When I started Cooking Up Romance a couple of months ago, there were a few books that people kept pointing me toward and saying I absolutely had to read, largely for their sheer volume of food. Laura Florand’s Chocolate Series was at the top of that list. And they were totally right. The Chocolate Thief is a tasty romp through the chocolatiers, restaurants and streets of Paris.
Heroine Cade Corey is the successful, capable scion of an old Maryland chocolate-making family. With Hershey just over the border in Pennsylvania, I couldn’t help but draw parallels as the beloved American Hershey bar receives very little respect in Europe. But Cade has an idea for bringing Parisian artisan chocolate to the masses–if only she can find a French chocolatier who will cooperate by lending a name and a recipe.
Hero Sylvain Marquis is the best chocolatier in Paris, creating chocolates so exquisite that though she has been around copious amounts of chocolate her whole life, Cade can’t stop eating his when she first tastes them. Unfortunately, Sylvain also has a terrible temper and a complete abhorrence for her idea. He makes her cry when she first approaches him, then makes fun of her when they meet again, finally driving her to break into his shop to see if she can find what she wants. Plus, he’s nerdy and sexy, which is pretty much my favorite combination of hero traits.
Though at first Cade and Sylvain get along like chocolate and water, he is eventually captivated by her love for chocolate and she is seduced by his knowledge and skill. With chocolate, people. Heads out of the gutter please. Though, it should be said that his skills in other areas aren’t at all tepid. In fact, he has mastered the art of seduction by chocolate, a particularly neat twist by Florand.
For any lover of chocolate, or of Paris, this book is an absolute must-read. Even if the characters weren’t utterly charming and the plot didn’t provide a number of unique twists, they would be worth it for the food alone. I’ve just gotten the second one and I can’t wait to devour it. Also, I’m not sure how long this sale is going on, but right now you can get the Kindle edition of the 4th book in the series, The Chocolate Rose, for free on Amazon!
Early in the story, when Sylvain is still utterly contemptuous of Cade’s American-ness, she encounters him in a bakery early one morning. Flustered and determined to try something utterly French, she picks out a raspberry tart for her breakfast, earning the scorn and derision of both Sylvain and the baker. Though, upon reflection, Sylvain decides that she looks pretty cute with her raspberry tart, even if it is a ridiculous breakfast.
The raspberry tart in the book is described as having a golden crust, pale custard and sweet, fresh berries. Sadly for me, I find pastry cream a little bit boring and even though it’s peak raspberry season, I didn’t find the tart flavorful enough on its own. That said, the book is called The Chocolate Thief. And it’s in a series all about chocolate. So I didn’t have a hard time giving these a non-traditional twist with a little bit of chocolate.
As for the tart dough, you’re going to need a kitchen scale. You’ve got one, right? If not, they’re about $25. Don’t be intimidated. I actually find it easier to bake by weight than by volume. It’s just much more accurate! This tart dough is the best one I’ve used: super forgiving, doesn’t require refrigeration and no need to use foil, parchment or any kind of pie weights. It’s kind of miraculous and therefore worth the purchase of a scale if you don’t have one.
Also, I’ve included a full-scale recipe for the chocolate sauce I used. You’ll have TONS left over. Just store it in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap touching the surface. You can microwave it for just a couple seconds a spoonful at a time and drizzle it on crepes, ice cream, waffles, pound cake or just someone you like a lot. Or they can drizzle it on you. I mean, you just made them a freaking raspberry tart.
And as long as we’re being decadent, go ahead and have one of these tarts for breakfast. I won’t tell if you don’t.
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar, separated
5 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ounces white sugar
6 ounces unsalted butter (NOT tablespoons–don’t mess that up), plus extra for pans
9 ounces flour, sifted
1 generous pinch salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
powdered sugar for rolling
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
18 ounces fresh raspberries
1. For the pasty cream, bring the half and half, 6 tablespoons of sugar and the salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar together until smooth. Sift in the cornstarch to prevent lumps and whisk until smooth.
3. Reduce heat to medium. Slowly whisk about 1 cup of the simmering half and half mixture into the yolks to temper (for more on tempering, see my creme brulee recipe). The slowly whisk the tempered yolks back into the simmering half and half mixture and return pot to heat. Whisking constantly, return the mixture to a simmer and cook until thickened and a few bubbles burst the surface, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Transfer to heat proof bowl and cover with a layer of plastic wrap flush to the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.
4. For the tart crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease six 4″ tart pans.
5. Cream together the butter, salt and sugar either in a stand mixer or with a pastry blender until combined. Add sifted flour with mixer on lowest speed or mix by hand for two minutes. The mixer will still be pretty crumbly, but don’t worry.
6. Knead lightly by hand against the side of the bowl until a smooth dough forms. Scatter powdered sugar over rolling surface. Turn out dough onto surface and roll to 1/8″ thickness. Cut into four sections and press into tart pans, pinching off excess and pressing the sides up a little over the top to compensate for any shrinkage during baking. Re-roll scraps and cut into two more sections and press into tart pans. Don’t worry if the dough tears. Just piece it back together. It will still be fine. Prick dough all over the surface with a fork (bottom and sides both).
7. Bake until lightly browned, about 14 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes on a rack before removing from pans. Allow to cool completely.
8. For the chocolate sauce, bring the cream, corn syrup, butter and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Off the heat, stir in the chocolate, cover and let stand until the chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes. Uncover and whisk gently until smooth.
9. Add 1 tablespoon of warm chocolate sauce to the bottom of each tart shell. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the chocolate to set.
10. Add 4 tablespoons of pastry cream to each tart shell.
11. Starting in the middle and working your way out, add three rings of raspberries to each tart shell. Drizzle each tart with warm chocolate. Tarts keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.