Recently, during my travels through the Internets, I came across a blog, Dessert First, that among other things, features a nifty section devoted to dessert recipes. Now, I’m no cook, and I’m certainly not a baker, but when I saw an entry devoted to chocolate tartlets, I became intrigued. Over the past few months, I’d become increasingly enamored with this simple pastry, and so it was with a ravenous curiosity that I clicked the link to see just how these tiny morsels of heaven are made. To my surprise, the recipe seemed startlingly easy — so much so that I thought even I might be able to do it. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems though, and knowing this, I was sure to whip out my camera and document this culinary saga.
Well, even though the recipe seemed simple and straightforward, for the first batch, I employed the help of my friend Jash, who has considerably more cooking and baking experience than I. He tended to the chocolate melting while I made the dough. It was all pretty easy, if I do say so myself. The dough was basically just melted butter and flour with a dash of vanilla extract and sugar. It’s hard to screw that up, and I’m proud to say that there were no follies on that front. Unfortunately though, I had no muffin pan (c’mon now, I’m not that ridiculous); so I had to buy a bunch of those little, disposable, individual tins, and as luck would have it, the only shape they came in were HEARTS. Great. Heart tartlets. Of course, the sheer whimsy of the experience was completely destroyed in my untrained fingers as I mashed the dough into the shells with the delicate touch of a drunken ogre. It only took about three seconds before I transformed those hearts into a bunch of crooked ovals befitting some sort of peasant banquet.
Aside from my presentational woes, this first batch of tartlets turned out perfectly, and in case you don’t believe me, here’s a pic:
Well, the tartlets were big hits, especially with chocolate enthusiast IndianJones, who seemed positively thrilled one day when he discovered the last lone tartlet in my fridge. As you can imagine, it was consumed swiftly and joyfully.
The tartlets were surely a glorious addition to the dessert oeuvre, and while their presence was fleeting, the good news was that I still had leftover dough AND chocolate. A faulty sense of empowerment came over me. I decided that I would strike out on my own and make another batch of tartlets without the help of anyone. Little did I realize that I was in the throes of a debilitating culinary hubris.
My solo mission started off benignly enough. I successfully destroyed another set of foil hearts in my meaty hands, all in the name of creating a functional tartlet shell:
This was once heart shaped.
Meanwhile, I’m so slow that it took me like ten minutes to make these four.
Oh, and I only made four because that’s how much dough I had left. Again, take note of their beautifully forged blob shapes.
As the shells baked away, I started melting the chocolate. Everything seemed fine at first.
What could go wrong? It’s just melting chocolate — not rocket science! I mean, WHAT SORT OF IDIOT COULD SCREW THAT UP???
Turns out if you melt chocolate too long, it starts to look like feces! Who woulda thunk it?
It’s like someone literally came into my kitchen and shat in my tartlet shells.
Frame of reference: bad vs. good.
Talk about disappointment. I had effectively ruined a whole batch of supposedly easy to make tartlets. The shame. THE SHAME!!!
I relayed my follies to Jash later on, and he merely laughed at me, noting that I had just experienced what most new bakers experience at some point or another. I guess it’s like a rite of passage? That’s the way I’ll interpret it at least.
Nevertheless, for some reason I didn’t throw out these moonpie tartlets. I had some delusional notion that if I simply put them in the fridge and forgot about them, they’d magically transform into the smooth bundles of joy I had come to expect. So day after day went by, and every time I poked my head into the fridge, I’d see these bastard tartlets sitting there innocently, not realizing that they would never be fully accepted by me or my contemporaries. Sort of like Haley Joel Osment in AI.
One day, however, I was particularly hungry and craving something sweet. I decided to throw caution to the wind and try one of these awful, awful looking tartlets. I peeled away the foiled, braced myself for the worst, and took a large bite. To my surprise, it tasted perfectly fine! It was a bit denser than the previous batch, but flavor-wise, it was identical. Oh my poor little tartlets. How I underestimated you so! Needless to say, over the next few days, I quickly tore through that batch, enjoying the fact that I really had made tasty treats for myself after all.
With renewed faith in myself, I set out to make one last batch of tartlets, determined to not make the same mistakes again. This time, I made sure to turn off the stove halfway through the melting process. The chocolate turned out silky smooth, and lo and behold I finally reached my personal nirvana: a perfect solo execution of a tartlet (shape notwithstanding):
Glorious, glorious success.
Let’s just take this in, shall we?
But how did it taste?
AMAZING! Well, now I can scratch that off my list. Next up: world peace.
For those seeking similar tartlet adventures, check out the full recipe here.