This Chocolate Marzipan Tarte Soleil is the direct result of my obsession with Trader Joe’s Puff Pastry. I have made puff pastry myself, but it’s neither quick nor simple. Even while advocating home cooking, I do take short cuts sometimes and buying puff pastry is one of them.
If you are not familiar with puff pastry, it differs from standard pie dough because it rises in many super-thin layers. For an all-butter version, you laminate the dough by repeatedly adding chilled butter to dough, folding, and rolling it. The process is tedious, but the result is spectacular. The classic mille feuille or napoleon pastry shows off the beauty of laminated or puff pastry dough. Croissant dough is similar but not identical to puff pastry, as croissant dough contains yeast, which puff pastry dough does not.
Usually if I’m doing store-bought (frozen) puff pastry, I go with Pepperidge Farm. On the positive side, I can find it easily and it is inexpensive. The downside of Pepperidge Farm is that it is made with oil, not butter. And goodness knows, there is nothing like butter to make me swoon over a dessert or a savory pastry.
I would buy DuFour, an all-butter brand, but I only know of one nearby store that sells it and it costs, as my mother would say, “an arm and a leg.” Enter Trader Joe’s. The Trader Joe’s all-butter puff pastry is pretty darn good – and it’s not expensive. In fact, when I bought it this week, it was less expensive than Pepperidge Farm. (At Trader Joe’s the all-butter puff pastry was $3.99 for 2 sheets totaling 18.3 ounces. Online I found the oil-not-butter Pepperidge Farm brand for between $4.88 and $5.69 for a 17.3 ounce box.) Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s typically sells its puff pastry only during the winter holidays, and once it runs out, the stores do not stock it again until the next Thanksgiving.
This year, I missed the high season for Trader Joe’s puff pastry. But still, I persisted. I went just before New Year’s Day and of course, there was no puff pastry. Not to be deterred, I quizzed a helpful staff member who told me they would re-stock after January 4th. I was dubious. That went against everything I knew about Trader Joe’s and their traditional “holidays only” frozen puff pastry stocking plan. But still I went back on January 5th. No puff pastry and a different staff member told me there would be none coming. (He also looked at me like I was slightly insane for even asking after New Year’s Day.) I chose to ignore the staff member’s sidelong glance, but felt defeated and downcast.
Enter my dear friend Gail. She knew of my disappointment. She lives closer to Trader Joe’s than I do and when she went back in mid-January and found several boxes of the puff pastry, she texted me, asking if I’d like her to pick some up for me. Now that’s what I call a friend. She brought me two boxes, and to top if off, she made a savory puff pastry tarte soleil appetizer that knocked my socks off.
Needless to say, after munching on Gail’s savory tarte soleil, I had to make a tarte myself. But, as I’m a certified chocoholic, I decided to try my hand at a chocolate version. And so I came up with this Chocolate Marzipan Tarte Soleil.
I used my own no-egg version of homemade marzipan. If you are in a rush or just don’t feel like going to the trouble, you can use store-bought. No shame in that and definitely no judgment coming at you from me. Remember, I’m the one who posted a recipe using a boxed cake mix:)
Tarte soleil is French for a sun tart – named after the shape of the pastry. You create the sun and rays by cutting and twisting the dough. With a slightly different technique for the rays (twisting each set of two toward each other and pressing them together at the bottom instead of twisting each one in the same direction), you can turn the pastry into a snowflake.
Last month, we had a major polar vortex, with snow that ended with a coating of black ice. Brrrrr. After that, I am not making anything that sounds like I’m celebrating winter weather. I would much rather praise the sun and its warming rays.
Tips for Making a Tarte Soleil or a Snowflake Pastry
- The dough – Puff pastry dough works well because it expands when it bakes. However, I’ve heard that good pie dough also works, especially one that contains yeast or baking powder. Whichever dough you choose, keep it chilled. If it starts to get too warm, put it back in the refrigerator to chill down before proceeding.
- Fillings – Whether you are going sweet or savory, use a thin layer of filling. Typically you spread the filling with a knife or spoon (for jam, nutella or pesto), or sprinkle it around (for grated chocolate or cheese.) The exception is marzipan or something else that you can roll into a thin sheet.
- Cutting the dough – A pizza cutter or kitchen shear works best. If you don’t have one, use a very sharp knife. Make sure to use parchment paper underneath rather than a silicone baking mat, as the cutter, shear, or knife might damage a mat. I liked the way mine looked at about 11-inches in diameter with 24 rays. You can do as few as 16 or as many as 32. By leaving a halo of dough about 1/2-1-inch around the center cup or cookie cutter, you get a nice effect.
The ingredients for this chocolate marzipan tarte soleil are simple: puff pastry, marzipan and bittersweet chocolate for the tarte, an egg to act as “glue” for the top and bottom circles of pastry, and a bit of confectioners or powdered sugar to give the tarte a finished look. You could use semi-sweet chocolate if you prefer, but with the sweet marzipan, I find bittersweet a better choice.
Chocolate Marzipan Tarte Soleil or Sunburst Pastry
This elegant yet simple puff pastry dessert is fun to tear apart. Using frozen, store-bought puff pastry makes it easy to put together.
- 1 box frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted according to directions
- 7 ounces marzipan
- 3-4 ounces finely chopped or grated bittersweet chocolate
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
- 2-3 tablespoons confectioners or powdered sugar
Put one sheet of puff pastry on parchment paper. Roll out the pastry until it is large enough to accomodate a 10-12-inch diameter circle. With a pizza cutter, kitchen shear, or knife, cut the circle using a pizza tray, dish, or paper stencil to guide you. Save the scraps for decorating or for making smaller pastries.
Move the parchment with the circle of pastry onto a quarter or half sheet pan and refrigerate it to keep the dough chilled.
Roll out the chilled marzipan into a thin sheet, cutting it the same way you cut the puff pastry circle, but slightly smaller in diameter. Do not be concerned if the edges of the marzipan are imperfect - they do not show once the top layer of pastry is on. Remove the pastry circle from the refrigerator and place the marzipan on top of the pastry. There should be a border of pastry approximately 1/2 - 1-inch.
Spread the finely chopped or grated chocolate on top of the marzipan. Refrigerate the pastry and marzipan while you form the second circle. Hint- I used grated, but finely chopped would be easier keep in place. Using the egg yolk and water mixture, baste the edge of the pastry (the part not covered by marzipan and chocolate.) Again, no need to aim for visual perfection. Even if the chocolate gets onto the edge, the tarte will still look good and taste delicious.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Roll out the second sheet of puff pastry the same way you did the first. Take the pastry circle with the marzipan and chocolate out of the refrigerator. Using the egg and water mixture, baste the circle with the marzipan and chocolate. Gently place the second pastry circle on top of the chocolate and lightly press down on the edge to seal the two pastry circles together. Do not worry if the edges are not completely sealed.
Put a small cup or other circular object about 1-inch in diameter in the middle of the circle. Press it gently into the pastry, enough to make an indentation, but not hard enough to cut all the way through to the bottom of the pastry circle underneath. From the small cup, cut a line to the edge of the pastry at the top of the circle. Do the same at the bottom and on the sides so that you have four equal sections. Now cut each section in thirds, so that you have a total of 24 strands.
Turn each strand three times (in the same direction), so that you create twisted rays around the cup/sun. Then use the egg yolk and water mixture to glaze the outside of the pastry and sprinkle on some or all of the chocolate that has spilled out as you twisted the strands. (You may have to gently lift up some of the strands to catch chocolate that fell underneath.)
If you have leftover dough and filling you can make mini versions of the tarte soleil and/or fold a circle with filling over to create a half moon hand pie.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top starts to brown. Let the tarte soleil cool for 10-15 minutes, until cool to the touch.
Then dust as desired with confectioners or powdered sugar. I dusted only the rays and not the center, in order to accentuate the sun/ray shape.
I served this chocolate marzipan tarte soleil as a dessert at a casual dinner. You can tear the rays off the center by hand, but my guests preferred that I cut portions, so I did. The tarte would make a great brunch treat too – like a gigantic pain au chocolat, but prettier.