Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chocolate Angel Tartlets

As I mentioned in the previous post, Valentine's Day for me is about baking and baked goods. Regardless of what our plans were for the evening, I wanted to make some kind of treat to share, and chocolate was requested! So I turned to Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies' "chocolate section" and settled on this inside-out chocolate angel pie.

Angel pie is an inside-out confection, where the meringue, which typically tops a chocolate cream pie, serves instead as the crust. A creamy chocolate filling sits atop it, with the addition of an extra dollop of whipped cream, if desired. Nancie says that the angel pie, a southern favorite, is kin to pavlova, the meringue-centric dessert named after dancer Anna Pavlova, and a traditional dish in Australia and New Zealand. She also notes that both are variations of the German/Viennese "schaum torte" a meringue "cake" that is also popular in Minnesota and Wisconsin (where there are many German immigrants). Growing up, my friend Suzannah used to make meringue cookies in this style, with the addition of chocolate chips.

Based on some quickie internet research, it appears that there are a few variations of angel pie. The lemon version seems to be a well-loved treat and I saw some recipes for other flavors, like grapefruit coconut; I think the meringue crust would be a delicious foundation for any light, cream-based filling. Though I followed Nancie's recipe pretty closely, I decided to make mine into little chocolate angel tartlets, to go with the mini savory pot pies I was making. Here's the recipe I used.

Chocolate Angel Tartlets
Adapted from Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies

For meringue crust:
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. (2 oz.) chopped pecans

For chocolate cream filling:
4 squares (4 oz.) semisweet chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. heavy cream
sweetened whipped cream and cocoa powder for garnish (optional--I didn't to this in the interest of time, but would recommend it!)

For the meringue crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Grease 6 mini tart pans and set aside.

2. In a kitchen aid with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt and beat on high until the eggs are fluffy and hold their shape. While beating, add the sugar and vanilla to the egg whites gradually, until they are thick, shiny and form stiff peaks.

3. Scoop the beaten egg whites into the tartlet pans, dividing them evenly between the 6. Use the back of the spoon to shape them into crust-like shapes--high sides, extending slightly over the sides of the pan and thin in the center. Scatter the chopped pecans over the bottom of the meringue crust, dividing them evenly among the tartlets.

4. Place tartlet pans on a metal baking sheet and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 250 degrees F and bake until meringue is lightly browned, firm, and dry to the touch, 35-45 minutes more.

5. Once done, place the tartlets on a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate the crust for 3 hours or overnight.

For the chocolate cream filling:
1. Melt chocolate in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 c. hot water and vanilla and stir until everything is combined and smooth. Set aside to cool completely.

2. When chocolate is cool, beat the cream until thick and holds firm peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate for a delicate and creamy chocolate filling.

3. Scoop the chocolate filling into the meringue crust and mound it so it looks nice. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Serve cold with extra whipped cream and cocoa dusting, if desired.

These tarts were quite sweet, as the filling is essentially a chocolate mousse supported by a rather sugary crust. In the future, I'd like to experiment with using a darker chocolate infused with some other flavor--perhaps orange or lavender, but it was a night where a little sugar indulgence was allowed. I'd also recommend, if nothing else for aesthetics, adding an extra dollop of whipped cream and a cocoa powder dusting or chocolate shavings.

Though I had initially planned a winter picnic in the park, it was dark and a little rainy on the night of St. Valentine's, so we lit some Mexican votive candles, put some 1920s Cajun fiddle music on the record player, sat on the floor of my room and ate one of these delights (preceded by mini savory pot pies in personal ramekins). Then we went out for fancy whiskey cocktails at a joint called Jack Rose (R.I.P.) followed by a rock 'n' roll/rockabilly dance party at the Black Cat.


Nancie McDermott said...

You angel, you! So delighted to see that you've given wings to your own angel tartlets. As you noted, lemon makes for a heavenly and beloved version. In all my homework on this lovely pie/dessert for the book, it never once occurred to me that they could be tartlets! So you passed the goodness and inspiration right back to me. I will stop now, lest I come up with any more (worse) puns on the 'angel' theme.

emily said...

these tartlets are celestial! thanks so much for the recipe, nancie!

Cranberry Chess Pie

Fig Pistachio Tarte Tatin

Peppermint Pattie Tart

Whiskey & Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

Blog Archive