It’s hard to be a home cook. Blindly navigating a world that seems to come so effortlessly to others. Comparing our kitchen failures with the extravagant successes we see other producing. Left to wonder why we can’t make a perfect soufflé even when we follow the directions with surgical exactness.
And those of us who reached adulthood with little more skill than it takes to boil water are thrown into the same world with those girls who learned how to make perfect ears of orecchiette pasta by the twirl of their Italian Grandmothers thumbs. Those of us whose childhood culinary training didn’t extend much past reheating and defrosting.
So when you sit there, tears in your eyes as your hard work has turned to a delated over-salted mess, I want you to remember a few things:
1. No one will post their failures on their blogs. Or post pictures of them on their Facebook page. When you compare your failures with everyones success, its not fair to you.
2. Everyone fails. Ask anyone who has ever cooked and they will tell you culinary tails of epic failures. Horrible, inedible food that we will never speak of in the light of day. Sometimes we figure out why we created such a disaster, sometimes it remains a mystery.
3. Great cooks don’t give up. Sure, they fail. A lot. But they don’t give up. Focus more on your success than your failures and just keep going.
4. Make a list of the recipes that you want to tackle. Make it as huge and as grandiose as you want, you have your entire life to master them. No matter how often you make them, and what the end result is, vow to learn something from each batch.
5. Remove emotion. In order to figure out how it is that you have ended up with such a kitchen failure on your hands, you have to be able to look at it objectivly. It is hard not get emotional when you feel like you failed, but that isn’t going to teach you anything. Did you really follow the steps exactly, or are you just saying that to make yourself feel better? Did you use the ingredients that were listed or did you use a substitute thinking it would be ok? If you can use each recipe as a learning tool, it wasn’t a waste. Sometimes it’s the recipes fault, sometimes it’s the ingredients fault, and yes, sometimes it is your fault. But it’s all part of the learning process. We have all tried to change a recipe thinking it would be fine, and sometimes it isn’t. Now you know.
The first recipe on my list of recipes to master was Creme Brulee. It sounded so fancy and grown up, I wanted to learn to make something that was elegant and French and I was shocked at how easy it was. You do need a few kitchen tools, but the recipe and the steps are simple. And the result is incredible. For this recipe, I added a chocolate tart crust and a cocoa powder laced brulee topping.
And a kitchen tip from one of my kitchen failures: Don’t touch the melted sugar before it’s cooled, it will give you the worst mother Eff-ing burn of your life.
Dark Chocolate Crème Brulee Tart
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
10 tbs of unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3-5 tbs ice cold water
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup of sugar
1 3/4 cup of heavy cream
1 3oz bar of 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate, broken into small pieces
1 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp salt
Brulee Sugar Topping:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
In a food processor, combine the 1/2 cup flour, sugars, cocoa powder and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the cubes of butter and process until combined, about 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining flour and process again. Your dough should resemble course meal. Move to a large bowl and add 3 tbs of the water, knead to combine (if you add the water to the dough with the food processor, your crust will turn into a cracker). Add the additional water if your dough is too dry.
Form into a disk, wrap completely with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour (you can also make the crust a day ahead and allow to chill overnight).
Heat your oven to 375.
Once your tart is all chilled, remove from the fridge and roll out to an even thickness, making sure your dough is just large enough to completely cover the interior surface of the tart pan.
Add to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (that has been sprayed with butter flavored cooking spray), pressing into shape and removing any excess dough. If the dough is too fragile to transfer in one sheet, it is ok to press it into shape in pieces in the pan. Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork several times.
Place a sheet of parchment paper inside your tart and fill with pie weights. If you don’t have pie weights, you can use dried beans.
Bake for 20 minutes, reduce the oven temp to 300.
In a bowl, combine the yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar and whisk until light and frothy. In a pot over medium heat, combine the cream, salt, espresso powder and chocolate, stir continuously until chocolate has melted, reducing heat to avoid boiling if necessary. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperate for about 15 minutes (if you add the cream/chocolate mixture to your egg mixture when it is hot, you will end up with scrambled eggs. Allow to cool to avoid that).
While whisking the egg mixture, slowly add the cream until completely combined. Strain with a fine mesh strainer.
Place tart pan on a baking sheet and set in the oven, then add the custard to tart shell. Bake at 300 degrees until the edges are set and the middle is still wobbly (it will continue to set as it cools) about 35-40 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and keep cold until ready to serve.
In a small bowl, add ¼ cup of sugar and 1 tsp cocoa powder, stir to combine. Add to the top of the tart in an even layer. Run a culinary torch over the top of the sugar, slowly and evenly, until it has all melted and is mostly dark. Due to the addition of the cocoa powder, this brulee topping is more likely to catch fire. Make sure to extinguish any fires instantly. You can also brulee with plain granulated sugar, leaving out the cocoa powder, if it makes you nervous! Serve immediately. Once the sugar has been bruleed, it will start to liquify after about an hour.