Chocolate Mint Tart with Berries and Chocolate-Dipped Mint Leaves

At the end of a rich meal, a chocolate after-dinner mint is often the perfect final morsel. That morsel is translated into dessert when a tender chocolate crust is coated with a layer of dark chocolate and filled with a decadently silky, mint-flavored panna cotta. Garnished with a few lush, ripe berries and a chocolate-dipped fresh mint leaf, it makes a stunning and satisfying end to a special meal. Who knew an after dinner mint could be so good?!

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, very cold, plus extra for rolling dough
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, very cold
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter (8 tablespoons), very cold, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water*
  • 6 ounces melted bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, divided
Filling and Garnish:
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 12 to 24 fresh mint leaves, for garnish
  • Fresh strawberries or raspberries, for garnish
  • Special Equipment:
  • 9 1/2-inch tart pan with removable base
For the Crust: Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in the bowl of food processor; pulse just to combine. Remove the top of the processor and scatter the cubes of butter over the flour mixture. Being very careful to avoid the blade of the processor, use a fork to toss the cubes to coat them lightly with flour. Replace the top of the processor and pulse 12 to 15 times, holding each pulse for one second. The mixture should resemble coarse meal with some pea-size butter lumps.

Add 2 tablespoons of the water, and pulse 2 to 3 times. Pinch a small amount of the dough with your fingers to see that it holds together. If the dough does not hold together, add more water, one-half tablespoon at a time, pulsing until incorporated; test the mixture again. (Note: The mixture will be in particles and will not hold together without being pressed together.)

Turn the dough out onto a large square of plastic wrap; pull up the sides of the plastic wrap and twist, forcing the dough together. With the heels of your hands, press the mixture together until the dough forms one piece. Flatten into a disk and wrap well in plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes (or place in the freezer for 15 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the dough disk from the refrigerator (or freezer) and allow to soften slightly. Roll out on a lightly-floured surface (or silicone mat) to form a 12-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer to the tart pan. Lightly press the dough into the sides of the pan. (Note: It is important to press lightly, as pressing too hard or stretching the dough will cause excessive shrinking when the crust bakes). Roll the rolling pin over the top of the pan to trim the excess dough; refrigerate for 15 minutes. (Note: Place the tart pan on a baking sheet for ease of handling.)

Line the tart shell with parchment paper, and fill to the brim with pie weights. Bake until the edges are dry, about 17 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment and pie weights, and continue baking until the bottom of the shell is dry, about 10 to 13 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Use a clean dry pastry brush to coat the bottom and the sides of the cooled tart shell with an even layer of melted chocolate. (Note: You will not use all the chocolate; reserve the remaining chocolate for dipping mint leaves). Refrigerate the crust until the chocolate has set, about 10 minutes.

For the Filling: Pour the gelatin into a small bowl. Add the water and leave to soften (bloom) for five minutes. (Note: The gelatin will look spongy).

Combine the cream, half-and-half and sugar in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat; bring just to the boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat. Scrape the softened gelatin into the cream, and stir gently until the gelatin has dissolved completely. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts and stir to combine; set aside to cool to room temperature.

Pour the cream mixture into the tart shell. Place in the refrigerator and chill, uncovered, until set, about 4 hours (or up to overnight). If not serving immediately, cover tightly with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator until ready to serve.

For the Chocolate-Dipped Mint Leaves: Reheat the melted chocolate, if necessary. Dip individual clean, dry mint leaves into the melted chocolate coating completely; hold each dipped leaf over the bowl of chocolate, allowing any excess to drip off, then place on a parchment-lined plate. Place the dipped leaves in the freezer until the chocolate is set. Cover with plastic wrap, and store in the freezer until needed.

To Serve: Use a sharp knife to cut the tart into 12 slices. (Note: Warming the knife under running hot water, and wiping it dry between slices ensures a very clean cut.)

Place each slice on a serving plate. Garnish with fresh berries and chocolate-dipped mint leaves. Serve immediately.

Tips and Techniques
* Add ice to a measuring cup of water, and set aside. When you are ready to add water to the recipe, strain and measure the amount needed.

Serves 12

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