I settled on the Chocolate Shortbread Tart Crust and Pastry Cream. I made the crust as is, and I tell you it's fantastic—flaky, flavourful, crisp, buttery—everything you would expect from something that looks like pie crust but smells like brownies.
The pastry cream, however, I toyed with right out of the gate. You see, a few weeks ago I made an indulgent purchase and had a half pound of Indian vanilla beans shipped to my door so I could make vanilla extract. Well, that used maybe ten of them, so I fin myself in want of vanilla projects. If you don't have vanilla bean, you could easily just add more vanilla extract at the end, and it'll taste fantastic just the same. Here's what we enjoyed on top of our chocolatey crust.
Vanilla Orange Pastry Cream
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
1 cup milk
1 cup half & half
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
zest of 1 orange, in long strips
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted to remove clumps
1/2 tsp vanilla extract, or more to taste
3 1/2 Tbsp butter, cut into bits, room temperature
Use a vegetable peeler to peel the zest from the orange, taking care to get as little white pith as possible. Combine milk, half & half, vanilla bean and seeds with orange zest in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let steep for at least one hour, or let cool completely and store in the refrigerator overnight. The longer it sits, the more flavour it will have (I did the hour and wished for just a bit more orange.)
After steeping is completed, strain out the bean and zest, and bring milk to boiling again. Rinse the vanilla bean well and save for another use (like vanilla sugar or extract.) Meanwhile, in another saucepan, combine egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch, and whisk well to combine. When milk boils, whisk 1/4-1/3 cup of the hot milk into the egg yolks, but take care to whisk constantly to warm the yolks without letting them cook. Slowly stream in the remaining milk while whisking constantly. Put the pot over medium heat, and whisk constantly until the micture comes to a boil. Continue to whisk 1-2 minutes until cream is thick, then remove from heat.
Whisk in vanilla and let cool 5 minutes, then whisk in butter pieces until the cream is smooth and beautiful. Scrape the cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap over the surface, and cool completely in the refrigerator. [You can speed this process with an ice bath, like I did, stirring every few minutes.]
Scoop that vanilla orange goodness into your chocolate tart shell (or graham crust, or pie shell—all would be delightful) and eat it up.