Archive for June, 2014

Best-Ever Chocolate Tart

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

More chocolate-y goodness from the MELT® Organic kitchen is here for our Chocoholic fans. For those of us craving a chocolate fix, this luscious chocolate tart made with an almond meal crust will have you reaching for more. The detailed instructions make this dessert appear difficult to prepare, but it is actually quite straight forward. Plan to make the crust the day before and chill overnight, then bake in the morning while continuing to prepare the filling and glaze. Serves 12. Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen by Meg Carlson.




1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons MELT® Organic, cut into ½-inch pieces

1¼ cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
¼ teaspoon salt 9 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate (60-65% cocoa), chopped fine
4 tablespoons Rich & Creamy MELT® Organic or Chocolate MELT®, softened
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature

3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate (60-65% cocoa), chopped fine
1 tablespoon hot water (or cognac)


For the Crust

  • Beat the egg yolk and heavy cream together in small bowl.
  • Process almonds and sugar in food processor until the nuts are finely ground, about 15 to 20 seconds. Add the flour and salt; pulse to combine, about 10 pulses.
  • Scatter MELT by ½ tablespoon over flour mixture and pulse to cut the MELT chunks into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 pulses.
  • With the processor running, add the egg yolk mixture and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
  • Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch disk; wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm but malleable, about 30 minutes. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days – before using, let stand at room temperature until malleable but still cool.)
  • Roll out dough between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap into an 11-inch round about 3/8 inches thick. (If the dough becomes too soft and sticky to work with, slip it onto the baking sheet and refrigerate until workable.)
  • Place the dough round on the baking sheet and refrigerate until firm but pliable, about 15 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position.
  • Grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with MELT.
  • Place the 11-inch round carefully into the tart pan, following the approach below if helpful.
  • Keeping the dough on baking sheet and remove the top layer of plastic. Invert the tart pan and press into the dough to roughly cut it. Pick up the baking sheet and tart pan, carefully inverting both so the tart pan is set right side up and the dough is inside of the pan. Remove the baking sheet and peel off the plastic, reserving it for later. Use a rolling pin to roll over edges of tart pan to finish cutting the dough.
  • Gently ease and press the dough into the bottom of pan, reserving scraps. Roll the dough scraps into ¾-inch rope. Line the edge of the tart pan with the rope(s) and gently press into fluted sides. Line the tart pan with reserved plastic and, using a measuring cup, gently press and smooth dough to even thickness. Sides should be about ¼ inch thick. Using a paring knife, trim any excess dough above the rim of the tart and discard scraps.
    • Set the dough-lined pan on the baking sheet. Grease a 12-inch square of aluminum foil with MELT and press the foil, sprayed side down, into the pan; fill with 2 cups of pie weights.
    • Bake until the dough is dry and light golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking.
    • Carefully remove the foil and weights and continue to bake until pastry is rich golden brown and fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes longer. Let the crust cool completely on the baking sheet placed on a wire rack.

For the Filling

  • Heat oven to 250 degrees.
  • Bring the heavy cream, espresso powder, and salt to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice to dissolve espresso powder and salt.
  • Meanwhile, place chocolate in large heat-proof bowl. Pour simmering cream mixture over chocolate, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes to allow chocolate to soften.
  • Using a whisk, stir the mixture slowly and gently (so as not to incorporate air) until homogeneous. Add butter and continue to whisk gently until fully incorporated.
  • Pour beaten eggs through a fine-mesh strainer into chocolate mixture; whisk slowly until mixture is homogeneous and glossy.
  • Pour filling into the tart crust and shake gently from side to side to distribute and smooth the surface; pop any large bubbles with toothpick or skewer.
  • Bake tart on a baking sheet until the outer edge of the filling is just set and very faint cracks appear on surface, about 30 to 35 minutes; filling will still be very wobbly. Let cool completely on baking sheet on wire rack.
  • Refrigerate, uncovered, until filling is chilled and set, at least 3 hours or up to 18 hours.

For the Glaze

  • 30 minutes before glazing, remove the tart from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature.
  • Bring the heavy cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat; stir once or twice to combine.
  • Remove the pan from heat, add chocolate, and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow chocolate to soften.
  • Whisk gently (so as not to incorporate air) until mixture is smooth, then whisk in hot water (or cognac) until the glaze is homogeneous, shiny, and pourable.
  • Pour the glaze onto center of tart, tilting to allow glaze to run to edge. (Spreading glaze with spatula will leave marks on surface.) Pop any large bubbles with toothpick or skewer. Let cool completely, about 1 hour.

To Serve

  • Remove outer ring from tart pan.
  • Insert thin-bladed metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen tart; slide tart onto serving platter.
  • The finished tart can be garnished with chocolate curls or with a flaky coarse sea salt.
  • Serve with whipped cream, and if you like, add a little cognac or vanilla extract to the whipped cream.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

UC Santa Barbara Scientists Discover Potential of Cinnamon to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Friday, June 6th, 2014

According to a new study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease – “Interaction of Cinnamaldehyde and Epicatechin with Tau: Implications of Beneficial Effects in Modulating Alzheimer’s Disease Pathogenesis” – the compound responsible for giving cinnamon its sweet, bright smell could potentially play a role in delaying the onset of or warding off Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a neurodegenerative disease that progressively worsens over time as it kills brain cells. No cure has yet been found, nor has the major cause of Alzheimer’s been identified.

However, two compounds found in cinnamon –– cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin –– are showing some promise in the effort to fight the disease. According to Roshni George and Donald Graves, scientists at UC Santa Barbara, these compounds have been shown to prevent the development of the filamentous “tangles” found in the brain cells that characterize Alzheimer’s.

Responsible for the assembly of microtubules in a cell, a protein called tau plays a large role in the structure of the neurons, as well as their function.

“The problem with tau in Alzheimer’s is that it starts aggregating,” said George, a graduate student researcher. When for the protein does not bind properly to the microtubules that form the cell’s structure, it has a tendency to clump together, she explained, forming insoluble fibers in the neuron. The older we get the more susceptible we are to these twists and tangles, Alzheimer’s patients develop them more often and in larger amounts.

The use of cinnamaldehyde, the compound responsible for the bright, sweet smell of cinnamon, has proven effective in preventing the tau knots. By protecting tau from oxidative stress, the compound, an oil, could inhibit the protein’s aggregation. To do this, cinnamaldehyde binds to two residues of an amino acid called cysteine on the tau protein. The cysteine residues are vulnerable to modifications, a factor that contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s.

“Take, for example, sunburn, a form of oxidative damage,” said Graves, adjunct professor in UCSB’s Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. “If you wore a hat, you could protect your face and head from the oxidation. In a sense this cinnamaldehyde is like a cap.” While it can protect the tau protein by binding to its vulnerable cysteine residues, it can also come off, Graves added, which can ensure the proper functioning of the protein.

Oxidative stress is a major factor to consider in the health of cells in general. Through normal cellular processes, free radical-generating substances like peroxides are formed, but antioxidants in the cell work to neutralize them and prevent oxidation. Under some conditions however, the scales are tipped, with increased production of peroxides and free radicals, and decreased amounts of antioxidants, leading to oxidative stress.

Epicatechin, which is also present in other foods, such as blueberries, chocolate, and red wine, has proven to be a powerful antioxidant. Not only does it quench the burn of oxidation, it is actually activated by oxidation so the compound can interact with the cysteines on the tau protein in a way similar to the protective action of cinnamaldehyde.

“Cell membranes that are oxidized also produce reactive derivatives, such as Acrolein, that can damage the cysteines,” said George. “Epicatechin also sequesters those byproducts.”

Studies indicate that there is a high correlation between Type 2 diabetes and the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. The elevated glucose levels typical of diabetes lead to the overproduction of reactive oxygen species, resulting in oxidative stress, which is a common factor in both diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Other research has shown cinnamon’s beneficial effects in managing blood glucose and other problems associated with diabetes.

“Since tau is vulnerable to oxidative stress, this study then asks whether Alzheimer’s disease could benefit from cinnamon, especially looking at the potential of small compounds,” said George.

Although this research shows promise, Graves said, they are “still a long way from knowing whether this will work in human beings.” The researchers caution against ingesting more than the typical amounts of cinnamon already used in cooking.

If cinnamon and its compounds do live up to their promise, it could be a significant step in the ongoing battle against Alzheimer’s.

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