Like all great craftsmen, Frédéric is a master of the simple. Dark chocolate ganache is poured while still warm into these tartlets, completely covering slivers of candied orange and setting to a smooth, mirrored surface — dead plain and stunning to both eye and palate. This recipe makes eight tartlets – a special treat with afternoon tea or an indulgent chocolate lover’s dessert.

for the pâte sucrée

  • 1½ cups/175 g/6 oz flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup/l00 g/3¼ oz sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 7 tablespoons/100 g/3¼ oz butter

for the filling

  • 4 oranges
  • ¾ cup/150 g/5 oz sugar
  • ½ lb/250 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup/125 ml/4 fl oz heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons/90 g/3 oz butter
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

eight 3 ½-in/8-cm tartlet molds

4-in/10-cm cookie cutter

Make the pâte sucrée using the amounts listed above and the method outlined in the glossary. Shape it into a ball, wrap and chill it until firm, at least 30 minutes.

While the pastry chills, prepare the filling: Strip the zest from the oranges with a vegetable peeler and cut it into the finest possible julienne strips with a large knife. Blanch the julienne by putting them in a pan of cold water, bringing them to a boil, simmering them for 5 minutes, and then draining.

Squeeze the orange juice from the oranges and put it in a medium shallow saucepan with the sugar. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then bring the syrup to a boil, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the julienne, lower the heat, and simmer very gently without stirring until the orange zests are translucent and very tender and almost all the liquid has evaporated, 30 to 40 minutes. If the pan gets dry before they are done, add a little water. Lift out the julienne with a slotted spoon, spread them on a sheet of wax or parchment paper and leave them to cool and dry. Strain the syrup and put 2 tablespoons aside in a small pan. (Any leftover syrup makes a fragrant base for Champagne cocktail, with a tablespoon or two of Cognac.)

Heat the oven to 375°F/190°C/Gas 6 and butter the tartlet molds. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape each one into a ball. Roll out the balls to 4-inch/10-cm rounds and trim the edges with the cookie cutter. Line the molds with dough, pressing it well into the base. Prick the bases with a fork, and chill until firm, about l5 minutes. If you have more molds, set a second mold inside each pastry shell so that the tartlets keep their shape during baking; alternatively, line the shells with foil, using dried beans or rice to weight it down. Set the molds on a baking sheet and bake the shells until set and the rims start to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the lining molds or foil and continue baking until the shells are golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Let them cool before removing the tartlet shells from the molds.

To assemble the tartlets: Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the orange julienne for decoration, chop the rest, and spread it flat in the tartlet shells. Make the ganache filling: Put the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Stir the cream and butter into the reserved orange syrup and heat until the butter is melted. Bring the cream mixture just to a boil, pour it over the chopped chocolate, and let it stand for l minute to melt the chocolate. Stir the mixture until it becomes smooth, then stir in the Grand Marnier. Pour this ganache into the tartlet shells, covering the orange zest completely and filling the shells almost to the rim. Tap them gently on the counter to level the ganache. Leave the tartlets at room temperature until set, about 30 minutes. Top the tartlets just before serving with a large pinch of the reserved candied orange zest. The tartlets are best eaten within a few hours of making and should not be refrigerated so they keep their lusciously smooth and creamy texture.

From My Château Kitchen by Anne Willan, 2000

Photo CREDIT: Langdon Clay