tartlicious tuesday: chocolate caramel tart
With the passing of Thanksgiving (barely) we enter the time of the year known as “The Season”. One could argue that it is “The Season” of overindulgence and it began, for many, in the wee hours of the morning, the day after Thanksgiving, better known as Black Friday, which oozed into Small Business Saturday and then Cyber Monday.
Whew! If you were shopping on these days you certainly need a break. Even if you didn’t go shopping you might be exhausted by the onslaught of circulars, flyers and catalogs clogging your mailbox and cluttering your doorstep. The only plus side to all these publications is that your children will have a plethora of material for future collage projects at school.
Shopping, wrapping, parties, more shopping, cooking, baking and decorating can take its toll no matter how joyous. If, after hearing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sung ad nauseam at your local market, you feel like shooting at the speaker system Rambo style it is time to give it all a rest. “The Season” can be exhausting so we must remember to take time for ourselves.
Sit down, have an espresso, two or three and take a bite of a delicious chocolate caramel tart. This tart is easy to make while you are in the kitchen baking your 400th cookie. And, the tart is small enough to hide. That’s right. Hide. Okay, maybe it isn’t in the spirit of “The Season” to hide the treats from the family, but sometimes one little fib, as you mumble through a gooey bite of tart, “What am I eating? It’s just a granola bar.” is required for the greater good. After all, who wants to be cranky during “The Season”?
This delicious, decadent tart is from Dorie Greenspans Baking: From my Home to Yours. At first glance it may seem like a long recipe, but it is exceedingly easy. And, as usual, our advice to you is to double the tart dough recipe. Save the extra in the freezer for another tart. If you do this for all your pie and tart dough you will amass a good selection to choose from when you are in a pinch.
Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart
Sweet Tart Dough
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour ½ cup confectioners’ sugar ¼ teaspoon salt 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 1 large egg yolk
To make the dough:
Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely – you’ll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that’s just fine. Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before your reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
Very lightly and sparingly – make that very, very lightly and sparingly – knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
If you want to press the dough into a tart pan, now is the time to do it.
If you want to chill the dough and roll it out later (doable, but fussier than pressing), gather the dough into a ball (you might have to use a little more pressure than you used to mix in dry bits, because you do want the ball to be just this side of cohesive), flatten it into a disk, wrap it well and chill it for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day.
To make a press-in crust: Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don’t be stingy – you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don’t be too heavy-handed – you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don’t want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To make a rolled-out crust: This dough is very soft – a combination of a substantial amount of butter and the use of confectioners’ sugar – so I find it is easier to roll it between wax paper or plastic wrap or, easiest of all, in a roll-out-your-dough slipcover. If you use the slipcover, flour it lightly. Roll the dough out evenly, turning the dough over frequently and lifting the wax paper or plastic wrap often, so that it doesn’t roll into the dough and form creases. If you’ve got time, slide the rolled out dough into the fridge to rest and firm for about 20 minutes before fitting the dough into the buttered tart pan. Trim the excess dough even with the edge of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil tightly against the crust, placing baking beads on top. Bake the crust 25 minutes, and then carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, take a fork and poke holes in the bottom of the crust. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack; keep it in its pan.
For the caramel layer:
Scant 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 tbsp. salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
Pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)
3/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Before making the caramel, make sure that you have all the ingredients measured out and ready to go because you have to work quickly once the sugar caramelizes. Also have a medium heatproof bowl at hand to hold the hot caramel.
To make the caramel, bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, to medium heat and sprinkle in about 3 tablespoons of the sugar. When it melts, stir it with a wooden spatula or a fork and sprinkle over another 3 tablespoons. When that sugar is melted, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. The sugar in the pan may already have started to color and that is fine. Stir in the corn syrup and boil the syrup until it reaches a deep caramel color – it will probably begin to smoke, and that is normal.
Bring the simmering cream to a full boil. Stand back from the skillet and stir in the butter and salt, if you’re using it. The caramel will bubble furiously and may spatter, so be careful. When the butter is in, add the warm cream – the caramel will bubble furiously again. Lower the temperature just a tad and let the caramel boil for just 2 minutes. (If you check the temperature with a thermometer, the caramel should be at 226 degrees F.) Pour the seething caramel into the heatproof bowl and set it aside while you make the ganache.
For the ganache:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
To make the ganache, put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or rubber spatula at hand. Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Working with the whisk or spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at center of the bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motion. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don’t stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients – the less you work it, the darker, smoother and shinier it will be.
Cover the ganache with a piece of plastic wrap, pressing the plastic against the surface of the chocolate to create an airtight seal. Set aside at room temperature for the moment. To assemble the tart, stir the peanuts into the caramel using a rubber spatula. If the caramel is too thick to stir or spread easily, gently warm it in the microwave in 3-second spurts. (You can also hold the heatproof bowl about 10 inches above the burner on your range. Check the consistency after a couple of seconds and repeat if necessary.) Spread the caramel over the bottom of the tart shell in a thin layer. Refrigerate the tart for 15 minutes to set the caramel.
Check the ganache. If it has thickened and is no longer pourable, warm it in the same way as instructed for the caramel above. Pour the ganache over the caramel and jiggle the tart pan to even it. Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes but no longer, and then keep it at room temperature until serving time.