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Sandy’s After-Dinner Mint Surprise Alaska Tartlets

These rich tartlets combine chocolate biscuit pastry, chocolate custard, mint choc-chip ice cream and a fluffy Italian meringue. The cocoa-rich pastry needs careful handling, but it’s worth the effort.

Makes: 6 tartlets

Hands-on time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Baking time: 45 minutes

Skill level: Needs skill

For the mint choc-chip ice cream:

300ml double cream, well chilled

150ml condensed milk (from a 376g can)

Peppermint extract, to taste

Edible green food colouring gel

75g dark chocolate (about 75% cocoa solids), broken up

For the chocolate pastry:

150g plain flour

¼ teaspoon salt

70g cocoa powder

90g icing sugar

150g unsalted butter, chilled and diced

2 medium egg yolks

1 tablespoon cold water

For the chocolate filling:

75g dark chocolate (about 75% cocoa solids), broken up

50g milk chocolate (about 35% cocoa solids), broken up

50ml full-fat milk

100ml double cream

1 medium egg, at room temperature

½-1 tablespoon Crème de Menthe, to taste

For the Italian meringue:

3 medium egg whites, at room temperature

Pinch cream of tartar

170g caster sugar

85ml water

To decorate:

Tiny mint leaves/sprigs

You will also need:

Stand mixer

Ice-cream machine

Food processor

Ice-cream scoop

6 deep, loose-based tartlet tins (10cm wide)

Baking sheet

Heatproof pastry brush

Sugar thermometer

Large piping bag, fitted with large star nozzle

Kitchen blowtorch

Step 1 – Start by making the ice cream so it has plenty of time for freezing: pour the double cream and condensed milk into a mixing bowl (chilled if possible) and, using an electric hand whisk or stand mixer, mix until combined. Gradually add the peppermint extract to taste, then enough green food colouring to give a good ‘minty’ appearance (not too vivid). When you’re happy with the flavour and colour, whisk until thick and floppy textured. Pour into the ice-cream machine and churn until starting to become firm and half frozen.

Step 2 – Meanwhile, blitz the pieces of chocolate in a food processor until they resemble small pieces of gravel. Add the chocolate to the ice cream and continue churning until firm. Transfer the ice cream to the freezer until hard enough to scoop easily. Then, using an ice-cream scoop or pair of spoons, take out 6 neat balls of ice cream and place them on a freezer-proof tray lined with cling film. Return the scoops and remaining ice cream to the freezer.

Step 3 – Now make the pastry cases: put the flour, salt, cocoa and icing sugar into the bowl of a food processor and ‘pulse’ a few times until thoroughly combined. Add the butter and blitz until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Add the egg yolks and water and run the machine until the mixture comes together to make a heavy, slightly sticky dough.

Step 4 – Weigh the dough and divide it into 6 equal portions. Briefly shape each into a thick disc then wrap in cling film and chill for about 15-20 minutes until firm but hard. Then unwrap one portion of dough, place it between 2 sheets of baking paper or cling film, and roll out to a 15cm disc. Peel the dough away from the paper/cling film and gently press it into a tartlet tin to neatly line the base and sides. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tin to cut off the excess dough, then use your fingers to gently ease the pastry rim up and above the metal rim of the tartlet case – this will give a neater shape and help prevent shrinkage. Prick the pastry base well. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough then place the tartlet cases on a baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes.

Step 5 – Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4. Cut 6 discs (16cm across) of baking paper, crumple them to soften, then flatten out and use to line the pastry cases. Fill with baking beans and ‘bake blind’ for 10 minutes or until the pastry is just set. Very carefully, remove the paper and beans (the pastry will be fragile) and return the empty pastry cases to the oven for a further 7-10 minutes until firm – watch carefully as it’s easy to let chocolate pastry overcook and turn very dark. Remove and leave to cool on the baking sheet. Reduce the oven temperature to 110°C/90°C fan/225°F/Gas ¼.

Step 6 – While the tartlets cool, make the custard: put both chocolates into a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of steaming (but not boiling) water – don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water. Leave to melt very gently then remove the bowl from the pan and stir until the chocolate is smooth.

Step 7 – Heat the cream and milk until steaming hot. Break the egg into another heatproof bowl and whisk, using a wire hand whisk, until frothy – then whisk in the hot cream mixture. When thoroughly combined, pour this mixture through a sieve onto the melted chocolate and whisk until very smooth. Whisk in Crème de Menthe to taste, then pour the mixture into a jug.

Step 8 – Carefully pour the chocolate custard mixture into the tartlet cases so they are evenly filled, then very gently place them in the oven (still on the baking sheet) and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the custards have set – they shouldn’t wobble when you wobble the baking sheet. Remove and leave to cool to room temperature.

Step 9 – When ready to assemble, make the meringue: put the egg whites and cream of tartar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Weigh the sugar and water into a small, heavy-based pan and place over a low heat. Leave to melt very gently, stirring occasionally. From to time, brush down the sides of the pan with a heatproof pastry brush dipped in cold water to dislodge any stuck-on sugar crystals.

Step 10 – When the syrup is completely clear, bring it to the boil and boil rapidly for about 5 minutes until it reaches 116°C on the sugar thermometer. While the syrup is boiling, whisk the egg whites until they stand in soft peaks. As soon as the syrup is ready, pour it on the egg whites in a thin, steady stream while whisking at full speed. Continue whisking until the meringue is very thick and glossy and has returned to room temperature.

Step 11 – Transfer the meringue to a large piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. Un-mould the tartlets and place them on a serving platter. Place a scoop of ice cream in the middle of each tartlet. Working quickly, pipe a neat spiral of meringue over the top of each tartlet to completely encase the custard and the ice cream. Use the kitchen blowtorch to give the meringue a golden-brown finish. Decorate with mint leaves or sprigs and serve immediately.