Valentine's Day Recipes: Two Desserts from Birch & Barley's Tiffany MacIsaac

Chocolate mousse or peanut butter tart? The ace pastry chef offers two options for your V-Day consideration.

A sweet for your sweet: Tiffany MacIssac's chocolate mousse is a great way to end v-day dinner. Photograph courtesy of Birch & Barley.

If you’ve tasted desserts by Birch & Barley pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac, you know they’re pretty much guaranteed to win anyone over to the sweet side. Here, she offers two ways to treat your sweetie: with a simple chocolate mousse or a more elaborate chocolate peanut butter tart.

Chocolate Mousse With Fruit or Coffee 
Makes one 9-inch tart or five to six 4-inch tarts

The fruit purée called for in this recipe “can be your favorite fruit thrown into a blender and mixed until smooth,” says MacIsaac. “Raspberries, sour cherries, and bananas all work great.” If you don’t want to bother with the fruit, the chef says coffee is also delicious.

17 ounces good quality dark chocolate (62 to 76 percent cacao; MacIsaac suggests Valrhona or E. Guittard)
6 egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ounces fruit purée or brewed coffee
3 cups heavy cream, cold

Bring a pot of water to a simmer on the stove. Create a double boiler by placing a metal bowl or pot on top of the pot of simmering water. Add chocolate to the top pot and stir frequently as it melts. Once the chocolate has melted, remove bowl from burner.

Add the egg yolks, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.(You can also use a hand mixer and a mixing bowl.) Whip on medium-high until the egg yolks are pale, yellow, and thick. Add the purée or coffee and mix to combine.

Leaving the mixer running on medium, very slowly drizzle the melted chocolate down the side of the bowl, letting it mix into the yolks. Take your time—chocolate that is poured too quickly will seize and form hard clumps. Once you’ve added all the chocolate to the bowl, turn off the mixer. Remove the bowl from the machine and use a rubber spatula to fold the mixture until it is smooth and without streaks.

Pour heavy cream into a bowl and whisk until peaks form and hold their shape. Add half the whipped cream to the bowl with the egg-and-chocolate mixture, and use a spatula to gently fold in the cream. When it is halfway incorporated, add the remaining cream and continue folding until there are no streaks left.

Pour mousse into desired serving vessels—rocks and martini glasses work well—and place a piece of plastic wrap over each container to make sure a skin doesn’t form. Allow to set in the refrigerator until firm, about 3 hours.

Remove the plastic wrap and top with fresh fruit, or serve as is.


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Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart
14 ounces butter (3½ sticks)
1½ cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 eggs
3½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt

Peanut Butter Filling
¾ cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Filling
12 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, like Valrhona or E. Guittard
4 ounces (1 stick) butter
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
Large-grain sea salt, such as Maldon

Make the dough: Place butter and powdered sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed for 5 to 6 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate before adding the next.

In a bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add to the butter-egg mixture and mix on low until combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, pressing down to form a block, and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to ¼-inch thickness. (Note: If using mini tart shells, roll the dough slightly thinner and cut the baking times by 5 minutes.) Spray an 8-inch tart pan with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to the pan, trimming any excess. Place in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour.

Cook the dough: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator. Place a piece of parchment on top of the dough to protect it, then fill the parchment with dry beans, rice, or baking beads to weigh it down. Make sure all the dough is protected by the parchment.

Bake dough for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Carefully remove the beads and parchment. If the bottom of the tart is still underbaked, return it to the oven without the parchment paper for 6 to 7 minutes longer. Then remove and let sit at room temperature.

Make the fillings: Mix together the peanut butter, honey, and salt. Place peanut butter mixture into the cooled tart shell. Wet your hands slightly with water, then press the peanut butter mixture out evenly over the bottom of the tart. The peanut butter layer should reach about halfway to the top of the tart.

On the stovetop, lightly simmer water in a pot. Place a metal bowl or pot atop the water pot to create a double boiler, and add the dark chocolate, butter, and salt. Stir every few minutes until melted and smooth, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the melted chocolate and butter from the double boiler and place in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until completely smooth. You should not be able to see any streaks of butter. Remove bowl from mixer and, by hand, gently whisk in sugar until completely combined. Repeat with eggs and sifted flour. The batter should be thick but pourable.

Assemble and bake the tart. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Take the still-warm chocolate filling and pour it into the tart shell above the peanut butter mixture. The filling should be liquid enough to settle smoothly; if not, use a spatula or slightly dampened fingers to press down any peaks until the tart is smooth. (Note: If the chocolate filling becomes too thick to pour, you can microwave it in 20-second intervals, stirring between, until soft enough to pour.)

Lightly scatter a few grains of salt on top of the tart.

Place tart in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Rotate the tart 180 degrees and bake another 5 minutes. (The goal is for the tart to be set around the edges and slightly underbaked in the center. The amount of time this takes will vary from oven to oven. To avoid overbaking, check every 2 minutes until tart is set.)

Allow the tart to rest at room temperature until cool. Remove from pan and serve within 2 days.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.