She drinks tea like I drink water.
For as long as I can remember, my mother's presence and activities in the house have been marked by the location of her tea pot. She used to carry it around on a worn-down wooden serving tray that bore traces of green and orange paint and was filled with tea lights and other trinkets. In between the candy wrappers and the used matches you'd find tiny notepads, pens, paper scraps, coins, toothpicks and, if you were lucky, a small piece of chocolate. There was hardly any room left for her tea pot, the warmer and a mug. If you wanted to snuggle up in the evening and join her for tea, you had to carry your own mug to the living room.
When I came home from school, I would find the serving tray in the den, on a cheap and wobbly IKEA stool next to the sofa, the candle still burning underneath the pot, a few inches of tea still in the cup, a series of books sprawled out on the couch. Or I'd find it in the sun room, on her ironing board, with a giant pile of fresh laundry and a slightly smaller stack of folded clothes beside it, the faint smell of earl grey mingling with that of laundry detergent and damp air. In the evenings, it traveled back to the kitchen for a refill, then to the living room, perhaps with an extra glass of wine balanced between the matchbooks and the chocolates.
It's only in the evenings that I really saw the tea pot and serving tray in use. Only then did I see my mother raise the cup to her lips, over and over again, and did I see her hands rummage around the chaos in search of a pen that worked. Only then did I notice how she handled the tiny, inconspicuous objects that cluttered the tray. While my mother's presence had lingered within the tray and tea pot the entire day, it's only in the evenings that I actually saw how everything became infused with life.
The moment never lasted long. Before I knew it, the tea light was blown out and the serving tray returned to the kitchen counter, where I'd find it the next morning. Lifeless, though still bearing the remains of the night before. A stained mug, a quickly scribbled note, a box of chocolates with a single piece left ... the tiny signs of my mother's day.
For 20 years, the contents and movements of that serving tray were part not only of my mother's life, but of my own. Since moving out of the house, though, I no longer recognize them as such. I know my mother has gotten a new, thermally insulated tea pot - one that no longer requires a serving tray or a tealight underneath -, but I don't know how she carries it around, nor do I know the exact spot where she puts it now that she doesn't have to share the space with 4 children and their accoutrements ...
How odd that I no longer know my mother's rituals.
• The crust needs at least two hours to rest and cool, but overnight is better. The recipe makes enough for two tarts, but you can freeze half of it. It will keep for about 3 months in the freezer and can be used for fruit tarts, lemon tarts, or simple, buttery cookies ... When you're ready to use it, allow to defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
• I tried this recipe a couple of times, slightly altering the amount of tea with each attempt. Yet, I couldn't decide which version I liked best - the one with only 10 gr of tea, a rich chocolate tart with only a faint floral undertone, or the one with 15 gr of tea, a much more robust tart in which the earl grey flavor moves to the foreground. I figured I would leave that up to you.
Earl Grey Chocolate Tart
crust adapted from Bakbasics
makes a 35 x 10 cm rectangular tart
for the crust (makes enough for two tarts)
150 gr unsalted butter, room temperature
150 gr granulated sugar
1 large egg
300 gr all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt (I used fleur de sel)
for the earl grey ganache
10-15 gr loose-leaf earl grey tea (see notes)
250 ml heavy cream
220 gr dark chocolate (at least 70%), chopped
75 gr unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
for the crust
1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a medium bowl using a wooden spoon, soften the butter. Add sugar and stir until just combined, then add the egg and stir for a few extra seconds. You don't have to completely mix in the egg at this point. Add the flour and salt, all at once, and stir until just a few flecks of flour remain.
2. Use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the bowl and dump out the dough onto a clean work surface. Shortly knead by hand to incorporate the last bits of dry flour, then divide into two. Shape each half into a disk or log, wrap in cling film and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. You'll only need one half for this recipe, so you can transfer the other half directly to the freezer.
3. After the dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Grease a loose-bottomed tart pan and preheat oven to 200˚C.
4. Lightly knead the dough and shape into a log. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3 mm. As you roll the dough, be sure to move and turn it around every few strokes. This will make sure it doesn't stick to the work surface.
5. Drape the rolled-out dough over your rolling pin and lift it off the work surface, onto the tart pan. Use the back of your finger to press the dough into the corners of the tart pan. Remove the excess dough with a knife.
6. To blind bake the crust, line the dough with a piece of parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Transfer to the hot oven and reduce temperature to 190˚C. Bake for 12 minutes, until the edges are set, then remove parchment paper and baking beans and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the crust is fully baked and slightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
for the earl grey ganache
1. In a small saucepan, combine earl grey tea and heavy cream. Heat over medium-high heat until cream is hot, but not yet boiling. Turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, put chopped chocolate in a medium, heatproof bowl.
2. After 10 minutes, turn on the heat again and bring cream to the boil. Remove from the heat and pour cream, through a fine-mesh sieve, onto the chocolate. Press the tea with the back of a spoon to remove all the liquid. Let sit for a minute. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture in tight circles, until all the chocolate is melted and you have a smooth ganache. Add the butter, a few cubes at a time, and stir to incorporate.
3. When all the butter is incorporated, pour ganache into the baked tart shell. Allow to cool to room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator for a few hours.
4. This tart is best when served straight from the fridge. Serve with whipped cream or on its own.