A trip we haven’t done yet is the one into the world of chocolate… We are sure that it will be one of your favourites, and of course it will take more than one article. At times it will come back to sweeten us with another piece of dark, milk or white chocolate. In our first chocolate article we will dive for a while into the history of chocolate and of the chocolate tart in particular, and we will make our own healthy variation: a tart with dark chocolate, pears in grape molasses and a base made with extra virgin olive oil. If you got a craving for it, follow us!
We like to approach the subjects we discuss in a methodic way, so we will start with the definition of chocolate. The broad term chocolate refers to preparations that contain seeds from the fruits of the cocoa tree (cacao tree or Theobroma cacao) as a basic ingredient.
The route from the plant to the products -which are either consumed directly or used in pastry- is briefly presented by the National Confectioners Association: the farmers open the fruits, take the seeds out and then a process of fermenting and drying follows. Then, the seeds are shipped all over the world, where they get checked and cleaned, baked and ground. The outcome is the chocolate liquor, a dense liquid.
Then, the chocolate liquor is either pressed so that it gets separated into cocoa that gets ground into powder, and cocoa butter from which white chocolate is produced, or it is mixed with other ingredients, such as sugar, to become the well known chocolate in bars.
The history of chocolate is truly ancient and it begins around 1900 BC, in the area of today’s North Mexico and Central America. As Christina Tzialla describes in an article in Glykes Alchimies magazine (42), excavations have shown that the Mayans used to consume a warm chocolate drink, that tasted bitter though. But, except for that, they used the seeds of the cocoa tree as coins with exchange value. Later on, the Aztecs would also drink chocolate, in the form of a drink coloured with red colouring, intensely flavored with chili, vanilla and seeds from the exotic kapok tree.
The seeds were brought to Europe for the first time by Christopher Columbus in the 15th century. However, he was only aware of their monetary function and so they ended up in a museum. From our historic and cultural knowledge, though, we know that at this period museums didn’t exist. What existed was the habit of collecting peculiar objects that the explorers had found in their travels and gathering them in special spaces. Those first “museums” are called cabinets of curiosities, meaning cupboards with peculiar objects. In the 17th century those rooms gained great importance and became the forerunners of museums as we know them today. In this historic context we will dare to imagine the first cocoa seeds getting lost in a multitude of other colourful and diverse “exotic” objects…
The first European to have tasted chocolate, according to Christina Tzialla, was the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés in the 16th century. He envied the unending energy of the Aztec emperor and tried the miraculous drink that emperor Montezuma consumed in a kind of over the top quantity we’d say -40 cups a day! So, chocolate got to Spain, but only to the houses of the aristocracy.
In the 17th century chocolate reached Italy, where it was treated as a spice, and as a drink too. After that, it was England’s turn and then it spread all around Europe. Chocolate arrived to Greece in the mid 19th century and its first form was an expensive drink produced in Pavlidis pastry shop.
But how did chocolate, from a drink get to becoming an ingredient used in pastry, a tart filling for example? Although in the 18th century people may have preferred to enjoy their chocolate as a drink, and even for breakfast, some first chocolate tart recipes existed, for example. According to food historian Joyce White, a Chocolate Tart recipe is found in Patrick Lamb’s book Royal Cookery or The Compleat Court Cook of 1731. A later version of the same recipe was published in 1800 in Hannah Glasse’s book The Complete Confectioner.
Put a Spoonful of Rice-Flower, and a little salt in a pan, together with the yolks of five eggs, a little milk, and mix them well together, then add a Pint of cream, and Sugar according to your Direction; Set it all to boil over a Stove taking Care that it do not curdle: mean while Grate some Chocolate into a Plate, dry it a little before the Fire, and when your Cream is boiling, take it off the First, mix your chocolate well with it, and set it by a cooling: Sheet a Tart-pan, put in Your Cream and bake it. When it is baked glaze it with powder’d sugar and a red hot shovel so serve it. Note, We make a Cinnamon-Tart in the same manner, only using grated Cinnamon instead of the chocolate.Royal Cookery or The Compleat Court Cook, 1731
Therefore, chocolate tarts were firstly made with a custard containing eggs that had to be baked in the oven. Another version, rather more common today we’d say, exists, a prebaked tart shell filled with a chocolate ganache. This kind of chocolate tart is a later recipe, as chocolate ganache was later discovered, around 1850 in France, by accident. We read that an apprentice confectioner accidentally spilled a jar of heavy cream into a bowl of chocolate. To hide his blunder, he mixed them, hoping that noone would notice. His teacher cought him, though, and yelled “ganache!”, which in French means incompetent… And so one of our favourite preparations was born!
The classic French Tarte au chocolat is prepared with tart dough (pâte brisée or pâte sablée) and chocolate ganache. However, classic tart doughs contain lots of butter. As we have mentioned in other articles too, at Eat Dessert First Greece we want to suggest healthy alternatives that make use of pure local ingredients.
Consequently, we will substitute a delicious and crunchy tart base made with extra virgin olive oil -first harvest extra virgin olive oil in particular- for the buttery tart dough. Such a choice, except for beneficial to our health, is also a great fasting and vegetarian/vegan alternative when filled with fruit, jam, tahini or peanut butter cream, olive oil ganache and whatever else you can imagine, so keep it in mind!
First harvest extra virgin olive oil is the oil produced from unripe olives. As we read in an article of Eat Me magazine (12), first harvest extra virgin olive oil has a green colour due to the chlorophyll of the unripe fruit, that has many antioxidants. It contains many nutrients, vitamins, metals and polyphenols. It is usually used raw, to retain the most of its nutrients.
Using first harvest extra virgin olive oil in pastry is considered kind of “dangerous” because of its bitter and spicy flavor compared to extra virgin olive oil. However, who dares wins and contemporary pastry shouldn’t be scared! So, we dared too and the outcome excited us! The light bitterness of the first harvest extra virgin olive oil, according to our opinion of course, blends perfectly with dark chocolate… Give it a go and you’ll see!
Healthy tart with dark chocolate, pears in grape molasses and a base made with extra virgin olive oil
Ingredients for the healthy tart base
|Extra virgin olive oil (first harvest)||160 ml|
|Cake flour||390 gr|
|Grape molasses||30 gr|
|Vanilla or bitter almond extract||3-4 drops|
How to make the healthy tart base
In a container mix the extra virgin olive oil, grape molasses and bitter almond extract. Place the flour, salt and cinnamon in the mixer bowl. Turn the mixer on and pour the extra virgin olive oil mixture slowly into the flour. Beat for a minute, until a dough forms. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and put it for an hour at least into the registrator to firm up.
Line a tart pan (we used a rectangle springform pan) with the dough by pressing with your hands, as it is very crumbly and can’t get rolled out with a rolling pin. Warning, you’ll have to use some force to line the pan correctly… Make the surface even with a metal spatula or a fork.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25 minutes. Then, allow it to cool.
Ingredients for the dark chocolate filling
|Dark chocolate couverture||200 gr|
|Heavy cream||400 gr|
|Brown sugar||2 tbsp|
How to make the dark chocolate filling
Our tart’s filling is actually a chocolate ganache. First of all, cut the couverture into small pieces and place them in a bowl. At the same time, heat the heavy cream with the brown sugar in a saucepan until it begins to boil, meaning until you see the first bubbles on the heavy cream’s surface. Then, take the heavy cream off the heat and pour it over the chocolate pieces. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let it stand for a minute. Then, stir well with a hand whisk or a spatula until fully homogenised.
Pour the ganache over the tart base and place the pan into the refrigerator to set.
Ingredients for the pears in grape molasses
|Grape molasses||2 tbs|
How to make the pears in grape molasses
Peel the pears and slice them into thin slices, the thinner the better. Pour the grape molasses into a small pan and heat it at medium heat. Add the pears and let them boil in the grape molasses for ten minutes, turning them over every now and then to allow the grape molasses to go from side to side and soften the pears properly. The thinner we had cut the slices, the sooner they will soften.
As soon as the pears are ready too, it is time for food styling! Now you improvise… We layed out the pear slices on the ganache’s surface (carefully as it wasn’t totally firm) and sprinkled bran sticks on top.
Then, we placed our healthy tart in the refrigerator for several hours, an obligatory torture for the ganache to stabilise, so that we can cut the tart into nice pieces and offer them to our beloved ones… So, be patient and enjoy!
We warmly thank the family business Oleosophia for the products they send us to support our recipes:
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