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Corby's Table
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Milky Way Tart

June 1995

One day last summer Maury Rubin called me and said, "Whatever you're doing tomorrow morning, you have to come." He gave me the address of a photographer's studio near South Station, in Boston, and promised that there might be leftovers.

This was my kind of command, because Rubin, owner of The City Bakery, in New York City, is one of the country's most innovative pastry chefs. After being a television producer at ABC Rubin moved to Paris to study pastry, and decided when he got back that no one was making pastries hip enough for his downtown sensibility. "The truth is, American bakers are in a creative rut," he writes in the bad-boy introduction to his new Book of Tarts: Form, Function and Flavor at The City Bakery, to be published in July by William Morrow and Company.

To go with his subtitle, Rubin talks of the architectural approach he takes in his sparely designed tarts, which typically have little more direction than a circle or a thin line, and are always baked in small, straight-sided pans rather than anything fluted. He takes a concept of Frank Lloyd Wright that a house should be "of the hill, not on it," putting a dot of raspberry jam in a passion-fruit tart--all the way through it, top to bottom. The trick to doing this is revealed in the book.

The mysterious errand was watching a ballistics-photography specialist shoot bullets into a series of lemon tartlets (Rubin had brought boxes of several others, but when I was there, it was lemon) so that the cover could show a bullet fishtailing out of the tart. I was given earplugs, a place behind a plastic screen, and I watched several shots. The tarts practically disintegrated--into smithereens they went, and tiny drops of lemon curd or bits of crust would show up under counters and in strange corners of the studio. Dramatic as the pictures were, they didn't end up on the cover. But Rubin confirmed his reputation for striking originality.

My favorite Rubin recipe is for a milk-chocolate Milky Way Tart, which I consider an American masterpiece. If you don't want to make the crust, try the chocolate-caramel filling. Keep it away from guns.

    -- Corby Kummer


From BOOK OF TARTS: Form, Function, and Flavor at The City Bakery, by Maury Rubin. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1995. Hardcover: $25.00.

The chocolate flavor of this dough comes from cocoa powder, so the quality of cocoa you use will bear greatly on the results. Buy the best Dutch-processed cocoa powder you can find, preferably an imported brand such as Valrhona or Droste. The method used here is the same as for the Standard Tart Dough, but the baking presents an additional challenge. As the tart is a deep shade of cocoa, color doesn't help you much to determine when it's finished. You'll need to engage your senses of smell and touch: A rich chocolate aroma and a dry interior mean the tart shells are done. If you smell burnt chocolate, it's too late, so if the tarts are close to being finished but you're not sure, pull them from the oven. It's easier to judge if they need more baking once they've cooled, and it's fine to put them back in the oven if they do need additional time.


8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons

confectioners' sugar

1 large egg yolk

1) Let the butter sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. It should be malleable, but still cool.

2) Sift together the flour and cocoa powder.

3) Place the confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or a medium mixing bowl. Add the butter and toss to coat. Using the paddle attachment, or a hand-held mixer, cream the sugar and butter at medium speed until the sugar is no longer visible. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg yolk and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Add half of the flour mixture and beat until the dough becomes crumbly. Stop the machine, add the remaining flour mixture, and beat until the dough forms a sticky mass. Shape the dough into a disk and wrap well in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, approximately 2 hours.

4) Dust a work surface with flour. Cut the chilled dough into 1-inch pieces. Using the heel of your hand, knead the pieces back together into a smooth disk. As you work, use a dough scraper to free the dough from the surface if necessary. Keeping the surface well dusted, roll the disk into a 10-inch log. If using flan rings, cut the log into 7 equal pieces; if using tart pans, cut it into 6 pieces. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

5) If using flan rings, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set seven 4-inch flan rings on it.

6) Dust the work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Using your fist, flatten one piece of dough into a 2- to 3-inch round. Lift it up off the work surface to dust underneath with flour. Using the rolling pin, roll the dough into a 5 1/2-inch round, or a 6-inch round if using tart pans, about 1/8 inch thick. With a pastry docker or a fork, prick holes all over the dough. If the dough is too soft to handle at this point, use a dough scraper to remove it to a small baking sheet and refrigerate it for 2 to 3 minutes before proceeding.)

7) Center the round of dough over a flan ring or a 4 3/4-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. If using a tart pan, be careful that the sharp top edge does not tear the dough. With your thumbs on the inside and the tips of your fingers outside, run your hands around the ring or pan several times, easing the dough down into it. Speed does not matter, finesse does. Lower your thumbs to the inside bottom of the ring and press to form a right angle between the bottom and sides of the dough; if using a tart pan, press to form a clean angle without excess dough buildup. Keeping your thumbs on the inside of the ring or pan, again circle around it, applying light pressure to the sides; if you move the ring or pan around through your hands, the process will be easier. There should be at least a 1/2-inch rim of excess dough extending straight above the top edge. With a small knife, tilted upward, trim the excess dough flush with the top of the ring. Or, if using a tart pan, simply roll the rolling pin over the top to trim the excess. Repeat this process with the remaining pieces of dough. Refrigerate the scraps from each piece as you work, then knead them together and roll out another tart shell. If using tart pans, place them on a baking sheet.

8) Place the tart shells in the freezer for 30 minutes.

9) Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

10) If you are partially baking the tart shells, bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the interiors are dry and the pastry smell nicely of chocolate. If the bottoms of the shells puff up, tap down lightly with your fingers as often as necessary. Leave the tart shells on the baking sheet in their rings or pans.

If you are fully baking the tart shells, bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the interiors are dry and there is a deep chocolate aroma. If using flan rings, remove the rings and, using a wide spatula, transfer the shells to a wire rack to cool. If using tart pans, let the shells cool completely in the pans on a rack before unmolding.

WORKING NOTE: To dust the work surface and rolling pin when working with chocolate dough, sift together 2 parts flour and 1 part cocoa powder and follow notes 1 through 6 below.


Fine French pastry meets the American vending machine: creamy milk chocolate on top, a layer of caramel below. Just like the candy bar.

3 1/2 ounces milk chocolate. finely chopped

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

For the caramel:

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

6 fully baked tart shells, made with Chocolate Tart Dough

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, melted, for design

1) Place the milk chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the hot cream all at once on top of the milk chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Strain into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and puncture several holes in it with the tip of a paring knife. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

2) To make the caramel, combine the cream and butter in a small saucepan, and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts. Remove from the heat.

3) Meanwhile, put the sugar in a large saucepan, and heat over low heat until the sugar melts and turns into a sheet of golden caramel.

4) Immediately whisk the hot cream mixture into the caramelized sugar. The mixture will boil and rise up in the pot. Turn the heat off, and whisk until any hardened pieces of caramel dissolve. Strain into a bowl, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until just semisoft.

5) Divide the caramel among the tart shells, spreading it into a 2-inch circle in the center of each one. Set aside.

6) Pour the chilled milk chocolate cream into the bowl of a stand mixer or a medium mixing bowl. Using the whisk attachment or a hand-held mixer, beat at medium speed until medium to firm peaks begin to form. Spoon the whipped chocolate cream into the tarts. Gently shake the tarts to level the tops. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

7) Fill a small paper pastry bag with the melted chocolate. Stripe and dot the top of each tart. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Makes 6 Tarts

  • More by Corby Kummer in Atlantic Unbound

    Copyright © 1995 by Corby Kummer. Recipes from BOOK OF TARTS: Form, Function, and Flavor at The City Bakery, by Maury Rubin. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1995. Hardcover: $25.00.
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