Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Food Photography


(Update Aug. 22: I've added photos to this post)

I just returned from a three-week vacation. I had every intention of posting while away (I even had this picture of chocolate chip cookies on a USB key to use in an internet cafe). But it never happened.

However I return refreshed and with lots of new toys: While in Paris I went back to Mora, where I bought individual tart rings and a dipping fork. Also when I saw our trip took us near Tain l'Hermitage, home to Valrhona, I felt compelled to stop there. My husband generously agreed, perhaps hoping there's something in it for him.

So back to the post I meant to write a few weeks ago. These cookies are perhaps the first thing I ever baked as a child. And I baked them many, many times since. The recipe comes from Joy of Cooking (the recipe doesn't seem to have changed from one edition to another).

As a child baking them in France, I didn't know that our brown sugar ("cassonade") was any different from American brown sugar. I also had to make my own chocolate chips from bars of dark "chocolat de ménage." Baking soda was available, we just had to buy it in pharmacies ("bicarbonate de soude").

These were always a hit among French friends, well before "les cookies" became commonplace and lost the appeal of novelty. And even today, none of my friends has become so blasé about cookies that I ever have to bring any home.

I haven't changed the way I make them much, other than buying the darkest brown sugar I can find in health food stores here in Europe. I like them small and crunchy, which can be achieved by baking them a few minutes longer than for a softer version.

Recipe: Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Joy of Cooking
About 3 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies

Ingredients
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (140g)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (125g)
- 1/2 cup sugar (100g)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (110g)
I've tried cutting these amounts drastically but it does affect texture. Still, you can get away with reducing sugar by about 25% I would guess.
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 teaspons salt
I think the original Joy of Cooking recipe had 1/2 tspn, and I agree less is better. But don't leave it out, it does add a pleasant kick.
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
or one packet vanilla sugar
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (about 150g dark chocolate I believe)
I use good dark chocolate bars, but not much more than 50% cocoa. I tried the 70% but it was too bitter for this style of cookie. I chop them into chunks with the biggest knife I can find.
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Sigh, the children of this family don't like nuts, so I make two versions, with and without nuts.

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease the cookie sheets.

2. Whisk together thoroughly flour and baking soda.

3. Beat softened butter and both sugars on medium speed until very fluffy and well blended.

4. Add and beat until well combined the egg, salt and vanilla.

5. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well blended and smooth.

6. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
At this point you can chill the dough or even freeze it for later use.

7. Drop the dough by heaping measuring teaspoonfuls onto sheets. If the dough has been chilled you can shape little walnuts with your fingers.


Don't flatten them, they will flatten naturally in the oven. Space about 2 inches apart.


8. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are just slightly collored on top and rimmed with brown at the edges, 8 to 10 minutes; rotate the sheet halfway through baking for even browning.

9. Remove the sheet to a rack and let stand until the cookies firm slightly, abut 2 minutes. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool.

Make sure they are quite cool before boxing them, but don't let them lie around too long or they might capture moisture and get soft.



Food Photography
On another subject, I don't post so much about photography as I originally intended to do. The main reason is that based on comments, there seems to be more interest in food than in anything I have to impart about taking photos (not much, as my interest is very recent). Still, I'm always eager to learn more about this subject, and I enjoy reading well-illustrated blogs.

Among these I ran across this great post from 101 Cookbooks with tips on food photography. Given the quality of Heidi's photos, her advice is extremely valuable.

For instance:
Utilize all-natural (or available) light:
I look for light that is soft, sometimes diffused with a thin curtain (which helps the window to act like a huge light box). I avoid direct light because it throws really harsh shadows across the food. No Flash. Ever. Unless you want your food to look sweaty and greasy - which can sometimes be cool/modern when you are talking about BBQ or something. But get the techniques down using natural light first, and then start breaking the rules


I always wanted to make a list of the rules I've stumbled across thanks to blogging, and will make so bold as to post my own tips after the authoritative advice referred to above:
- Use an SLR camera if you can (wow they make a difference)
- Take pictures in daylight if possible, as recommended above. Since I often cook or bake at night, natural daylight is usually not available (see the photos of cookies in the making included with the recipe above). If lighting conditions are difficult, increase the ISO level (sensitivity to light) to 800 or 1600. I personally don't care if this makes my pictures grainy.
- Never use a flash on food (again, as per Heidi's recommendation). It's such a shame when well-executed dishes appear unappetizing because a flash was used.
- Take pictures close up, and try different angles. Low is dramatic, but sometimes a good shot from above makes the picture more "readable".
- Have fun with high apertures to blur backgrounds or foregrounds. Though with my new Canon 50mm 1.8 lens I feel sometimes too much of the shot is blurry. For instance the shot above hurts my eyes a little because the cookie in the foreground is blurry. But I do like the blurry green background. I have to learn to dose it.
- Cropping can be fun, but I've tried to stay away from it recently. I want to focus on getting good overall photos, not just good details for cutting and pasting.
- Watch out for cluttered backgrounds (hard to do in my messy kitchen!)
- If I'm hesitating between an "artistic" shot and one in which you can really see and understand the nature of the food (what I mean by readable above), I tend to choose the latter if what I want is a discussion on the food, not the photography. This seems obvious but I do get frustrated when fashion magazines don't give you a clear view of whatever clothes they're trying to pitch.
- Take sectional shots, so you can see how food looks on the inside
- And probably use a tripod to get sharp photos. I bought one recently but haven't used it much (too lazy), which explains why many of my shots are blurry. Aside from using the wrong aperture.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Simple and Good


(Update Aug. 22: I've added a photo and some text to the end of this post.)

I used to travel frequently to Liguria, where a good friend from Milan has made her home not far from the lovely group of villages called the Cinque Terre. Everything is beautiful in the small beach town where she lives: the rich blue sea, the green mountains falling into the sea, the green, ochre and pink houses, and the lovely sunlight that bathes it all.

One of my favorite things to do when I go there is to buy focaccia. It's overall fairly thin, though thicker parts provide a variety of textures. Little indentations filled with olive oil are juicy and tender and salty, while the thinner parts are crisp and crunchy. It is quite oily. ("E unta" would say my friend as she showed me how to wipe my fingers on the brown paper wrapping it was sold in).


There are various sorts but my favorite is plain, with no other flavorings than salt and olive oil, or perhaps just a little rosemary. According to my friends, Liguria has the best olive oil. I'm sure Tuscans wouldn't agree, but everyone is entitled to a little regional pride, and I'm not one to judge. The Ligurian oil tastes delicious to me.

I've longed for that focaccia but have given up finding it in other places. In Italian restaurants in the US or France or Switzerland, some fairly tasty flat, oily bread is often served, but it is uniformly thick and fairly cakey. In Rome I had something else -- was it called pizza bianca? Schiacciata? I don't remember. It was good, but not the same.

So imagine my joy in finding a recipe that produces something similar to my favorite Ligurian focaccia. All right, it's not identical. Perhaps I made it a bit too thin, or handled the dough too much or too little, so it's a little bit tougher than the original. But a) I haven't finished experimenting to try to get a perfect result and b) it's not so tough that little teeth don't enjoy biting into it and c) I have to have something to look forward to when I go back to Liguria!

And the best part is, it is child's play to make. Really and truly. I've never made bread before, was scared of yeast (except in waffles), yet this turned out well the first time I tried. Even though I prepared the dough at the same time as I made and served the kids' dinner. Those of you with children will appreciate how brainless an effort that has to be.

Thank you to Nicky, author of the beautifully photographed Delicious Days for sharing this great recipe.

Recipe: Focaccia
Source: Delicious Days

Recipe source: adapted from Chefkoch-Forum (German)

Prep time: 5min., rising time: overnight (if possible); baking: 15-20 min.

Ingredients (serves 2):

- 1 cup (250 ml) tepid water
- 20g fresh or 1 tsp dry yeast
- 1 tsp ground sea salt
- 2 cups (320g) flour, type 550 (all purpose flour)
- extra virgine olive oil
- toppings: coarse sea salt, rosemary, olives...really anything you fancy

1. Dissolve the yeast (either dry or fresh) in the tepid water.

2. Add the yeast/water mix to a larger bowl together with a cup of flour and the salt, stir for about 2 minutes. Then add another cup of flour, stir again for just about 3-4 minutes. The dough should not be overworked, it’s consistency will remain quite soft and sticky - it’s not the type of dough you can shape much with your hands, but if you feel it’s too soft add an extra 2-3 tbsp of flour.

3. If your timing allows, keep the dough refrigerated until the next day (it really does make a difference!) if not, then a few hours in a warm and draft free spot will do as well. However, if chilled, remove dough from fridge about 2 hours before baking. (12 hours in the fridge plus two hours in a warm spot presented the best results to us)

4. Preheat oven to 230°C (450°F). Carefully pour dough on an oiled baking tray or tin to not ruin its fluffiness and use your finger tips to pull the dough into the shape you’d like to give the Focaccia. Don’t worry about punching holes into it, they’ll be gone before the Focaccia leaves the oven - in fact, they even add to a wanted non-perfect rustic style.

Note: Dipping your finger tips briefly in olive oil will keep the dough from sticking too much to them.

5. Sprinkle with 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, coarse sea salt, chopped herbs and optionally olives or other toppings your heart desires. If you like your Focaccia more oily (like I do!), pour a little olive oil in the dents.

6. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned on top, you may want to turn on the grill for the last minutes to speed things up a bit. Then remove from the oven (and the tray or tin) and place on a rack to cool.


My only additional comments or suggestions are the following:
- Consider doubling the recipe, it gets eaten very very quickly...
- I have no idea if I used type 550 flour. I just used the regular white flour I buy at the supermarket here
- Different sources give different gram measurements for a cup of flour, and I found 320g to be a bit on the high side (according to my sources 2 cups = 250g). So I would use only 300g, or perhaps a bit less.
- I used dry yeast, but would like to try with fresh at some point.
- I used fleur de sel for sprinkling on top. Yum.
- Keep a close watch as of 15 min., as the first focaccia I made got a bit too dark on one side.
- I think it is best eaten within an hour or two of baking. The first batch I baked in the morning and served in the evening. It was a bit too hard for my taste, though everyone liked it.

Ideas for making it more tender
(I still have to test these)
- Don't spread it quite as thin as I did
- Bake it for a little less time
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the dough itself?
- Knead the dough less, or more?
- Try a different kind of flour?



Update August 22:

I've made these many times since this post. I've tried them thicker (see above), kneading with my hand-held mixer with the kneading attachment, with different flour (halb-weiss, French 55 flour, French 65 flour) and adding a teaspoon or two of oil to the dough. Frankly, none were exactly like my Ligurian focaccia but all were very good, as long as they were eaten as close to baking time as possible. I still prefer the thinner versions.

I'm beginning to think that the secret to Ligurian focaccia is dousing it with an absolutely indecent amount of olive oil. I don't dare go there...

Update to the update: I've looked at some Italian websites and am beginning to find more ideas. First, what I'm looking to recreate is called Focaccia genovese, or fugassa in dialect. Apparently a mixture of oil and water are spread on the bread, which I guess would contribute to make it more tender. Also, many recipes seem to require a small quantity of malt flour and/or "strutto," whatever that is. And the flour is supposed to be type 0 (Tanya?)...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I Did It!



We had a major celebration yesterday, the return of Ulysses, three days after his birthday. So I went all out on the cake (actually forgetting to plan dinner itself). I decided to make Alice Medrich's Chocolate Raspberry Ruffle Cake as per the PBS video website I keep referring to.

I've made a variation on this cake before. But this time I wanted to do try to make her chocolate decorations as well.

Making the ruffles
(Update January 2007: I've posted a short film of how to make these ruffles here.)
I melted chocolate, and spread it in a thin layer on a warmed cookie sheet. Put it in the fridge, waited not long enough, even though the chocolate seemed cool, and tried making ruffles. The first were a disaster, but I kept at it and managed to salvage a few. They're surprisingly forgiving, once you stick them in the top of your cake. The second sheet I made I let it cool longer in the fridge, and with a few back and forths in and out of the fridge -- you have to get the temperature just right -- I managed to create a few ruffles. Not the beautiful fans of A. Medrich but good enough. It's surprisingly satisfying to make these. I put them back in the fridge in one layer on parchment paper to harden, then stored them in a big tupperware box. They're fragile but once they're cold it's OK to stack them.

Wrapping the cake in chocolate
Then came the wrapping of the cake in chocolate. The cake had been cooling in its springform pan: a chocolate syrup-moistened genoise with chocolate ganache cream with raspberries in the middle (once again, I only made two cake layers, not three as the original recipe recommends). The cake had cooled an hour or two in the fridge. I melted the chocolate and spread it on a sheet of plastic (length = circumference of cake, height is a bit higher than cake).

The plastic I used (rhodoïd I think it's called in French) was limper than the one used by A. Medrich so it was wobbly and hard to wrap around the cake. Also perhaps I should have waited for the chocolate to harden at least partially as a lot of it trickled off the plastic and pooled on the plate (effectively anchoring the cake to the plate). You can see in this picture how messy the process is (the peach has no business there but I was too frazzled to take a careful photo). I then chilled the cake a few hours. Pulling off the plastic I trembled a little but the result was OK. Not perfect: the seam was jagged, and in spots the chocolate was too thin, but overall quite acceptable.

Decorating with the ruffles
I then spread a layer of whipped cream on top of the cake and inserted the fans. Normally a single raspberry in the center would be sufficient further decoration, but I was low on fans and used raspberries to patch up the holes. A sprinkling of confectioner's sugar highlighted the ruffles. I also used the leftover raspberries to try to hide the chocolate spills on the plate. Next time I'll have to remember to put 4 pieces of wax paper under the edges of the cake so I can just pull them out after the decorations are finished.

Result
I was pleased with the result and personally thought the cake was yummy. As for Ulysses... he was suitably impressed, telling me it looked like a Lenôtre cake, but he only ate a few mouthfuls. I had forgotten, he prefers simple desserts to rich layered confections. Darn, and here I am beginning to build up my show-off baking skills (nothing like a blog to encourage you to try new things).

I guess I have to keep looking for the perfect recipe: grandiose to look at, as well as addictively good to eat (January 2007: I'm getting closer!). But for the meantime, though there's lots to improve on, I feel I've added a good celebration cake to my repertoire. "Looking at this, you wouldn't think a normal human being could do this," says Julia Child on the video. Well, I did!

No tempering necessary?
One question on my mind is why is it not necessary to temper the chocolate for the fans and the wrapping of the cake? The fans had slight traces of discoloration around their stems, where my warm fingers pinched them together and melted the chocolate some. But other than that, I saw none of the usual gray streaking you get when you try to work with untempered chocolate. I know Ms. Medrich is supposed to be a rebel in the world of chocolatiers, in that she doesn't often resort to tempering. I'd like to understand the theory behind this.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Tart Practice



While I was in Paris I went to Dehillerin, the famous cooking and baking supplies store in Paris. I bought many things, from rings for individual mousses to tart rings to even more silicone molds to disposable pastry bags... (The quaint wrapping gives you an idea of the old-world style of the store, described in detail here).

My goal last weekend was to make a pretty looking tart using the tart rings I bought. I wanted a perfect cylindrical shape to the crust, and a smooth glossy finish to the chocolate filling.

The tart was good, though I think I could still make improvements. The recipe came from the beautiful and mouth-watering Traveller's Lunchbox. The photo shows something that looks luscious yet sophisticated. But mine tasted more like a candy bar. A very good candy bar, with chewy toffee wrapped in crunchy cookie and melting chocolate. Which is a good start, but I'm not a fan of candy bars. I made it twice, as I was invited out two nights in a row. Tart 2 was better than the first, so who knows, perhaps I should try a third time? But my bathing suits are begging me to stop with these experimentations...

The crust
I tried two ways of making the dough, and did not notice a significant difference in texture or flavor: the first, as specified in the Pierre Hermé recipe I used, mixing ingredients with my hands (ugh that was very wet dough, not a pleasant feeling), and letting it rest for four hours before rolling it out on a table sprinkled with flour. Which is hard to do once the dough is very cold.

The second crust I made with the same ingredients, but mixing it the way I would my usual roll-out cookies, which I found much easier: I used my hand-held mixer (whipping butter and sugar together, adding egg, then almonds and flour). I then only chilled it for about 15 minutes and rolled it out between sheets of parchment paper, letting the longer chilling take place at this point. The risk here is rolling the dough too thin, as it is very pliable before chilling. I would be interested to know if this different mixing approach compromises flavor or texture.

Lining the tart ring
I tried a technique for lining the ring inspired from this post, and it worked well: I rolled out the dough quite thin, between two layers of parchment paper and placed the dough in the freezer for a few minutes (as for my cut out cookies). Once the dough was quite stiff and cold I cut it into a circle following the inside contour of my tart ring.

I placed the circle of dough on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet (do not use a silicone mat, or at least not mine which tends to warp, especially when placed on top of a warped cookie sheet...)

Then I used the ring as a guideline to cut a strip of dough to form the walls of the crust. I placed the ring back around the bottom circle of dough (I discovered it's easier to place the ring on the dough than the dough in the ring), and then very carefully lined the edges with the strip(s) of dough. Notice the vertical seam at the top of this photo of tart 2. I was a bit worried about getting the walls to adhere to the bottom. You can't really push down on the strips without mussing their sharply cut edges. And sharpness of form was what I was after. But I had no leaks. I guess one could brush the edges with egg wash before attaching the sides, but I'm not sure it's nessary with this pâte sucrée.

I then chilled the unbaked crust thoroughly in the fridge, lined it with parchment paper and filled it to the top with rice, and baked it for 15 minutes at 180°C. (You can see on this photo how the warped silicone mat caused the ring to slide up and the dough to squeeze out under the ring, again for tart 2. )

Then I carefully took the rice out and baked the crust for another 10 minutes.

The result
For tart number 1 (photo here), I didn't chill the dough as much as tart 2 and the edges aren't crisp enough. I also somewhat overcooked the crust, thinking as I like a darkly colored cookie I would surely prefer a dark tart crust. But the strong flavor clashed with the chocolate.

Tart 2 is fairly cylindrical, with nice vertical walls that didn't sag (despite the dough peeking out under the bottom of the tart ring). But still, the edges aren't smooth and sharp the way I want them.

Ideas for fixing these problems
- Perhaps I have to chill or freeze the dough even more before forming the crust
- Or else roll the dough a bit thicker
- Or maybe make the walls the the same height as the ring, rather than leaving close to a centimeter sticking up above the ring (I did that to anticipate shrinkage, and to make sure all the filling would fit in the tart)
- Do not to overcook tart crusts or their flavor will compete with the filling.

The filling
Both times I made the tart, the caramel layer was a bit too solid and chewy, making the tart taste like a fancy chocolate bar (Twix?). I believe I cooked the caramel too long both times. The first time because I mistakenly tried for a strong caramel flavor -- not only did it become too hard, but the flavor competed with the chocolate.

The second time I added the cream before the caramel got too dark, but as it had cooled a little it became a somewhat granular. I ended up cooking it longer than necessary after adding the cream to get rid of the grittiness.

This is the second batch of caramel, the one that's the right hue but somewhat grainy. The grains disappeared or weren't noticeable in the final product. For this second tart I added a few walnuts between the caramel and the chocolate layers (more, more, more!). They provided a nice flavor and texture contrast.

The chocolate ganache has to be cooled somewhat before mixing in the butter. But how cool should it be? If the butter isn't fully melted and mixed in it leaves unsightly streaks on the ganache. This is what happened to a small degree with tart 2.

Also, the ganache must be stirred very gently. The first time around I wasn't too careful about this and I trapped a lot of air bubbles in the cream. This doesn't look very attractive (see photo right).


I did a somewhat better job the second time around, though it's hard to tell whether tart 2 has no bubbles or was photographed in more forgiving lighting (I finished making this one at my friend's house, so no time for leisurely photography). Differences in lighting also contribute to making the caramel and chocolate appear more or less dark in the different pictures here.

Another mistake I made with tart number 1 was to let it warm up to room temperature before serving. I would say, in summer weather, serve this tart straight from the fridge, as the ganache is very soft.

Summary of lessons learned regarding the filling
- Don't cook the caramel too long
- Don't let it cool at all before adding the cream
- Add nuts if you are serving to friends who don't count calories (if they do, maybe consider another dessert entirely!)
- Be extra careful mixing the ganache so it doesn't make bubbles. I've read one should keep the spatula in contact with the bowl at all times, and stir slowly...
- Still, make sure the butter is fully mixed in
- Serve tart straight from fridge.

I regret I don't have a good photo of the finished tart. I already feel self-conscious when I whip out my camera to take a picture of a cake just before serving it, so asking friends to wait while I try different lighting conditions is not an option.

Recipe: Chocolate Salted-Caramel Tart
Source: The Traveler's Lunchbox

"Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart
Serves: 12

For the crust:
2 3/4 cups/350g all-purpose flour
1/2 cup/75g powdered sugar, unsifted
1 stick/125g unsalted butter, cold
pinch salt
2 eggs

For the caramel:
3 tablespoons/50g glucose or corn syrup
1 1/2 cups/275g superfine/caster sugar
2/3 cup/150ml double or heavy cream
3/4 - 1 teaspoon (level) rock salt or coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons/25g unsalted butter, diced

For the ganache:
1 1/2 cups/350ml double or heavy cream
4 tablespoons honey (I used a little more)
10 oz/300g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 stick/125g unsalted butter, diced

For the crust, sift together the flour, powdered sugar and salt and cut the butter into chunks. Place in a food processor and process, adding the eggs at the end, until a dough has formed. Roll out the dough into a circle and fit into an 11-inch (29cm) removable bottom tart pan. Chill for at least half an hour. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Blind-bake the crust by lining it with baking parchment, filling it with baking beans and baking for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the beans and paper and continue to cook the case for a further 10 minutes or until it is a light golden color. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

To make the caramel, pour the glucose syrup into a large saucepan and bring it to a boil. Gradually add the sugar, stir and continue to cook until the sugar has started to caramelize and turn golden brown. At the same time, in a separate saucepan, bring the cream and salt to a boil. Remove the caramel from the heat and very carefully add the cream - be careful as the mixture can rise rapidly in the pan. Stir carefully over a low heat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Remove from the heat, add the diced butter, and stir again until smooth. Pour into the cooled crust and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

To make the ganache, bring the cream and honey just to a boil and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a minute or two then stir until everything is smooth. Add more honey if it is too bitter. Once the mixture has cooled a little add the butter and stir gently until the mixture is smooth. Pour in an even layer on top of the cooled caramel, return to the refrigerator, and chill for 4-6 hours before eating."

Actually I didn't use the above recipe for the crust. Since I made the crust before knowing what filling to use, I had already made one from Pierre Hermé, which was quite similar though it included almond powder. Hence the specks in my dough, as I used unblanched ground almonds.

An attempt at making a chocolate decoration
I adorned tart 1 with my first tempered-in-a-rush chocolate message, seen in the first photo in this post. Pressed for time, and with daughters getting bored with the DVD they were parked in front of -- a babysitting device used only rarely, I reassure you -- I hurriedly cut a free-form rectangle from a plastic sheet ("papier guitare," which I found at Mora, not Dehillerin, but had to buy 100 sheets at once... expect more experimentation with it!), tried to temper a microscopic quantity of white chocolate, piped a message backwards with no guidelines (backwards as the final result is its mirror image) and chilled it in the fridge. I then tempered another microscopic quantity of dark chocolate, which I spread thinly on the back of the white chocolate text. I chilled it again briefly, placed another plastic sheet on top and chilled it all again before transporting it in the hot humid weather to our friends' house (in time to see France-Brazil). Once there I forgot there were two sheets of plastic, removed the largest one, plonked the chocolate decoration on the tart and wondered why it looked so ugly. Only later did we realize there was still a sheet of plastic embedded in the chocolate text. I removed it (breaking off some edges and smudging the surface of the tart, which I'll admit I touched up later digitally) and voilà, my first chocolate art work. Plenty of room for improvement!

Note: "Allez les Bleus!" is a rally cry to support the French football/soccer team. Sunday is the big day!