tart chocolat bite


To me, keeping life simple is important. That’s why it’s been interesting to watch my neighbors make their lives extremely complex. Over the past two years, I’ve watched them tear down a solid, respectable house and replace it with a nearly 10,000 square foot monstrosity that fits neither the neighborhood nor the land it occupies. Once completed, they proceeded to fill their 4 garages with BMWs and SUVs, outfit the yard with a humongous outdoor kitchen and build an enormous play house for their only child.

Driving past their house at night, we’re able to see straight into the window. There, affixed to their wall, is a giant sign paying homage to Henry David Thoreau’s immortal words: “Simplify…Simplify.” I’m not kidding.

Recently I heard a news commentator ask Warren Buffet, one of the worlds wealthiest men (net worth 62 billion dollars), why he still lives in the same house in Omaha he’s had since 1950, why he still drives himself to work in his regular car and why he gives 85% of his salary to charity. His response: “because I’m happy with what I have. I love my wife. I’m healthy. My car runs well. I could have yachts, but they would require a crew and maintaining them would be stressful. I could have a fleet of cars. But would I be happier? I don’t think so.”

I don’t know anyone from any culture who doesn’t like nice things but is there a point at which it becomes too much? Is bigger better? What do you think? I’m genuinely curious to hear your take on this subject.


tart chocolat collage
tartlette chocolat


It’s in the spirit of simplicity that I baked this chocolate tart. Pure, simple, fudgey goodness.

Tart Chocolat


4 egg yolks
2 eggs
55 g. caster sugar ( or put regular sugar in a blender and turn it on for 30 seconds)
85 g. creme fraiche
330 g. melted dark chocolate, cooled slightly.
1 tsp. vanilla
cocoa powder for dusting

Whisk together egg yolks, eggs and sugar, about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Incorporate the creme fraiche and the vanilla. Temper in the melted chocolate.


185 g. flour
25 g. cocoa powder
55 g. icing sugar
150 g. cold butter cut into pieces
2 egg yolks
1 tsp of ice water

Add flour, the cocoa and the sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend on low. Blend in the butter until small pieces form then add the egg yolks and water. Beat on medium until the mixture comes together. When it is smooth and supple, flatten, wrap in plastic and place in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 355 degrees (180 Celsius). Butter a tart pan and either roll out or press the dough into the pan. Cut the edges and refrigerate 30 minutes. Add pie weights. Pre-bake for 10 minutes.

Lower the thermostat to 320 degrees (160 Celsius). Add chocolate filling. Bake for 20- 30 minutes or just until the top sets. If you allow it to completely puff up it will get dry and crumbly. Do not overbake. Sprinkle with sifted cocoa powder. Store in refrigerator and serve and room temperature.


bowl of eggs
Finally, you may be wondering, what happened to the neighbors. In short, they can no longer afford the house, they can’t sell it and they’re trying unsuccessfully to rent it out for colossal sum of money.

Wishing you a wonderful, simple and meaningful holiday!


Bon appetit!



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  1. I feel for you, living in the shadow of a McMansion. People are ruining the neighbourhood where I grew up with these monstrosities and it hurts my heart to see!

    I absolutely believe that less is more. Money and ‘stuff’ is great and it makes life easier but it really is true that it doesn’t affect your basic happiness that much. (Though I actually feel that Warren Buffett is a little extreme in his views and choices…)

  2. These photos are great. I’m so incredibly inspired by your work!! What do I think about spending? I wish people would remember what’s important in life. I can only do my part and I definitely prefer simplicity. Awesome pics! Happy turkey day!!!

  3. Thanks everyone for your comments.

    Hilary – It’s interesting to know that this is happening in the UK too. I thought it was mostly a US phenomenon. I only know a bit about Buffets financial views – definitely no expert. I did, however, find this comment interesting given his billionaire status.

  4. This looks amazing, I can’t wait to try it (though it will be after the thanksgiving foods are made and enjoyed). There are so many simple delights in life and one of the best is food made with care and savored along with good company. I love that you have so many beautiful recipes including chocolate!

  5. here on the cape (and moreso on the islands) the McMansions are cropping up faster than wasted water. It’s sad really because everyone wants to look and have like everyone else. It’s almost to the point of everyone looking exactly the same. On and on I go, but what I wanted to say was your tart is fabulous. 🙂

  6. This isn’t just a US or UK thing either – it’s pretty much taken over most of Asia’s major cities too. The imperative to earn exponentially more than your parents is very real, and woven into the fabric of social pressures and expectations about what defines ‘success’. When I return to Singapore now, after living in the US for the past few years, I feel like I’m walking into a microcosm of materialism, the pressure to consume is so strong that you feel almost inadequate if you don’t buy into it.

    I know my view sounds pretty harsh, but hey, the truth isn’t always pretty. There is definitely a tipping point where adequacy turns into excess and necessity into greed, and I guess its important to distinguish between the two. Which is where McMansion neighbors come in – they help us to realize when too much is really too much.

    (love the chocolate tart btw!)

  7. Yes, I honestly believe less is more, and I have tried to instill that in my children. It’s a tough assignment living in Westchester County, NY. I’ve ensured my children work and save. It’s funny that when they are spending their own hard earned money they think twice about the things they need.
    I am so glad I found your blog, I am looking forward to visiting often and enjoying your work. Pam

  8. first of all, yum! secondly, i am completely with you on choosing the simple life. i find that when we strip down to the basic essentials, we find wonder and appreciation in the everyday objects (and nature) that surrounds us. in my opinion, there is a positive effect from the recession, it has made people more thankful for the they DO have and less fret over that which they don’t. warren buffet is doing it right.
    merry wishes for a delightful (and filling) Thanksgiving! — Allison

  9. THIS looks to die for! and your photography is amazing.
    I think your neighbors are hysterical, I live in Orange County California and EVERYONE is just like them. We have lived in the same modest house for 16 years, and plan to have it paid off in 5 to 8 years. We drive regular cars. I made the choice to stay home with our daughter ( she is now almost 16) and have not regretted it a day. We swim upstream in this county!
    We are big fans of keeping it simple on all levels.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  10. I feel the pressure to conform to the type of lifestyle you describe all around me. It drives me crazy because I know I can’t afford it but everyone acts like it’s “normal.” It may be “normal” but it doesn’t seem smart and it’s not how I was raised. Thanks for discussing such an interesting topic. I love your blog and your photography. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  11. when I prepare or eat a tarte aux chocolat I always have the same thought: how come something so simple can taste that good?.

    It’s the chocolate. A true gift of the Gods.

  12. El, I love to shop and it’s a HUGE HUGE problem!! I got a bit caught up in buying frenzy and bought way, way too much junk on credit last year. You don’t even want to know what I spent in makeup I don’t wear. Thank god it wasn’t a giant house. It’s so not worth it. Paying it back is a freaking nightmare. NEVER again!!

    I’m baking my Christmas gifts in 2009. One of them will be this beautiful chocolate tart! These pictures are beautiful. I’m drooling!

  13. You are not alone in the McNeighbor department. My neighborhood in New Jersey has been overtaken and now half of the homes built on spec are in foreclosure! The bubble has to burst to save our trees and neighborhoods. Everything is overbuilt!

    To save my sanity I’m going to bake your sensational chocolate tart and enjoy your beautiful pics!

  14. I admit it. I’m one of the people in the US who bought a home that is way too big. Why? Family and peer pressure. We’re now in foreclosure and filing bankruptcy since my son got sick. It was the stupidest decision we have ever made. The only thing I can do now is comfort myself with your incredible chocolate tart!

  15. Keep it simple. That’s my motto. Way too many people in over their heads. Now it’s time for the tart. Delicious photos! Happy Turkey Day to you!

  16. I can add that a fourth continent is guilty of the “McMansion phenomenon”. Australia. Those big houses are not uncommon here. Not uncommon at all.

    But in saying that, when I lived in the Boston area (moving there 10 years ago), there were already massive houses around Needham, Weston, Wellesley area … with four car garage etc. Given how everything exploded since then (but since burst!), I can’t even begin to imagine how big they got. I thought they were already outrageous. (I was in 1000 square feet, maximum!)

    I agree. Sometimes, a simple tart is all you need. How great is baking?


  17. Julia,

    It’s funny you mention being in Boston 10 years ago. Those were the “good old days” meaning that you had to demonstrate to a bank that you had some money to buy a house. Since about that time they loosened the regulations so that you could “buy” a home with 2-3% down or in some cases no money down. Now they’re giving you money back if you buy a home.

    The Mc homes did start springing up around the time you were here. However, many of the estate homes in the suburbs were just that – estates. There was nothing “Mc” about them. That is, large homes, quality materials, often with architectural or historic significance on sizable pieces of property. The Mc homes here are twice the size, made with the cheapest materials imaginable, sit on no land and have carbon copies of themselves stacked up against each other.

    I had no idea this was such a world-wide phenomenon. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I’ve received about this topic.

    The common thread among those who said they bought more than they could afford is that they felt pressure from family and friends.

    It’s been my experience that people “pressure” others to do things they have done to validate their own behavior so they can be comfortable with their own bad decisions.

    A lot of questions are raised. For one, are these “friends” really “friends?” I could go on.

    At the very least it validates in my mind the importance of each person deciding for themselves what they think is important in life and then living in accordance with those beliefs and values – regardless of what other people say.

    Great discussion just in time for all of that family and peer “pressure” around the Thanksgiving dinner table :>) Enjoy your chocolate!

  18. Sometimes the simple things can have their own innate complexity — this beautiful tart is I’m sure a symphony of flavor and joy when it’s eaten. Per your comments about the race for more “stuff,” I agree. I think some people feel the pressure to buy things for status, and not out of true love. I still have the same car I’ve driven since college, but I do enjoy cooking and sewing, so I find myself awash with oddball gadgets and yards of fabric. If I’m going to complicate things, I figure it may as well be with things I love.

  19. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    Bigger is not better. It makes matter more complicated. You may find myself stupid, but I live in a small condo and I am happy with it. It takes much less time to clean it up 🙂

    By the way, your tart sounds amazing! As always, great pics 🙂

  20. Now that’s one beautiful chocolate tart! Too bad about the neighbors. Maybe in their new circumstances, they’ll realize the true meaning of their giant sign.

  21. Hello El,

    A fantastic post!! I so love Coté D’or because I am a true chocolate Belgian!

    Your chocolate pastry & the filling looks so delcious!!!

    Fabulous even!


  22. I love your post almost as much as I love the photos of that heavenly tart. I’m a simpleton at heart and (I try) practice, and I really identified with what you wrote. You also make and photograph the most delicious looking food! I hope you had a very delicious Thanksgiving!

  23. Yum–chocolate filling AND chocolate crust?

    It IS so interesting about Warren Buffet, I agree. I like how he is humble about his wealth and also how that impacts his perspective on people who are not having such an easy time getting by.

    Finally! very excited to find such a great food blog based in New England. I’ll be back.

  24. I live in the land of plenty. There are people here who are like Warren B., but even more who are tasteless wannabees. Lovely California ranch-style homes are being torn down to drop an enormous monstrosity on a lot that is far too small. The market will support it here, but it’s making everything ugly. Whatever charm older neighborhoods once had is rapidly disappearing. I’ll take the simple chocolate tart you’re offering. It’s far more worthwhile than wondering about the difference between authenticity and superficiality. Excellent photos…and love the oval shape of the tart. Very, very nice.

  25. I agree with you totally; as long as I can have chocolate, all is well with the world! (I noticed the Côte d’or brand, good!)
    As far as the story about the neighbors, I can relate, in Dallas they have built a zillion McMansions all over the place; at least if these people had a dozen kids each or something! It is a universal tendency though, observed all over the globe. Hilarious the bit about their poster!

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