good-quality bittersweet chocolate, 60%, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup to 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (75 to 103 g) superfine sugar, or as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Chocolate Glaze
  • 21/4 ounces (64 g) good-quality bittersweet chocolate, 60%, or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 21/2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 11/4 teaspoons dark corn syrup
  • 11/4 tablespoons warm water
  • Mascarpone Cream
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) cold heavy cream
  • 11/2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (163 g) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

Instructions

    To make the chocolate cookie crust
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs and melted butter until combined and evenly moistened.
  3. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the base and up the sides of the tart pan.
  4. Place the crumb-lined pan on a sheet of aluminum foil (in case the butter leaks) and bake until slightly puffed, about 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. To make the chocolate truffle filling
  7. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of just-simmering water, stirring occasionally (do not let the bowl touch the water). Set aside and allow to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
  8. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and vanilla.
  9. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Taste, and if you would prefer it sweeter, add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar a little at a time as needed.
  10. Pour the filling through a fine-mesh sieve into the cooled tart shell. (You may need a helper to hold the sieve, and remember to scrape the chocolate from the underside of the sieve). Tap the tart pan once on countertop to remove any air bubbles. (If any air bubbles are visible after tapping, use the tip of a sharp paring knife or toothpick to pop them; this will make for better presentation).
  11. Bake in the 350°F (180°C) oven until the filling is slightly puffed, set around edges, and the center jiggles slightly when the pan is gently shaken (the filling will continue to set as the tart cools), 20 to 25 minutes.
  12. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan, about 1 hour.
  13. When the tart is cool, prepare the chocolate glaze.
  14. To make the chocolate glaze
  15. Place the chocolate in small heatproof bowl.
  16. In small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium-low heat.
  17. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute.
  18. Using a small, flexible spatula, stir the chocolate and cream together. Begin near the center of the bowl and gradually work your way toward the edges, pulling in as much chocolate as possible, until the glaze is smooth, glossy, and well combined.
  19. Stir in the corn syrup, then the warm water.
  20. Strain the glaze through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-cup liquid measuring cup. (Remember to scrape the underside of the sieve.)
  21. Immediately pour the glaze into the center of the cooled tart. Working quickly, use an offset spatula to spread the glaze evenly to the edges leaving a 1/4 inch border.
  22. Let stand until the glaze is set, about 1 hour.
  23. To make the mascarpone cream
  24. In a medium bowl and using a handheld mixer, beat the cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla at high speed until soft peaks form.
  25. In a second medium bowl, use a handheld mixer to beat the mascarpone cheese at medium speed until smooth and creamy.
  26. Using a large flexible spatula, gently fold the cream mixture into mascarpone.
  27. Transfer the mascarpone cream to an airtight container, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  28. Form the cold mascarpone cream into quenelles: Dip two spoons in hot water and dry with a clean kitchen towel. Scoop a generous portion of the mixture with one spoon. With the second spoon, carefully press the spoon on the mixture and roll the spoon to the right, twisting your wrist up to scoop up the mixture. This forces the food into an oval shape. Using this method, transfer the quenelle from one spoon to the other several times to create a smooth, even shape.
  29. To serve the tart, garnish each slice with a quenelle of mascarpone cream.
Cuisine: Italian | Recipe Type: Dessert