Sophia Narrett "Stuck" & French Chocolate Orange Truffle Tart
There is something extraordinary about citrus trees. I attribute this sense of wonder to my childhood in Northern California, where I was surrounded by them. I remember climbing a fence with my friend to break into her neighbor’s yard so we could harvest her massive lemon tree, which was so laden with fruit that the branches hung low enough for our small bodies to reach. Both nourishing and decorative, their blossoms perfumed the air with the olfactory essence of summer. Fruit trees, in general, are miraculous, but citrus is particularly special—an extravagance. This enchanting quality makes oranges the perfect character to encircle Sophia Narrett’s composition in Stuck (2016), a scene opulently rendered in embroidery thread and fabric.
Narrett normalizes the baroque and fantastic. This doesn’t mean her compositions lack intrigue—on the contrary. With the dreamlike logic of accepting something that would be improbable in our waking lives, Narrett compresses the surreal and mundane in her singular embroideries. The narrative in Stuck expands horizontally in a bizarre backyard scene. In the center, a naked woman stands at the entrance to a circular stone maze, her hand guiding an IV drip full of an orange liquid. To her left, a group of nude women stand on an alcove of the maze, also toting IVs with the orange liquid. Their group leads to a pool full of dirt or mud where women lounge on its surrounding decks. In the exposed earth, three women give head to three others. A vine of oranges, blossoms, and IV needles twist around the border of the bustling vignette, suggesting the source of the orange liquid impregnating the women’s veins. A couple stand by a car parked on the lawn of a suburban home in the background, and a giant red ribbon unravels on the grass in front of another couple having sex on a stone fire pit surrounded by patio chairs. Everyone appears at ease. None of it makes sense.
Narrett wrote that “labyrinths are supposed to be unicursal; there should be one path to the center that is then meant to be traced backwards. The entrance and exit are one.” Dreams, unencumbered by conscious logic, seem to be unicursal, too, though the path in and out of them is not necessarily linear. Narrett’s embroideries, which rarely stay confined to anything resembling a rectangle, expand into amoebic shapes that illustrate the curiosity, banality, and genius of wandering thought. Their lack of specific direction or message opens a space for the viewer to insert her personal associations. Like a Rorschach test or mandala, the embroideries act as visual aids to explore our minds’ inner workings.
French Chocolate Orange Truffle Tart
Narrett’s work has a depth and weight that calls for a recipe equally rich and indulgent, so I naturally thought of chocolate. Lucky for us all, chocolate and orange are a symbiotic triumph: both ingredients bring out the best in the other. The following recipe is an adaptation of one from The Spruce Eats, which was delicious on its own, but I added a bit more orange and a hint of almond (nuts to honor the nudity in Stuck, of course). I made them into a dozen mini tarts in a cupcake pan instead of the original ten-inch tart so I could halve the recipe for testing. This resulted in a more “rustic” (messy) pie shell instead of the sharp edges you could achieve by using individual tart pans, but it also allows you to adjust the serving size more easily. You could whip up four of these beauties for a special dessert, or make two dozen for a bigger crowd.
Total Time: 2 hrs 35 mins
Prep: 2 hrs
Cook: 30 mins
Yield: 12 servings1
For the Pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold butter
3 tablespoons cold water
2 teaspoons almond extract
For the Chocolate Filling:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (chips or finely chopped pieces)
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs (beaten)
Make the dough
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the chilled butter into the flour until it resembles coarse sand with a few pea-sized pieces of butter still visible.2 Sprinkle the cold water and almond extract onto the mixture and toss gently a few times, just until it forms a ball that holds together.
Form the dough into a ball, flatten slightly into a thick disk shape, wrap in wax paper (or plastic wrap), and chill for several hours before working with it.
Preheat an oven to 375 F.
Roll the dough into a large circle-ish shape, about 1/8" thick. Cut out 2 1/2" dough circles to fit into the cupcake pan, or whatever size pan you’re using. Line each cup with dough, then trim any excess folds or dough hanging over the top of the cup.3 Fill each cup with pie weights or dried beans4 and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake the shells for an additional 5 minutes. Cool the pastry shells in the pan.
Make Chocolate Truffle Filling
Bring the cream and orange zest to just simmering in a small saucepan over low to medium heat. Remove it from the heat, and stir in the chocolate, Grand Marnier, and vanilla until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is completely incorporated. Whisk two spoonfuls of the hot chocolate cream into the eggs to temper them. Transfer the egg mixture into the hot chocolate and whisk until it is smooth.
Pour the orange chocolate filling into the prepared pastry and bake it for 15 to 20 minutes5 until the filling is almost set and only the middle jiggles slightly.
Allow the tart to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and chill in the refrigerator before serving.
I had a bit of the chocolate filling left over that I baked in a ramekin.
I like to do this by hand because I find that I have more control over the consistency and water content. You can also use a fork, pastry cutter, or food processor.
If your dough seems like it’s getting too warm from so much handling, giving it a quick chill can ensure that it still comes out nice and crispy. My kitchen was hot and the dough started melting, so I stuck it in the freezer for about five minutes before baking.
Because the cupcake cups are relatively small, I had a hard time getting the pie weights out. putting a small circle of parchment paper in the cups before adding the weights made it way easier to get them out.
Adjust the time to about 18–25 minutes if you’re baking in a larger tart pan.