White chocolate is a wonderful vehicle for vanilla. Good quality white chocolate is made up of cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids and vanilla, so most good white chocolate will already have a distinct vanilla flavor and it doesn’t take much more to push that to an even better one. So that means that this White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Tart is a good choice for vanilla lovers, as well as for anyone who is a white chocolate fan.
The tart has a chocolate crumb crust and is filled with a decadent vanilla bean-infused white chocolate ganache. The ganache is made with just three ingredients: white chocolate, heavy cream and a vanilla bean. The cream is heated and infused with vanilla, then poured over the white chocolate to create the ganache. It is silky smooth with a beautiful vanilla and cream flavor that reminds me a lot of vanilla bean ice cream. The chocolate crust is made with plain chocolate wafer cookies that have a strong cocoa flavor to them. As a result, the crust is not very sweet at all, so it tempers the sweetness of the ganache and adds a crunchy texture to each bite of the tart.
Be sure to use high quality white chocolate, not anything labeled as “baking pieces” or “candy coating.” These faux white chocolates aren’t made with cocoa butter and won’t give you the silky texture that we want in this tart. They also tend to be extremely sweet. I used Callebaut white chocolate in my tart and can assure you that it is worth splurging on some premium chocolate as a base for this recipe.
If you don’t have individual tart shells, or simply want a larger dessert, this recipe can be prepared in a 9-inch tart shell instead of four individual shells. This recipe can also easily be halved to serve make just two tarts. When I halve the filling, I often make all four tart shells anyway and just tuck two away (in an airtight container) for a few days for later use, as it is nice to have a tart shell or two on hand.
Ganache is a word that gets tossed around a lot in cookbooks and on dessert menus, and while it is easy to figure out that it has something to do with chocolate, what makes this particular kind of chocolate a ganache is often a little less clear. Ganache is a mixture of melted chocolate and cream that can be used as a glaze for pastries and desserts, a filling for cakes and for making chocolate truffles. The basic ratio used when making ganache is two parts chocolate (usually a semisweet/bittersweet chocolate) to one part cream. The mixture is heated just until the chocolate melts, then it can be poured directly on to the dessert you want to glaze with it. It creates a very smooth, glossy glaze with a luxurious mouthfeel, as the cream makes the chocolate much smoother than it would be on its own.
The ganache is used as a glaze while it is still warm to make it pourable, as it thickens up when cooled to room temperature. Cooled ganache is firm enough to handle, but it can be shaped and still melts on the tongue very easily. Cooled ganache is used to make classic chocolate truffles and can be used as the filling for other chocolate confections. Cooled ganache can also be whipped to a mousse-like consistency by beating it with a mixer for a few minutes until it becomes light and fluffy. This mousse-like ganache is great for filling cakes and other pastries.
Ganache recipes can vary slightly in the ratio of chocolate to cream, depending on the intended use of the ganache and the preference of the author of a particular recipe. Some recipes will even use butter in place of the cream, for a different texture to the ganache (although this is typically something I use to coat candies, not to fill chocolates). While a classic ganache is made with a bittersweet chocolate, ganache can be made with other types of chocolate, such as white chocolate and milk chocolate. Ganache is delicious on its own, but it can also be flavored to make different flavored truffle fillings.
Chocolate truffles are a delicious treat any day of the year and a sweet gift on Valentine’s day. Chocolate truffles are made of chocolate ganache – a mixture of chocolate and cream that is melted together – that is rolled into balls. The most traditional type of chocolate truffle is then rolled in cocoa powder, but truffles can be covered with a layer of chocolate, rolled in nuts, shredded coconut or even dusted with confectioners’ sugar before serving. The outer coating simply makes the ultra-creamy truffle easier to pick up, although the journey from hand to mouth is usually a short one when chocolate truffles are concerned!
While the term “truffles” can refer to candies, truffles are really “the fruiting bod[ies] of underground mushroom[s].” There are many types but the edible ones are highly prized for their flavor and rarity, and command a very high price. Chocolate truffles actually get their name from that classic, cocoa powder coating – not because they contain actual truffles – but because that cocoa powder on the round chocolates looks a lot like the dirt on similarly round truffles freshly pulled from the earth. Both are delicacies and immensely enjoyable, hence the name chocolate truffle.
One way to make a molten center chocolate cake is to undercook your batter, preferably at a high temperature that will cause the outside of you cake to appear to be cooked. I don’t honestly think that this is the best way to make a dessert because while cake batter is tasty, I don’t want it for my dessert. I mentioned once before that I was taught to make molten center chocolate cakes by putting a ball of ganache into the center of the cake (or of a souffle) before baking. Once the individual cake is done, the ganache is melted and makes a lovely, warm center when the cake is served.
The trick of using a ball of ganache can really be done with most cupcakes or souffles, and is not specific to this recipe, so don’t be afraid to try it out with your favorite chocolate cupcakes sometime. This recipe has a fairly light cake that is somewhere between a sponge cake and a souffle, though it is much more chocolaty than those two types of cake usually are. The base is formed and a ganache ball is inserted. It’s very simple.
Once of the best things about this technique is that it is easy to add different flavorings. You can use mint truffles, for example, or even store-bought truffles, provided that they do not have a hard chocolate coating. A chocolate coating should not affect the outcome, but it’s rather like adding ganache and chocolate chips, instead of just ganache.
Whipped cream is the best serving option because the light cream contrasts with the richness of the cake beautifully, though you can’t go wrong with vanilla ice cream, either.