June 22, 2013 at 9:35 AM ET
The Cronut, the Duffin, the Muffle. Are these characters you somehow overlooked in the last Harry Potter novel? Nope! They are the latest craze to hit bakeries and pastry shops across the globe. With crazy lines in New York City and even scalpers trying to score a Cronut (a mix between a croissant and doughnut) bakers are jumping on the hybrid pastry bandwagon, thinking outside the dough and coming up with new and unusual creations that combine old favorites with delicious results.
Originally from Washington D.C., Bea Vo, a pastry chef with a chain of three Bea’s of Bloomsbury tea shops in London, was recently challenged by Victoria Stewart of the London Evening Standard to come up with her own version of this new trend of combining sweet treats.
“When I had been approached to do a fusion dessert, I wanted to do something that would incorporate the best of both worlds,” Vo told TODAY.com. “So with the brownie tart, the best part is the sugar crust on the top, and the fudgy soft centre that really makes for a strong chocolate hit.”
This combo of a tart and a brownie would satisfy even the biggest chocoholic, with a moist, deeply chocolately brownie center and a crunchy tart shell to contain it all. This is much more than your average chocolate tart though! The center is pure, good old-fashioned brownie, left just slightly underdone so there’s a bit of contrast between the crispy crust and the gooey middle. Vo said that her goal was to have a buttery, slightly flaky crust that snaps at the first bite.
“To gild the lily we add a fudge coating top for the extra chocolate hit,” she said. “While the ganache tart is super rich, this gives you the chocolate hit in a really satisfying, homey way.”
A brownie is a distinctly American dessert and Vo said that her shops are an extension of her childhood in the U.S. However, because of her fine dining background (Nobu, Asia de Cuba) and French patisserie training, there’s a bit more European precision to her baking, and flavor becomes key.
“Our marshmallows are made with pure fruit instead of artificial flavouring; we stick to French chocolate and French style butter for our brownies and our buttercream is Italian so it's softer,” she said.
Why the rush to create these new desserts? Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s marketing and PR manager, Helena Marie Fletcher, thinks it’s because the public likes to know that their favorite bakers are constantly innovating. “It’s one of the things our customers really like, that they can see our chefs at work in the kitchen here in the shop and that something new is being created.”
While Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s Townie recipe remains a secret, Vo did offer some tips for those of you who can’t wait to make this dessert at home. “Prebake your favorite shell first---so it's not soggy and underbaked. Fill with the brownie batter and start off with a high temperature for a few minutes and then lower the temperature dramatically--because the tarts are small, it's better to slightly underbake them, so 10 minutes at most.”
She even suggested using your favorite store-bought brownie mix and premade tart shells for a quick, easy version.
The Townie hasn’t yet made it onto the permanent roster of desserts available at Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s bakeries, but it will soon. Vo’s other creation, the Duffin (a mix between a donut and a muffin) is already flying off the shelves. The Townie is certain to do the same.