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June 19, 2007

The Slow Drip of Coffee on a Languorous Summer's Day

Where I grew up in the Bay Area, there was an abundance of Vietnamese noodle shops to be found amidst the Asian supermarkets and Chinese dim sum houses. One of my family's favorite weekend lunches was to go to one of these noodle shops, where each family member would get a steaming hot bowl of pho - delicate clear noodles and paper-thin slices of beef in the most seductively aromatic broth. To this day, pho remains a steadfast comfort food to me, one of those tonics that has no adequate substitute when you've got a longing to it.

I would always get a soda chanh, or Vietnamese lemonade, to go with my pho, but sometimes my parents would get ca phe sua da, or Vietnamese coffee, which would provide an extra jolt of excitement to the meal as we would try to time our pho consumption to end right at the time the coffee finished dripping down from the cute little hat-shaped filter into the tall glass, down and around the ice cubes, and onto the condensed milk at the bottom. There was something wonderfully simple and self-contained about the entire setup: it was like a little magical delicious drink-producing UFO landing on top of your glass and creating, in front of your eyes, a mysteriously tasty elixir. Intense, bitter coffee melding with gooey sweet milk - of course, also a recipe for hyperactive children, so it's a mystery our parents ever let us try some at all.

Small wonder that this drink would find its way into Pichet Ong's Asian-inspired desserts, and in fact become the basis for one of his signature creations: the Chocolate and Vietnamese Coffee Tart, featured in his book The Sweet Spot. In looks and ingredients it would appear to resemble many of those mocha custard tarts out there that have a barely-baked chocolate filling in a tart shell, but Ong's tart has about as much resemblance to those as a latte does to ca phe sua da.

The tart is composed of a thin, chocolatey, barely-sweet shell cradling a velvety smooth, impossibly unctuous ganache. The cream and condensed milk combine with bittersweet chocolate and Vietnamese coffee to make a rich and creamy filling that unfurls luxuriously over the tongue. The coffee (if you cannot find Vietnamese coffee, Ong suggests a good French Roast or chicory) adds a subtle smokiness to the deep chocolate taste that really comes out if you serve the tart at room temperature. This dessert is a match for any "death by chocolate" contender out there in its own sophisticated, intimitable way - the richness and intensity of the dessert doesn't bludgeon you with excess, but envelops you in a sensual cocoon.

Topped with a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk chantilly, this little piece of bliss can be enjoyed much as a Vietnamese coffee should be: slowly, languidly, in a rattan armchair on a shady porch, underneath a lazily turning ceiling fan, with palm trees waving gently through the shuttered windows, and birdsong far off in the dreamy summer distance.

Chocolate and Vietnamese Coffee Tart

Makes about (8) 4" tarts or (1) 8" tart

from Pichet Ong's The Sweet Spot

Cocoa Tart Shell

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup (113 grams) confectioners' sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (23 grams) cocoa powder

1/4 cup (23 grams) almond meal

1 1 /3 cups (203 grams) all-purpose flour

1 large egg

Chocolate-Coffee Ganache

12 ounces (340 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces

1 3/4 cups (392 grams) heavy cream

1/2 cup (113 grams) evaporated milk

1/3 cup (28 grams) Vietnamese or French roast coffee powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/3 cup (65 grams) sweetened condensed milk

Sweetened Condensed Milk Chantilly

1/2 cup (114 grams) heavy cream

1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

For the tart shells: Place the butter, confectioners' sugar, salt, cocoa powder, almond meal, and flour into the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

Add the egg and process just until the dough comes together.

Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill in refrigerator until firm, about 4 hours.

When you are ready to bake the tart shells, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Take the dough out the refrigerator (if it is very firm, you might need to let it warm up a little so you can work with it) and roll out on a floured surface to 1/8" thickness.

Place your tart pan or tart rings on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Trim the dough into a circular shape(s) to make it easier to fit into the tart pan(s). Place the dough into the tart pan and press to fit to the sides. Trim off any excess dough from the edges, and place baking sheet in the freezer for about 30 minutes to let the dough firm up.

Line the tart pan(s) with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake the tart shells for about 15 minutes, remove pie weights and parchment paper, and bake about 5 minutes more until the tart shells are dry to the touch.

Let tart shells cool completely on a wire rack. Turn the oven down to 275 degrees F for the ganache.

For the ganache: Place the chocolate into a large bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the cream, evaporated milk, coffee powder, and salt and bring to a simmer over low heat.

Pour the hot mixture through a sieve over the chocolate and whisk to combine.

Add the eggs one at the time to the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine.

Add in the condensed milk and whisk until the mixture is very smooth and shiny.

Pour the mixture into the cooled tart shells and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, rotating halfway through. The tarts are done when the mixture appears set and does not jiggle independently in the middle.

Let tarts cool on a rack and unmold to serve.

To make the chantilly, whisk the cream in a mixer until soft peaks form. Add in the condensed milk and salt and whisk just until medium peaks form - do not overwhip. Spoon some of the chantilly onto slices of the tart before serving.

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Its hump day yall, and around mid-week we all need a little pick-me-up in the form chocolate, sugar, or coffee and preferably all 3 at the same time. Yesterday I was looking for a dessert that would satisfy this craving, and I guess my B... [Read More]


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People always talk about "food porn", well the way you describe this dessert makes my mouth water and my stomach growl. This is indeed a beautiful creation. Well done.

I love the story of you guys trying to time your noodle eating to the coffee, that's precious.

This tart looks amazing and sounds deadly delicious (and I don't even drink coffee!).

I think I've died and gone to heaven. This is my kind of dessert!! Is there a substitute for the Vietnamese coffee? Would it work with a Arabic blend too?

Now all Ineed is a nice porch with some hanging wisteria, and a glass of iced tea...

Your blog is great! This recipe looks to die for and so does the cherry one below. I'll certainly be back!

Wow, that looks AMAZING! So rich, I feel full just looking at it. The photograph is wonderful too.

You write this piece so poetically, as if you were taking a trip back in time through your food memories. Well done!

the tart looks wonderful and I love your description of the Vietnamese coffee maker :)

Oh my, this dessert is too good to be true! I was just craving something with a choco-java combo, and then I find this.

Beautiful photo and a really tantalizing description of this amazing tart. :-)

Oh my. I mean, wow!

I'm speechless.

This is my kind of "death by chocolate"! I have never heard of sweetened condensed milk chantilly---that also sounds good.

Wow this sounds incredibly rich and fattening...right up my alley.

This looks like a great book! Looks like he corrected the recipe. Kelli at Lovescool ( made the tart a couple years ago and complained that the dough was too sticky, and the filling was too strong.

OMG! I was just telling Lisa (La Mia Cucina)on the phone that I was making Vietnamese Coffee ice cream last sunday, with my little vietnamese coffee presses and I made a chocolate tart to go with it...and I was going to post it tonight (but did not)....How more Taurean sisters can we be?!!! This is freaky...
Your tart is gorgeous, just stunning!

Wow, what a sensual description of this tart. I am a huge fan of Vietnamese coffee. Thanks for posting the recipe. I have got to give this a try!

Beautiful, - I'll have to go and look at this book an amazon!!

Beautiful! I just ordered P. Ong's book and can't wait to get it!

Your pictures make my mouth water. You ans your blog are in my favorites! THX for making me smile:)

Oh my goodness, this looks absolutely luxurious! I have to make this!

Looks divine...the condensed milk is an unusual touch....!

Wow Anita! What a gorgeous dessert - rich, luxurious... perfect!

I'm sold!

There must be a blogging vibe going around. Tartelette was doing something with Vietnamese coffee as well. Your tart looks absolutely delicious. I plan to try it.

Thank you! I'm glad I was able to entice you with the tart!

Thank you! I'm not a coffee drinker either, but I really enjoyed this tart!

Thank you! If you can't find Vietnamese coffee, Pichet suggests a French roast, which is fairly easy to find, I think, or chicory.

Mmm...hurray for lazy warm summer days!

Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoy my blog and hope you return!

Thank you! It's definitely a rich dessert - but very delicious!

Thank you! It was a pleasure to share - and I'm glad you enjoyed reading it!

Thank you! Sometimes my imagination works in funny ways:)

Chocolate Chipped,
Thank you! This is definitely a great mocha dessert fix!

Thank you! That's very sweet:)

Thanks! Mixing some condensed milk into whipped cream gives a nice depth of flavor and texture:)

A dessert maker after my own heart - no fear of fat or calories! We just want what's most delicious!

Thank you! Thanks too for the link, I found the recipe to work just fine so I'm glad the "correct" version is out!

Ah, how can I love you more after seeing your lovely tart and ice cream combo! We've definitely got a cosmic connection going!

Thank you! I hope you get to try the tart, it's a really lovely recipe!

Thanks! This book is definitely worth a look through - and a purchase, in my opinion!

Wonderful! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I do!

Thanks for the sweet compliments. I'm glad you enjoy the blog and hope you continue to do so!

Thank you! It's definitely a wonderful, indulgent little dessert!

Thank you! I think the condensed milk gives it a very smooth, silky texture!

Oh, thank you! The recipe was definitely an eye-catcher in the book!

Thanks! The description in the cookbook sold me too!

I love those coincidences in the blogosphere! I hope you enjoy the tart!

That looks sinfully delicious.

Wow, this looks and sounds delicious. I've just ordered my copy of Sweet Spot from Amazon. Can't wait to flip through the pages!

Hi Anita,

I'd like to make the choc-coffee ganache filling - it sounds devilishly good! However, I've got already fully baked tart shells (almond and hazelnut crust) which probably wouldn't live through a second baking. Do you think the filling would still firm up when using only half of the cream and evaporated milk and egg yolks only? I've had a look at your bittersweet choc tarts but I'd rather try the version with different kinds of dairy and coffee.

Thanks in advance,

Words fail me. I have died and gone to heaven, haven't I? Cannot wait to try this. As it happened, I was sitting here enjoying a homemade Vietnamese coffee, recovering from somehow managing to get coffee grains and condensed milk all over the kitchen! Languidly googled the two words, not expecting the sweet surprises in store. Yum. Had copied Susanna Foo's recipe for Vietnamese Coffee Pot de Creme with Coconut milk foam, grabbed that ice cream recipe, you betcha ... and now this insanely delectable sounding tart appears. I may have gained five pounds just from browsing. Thanks much for sharing, lovely photos, too. I'm going to go take a look at that cookbook as well.

I've heard so much about Vietnamese coffee but have never tried it, after reading this post i really want to go and have one. The tart looks so inviting.

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