Daring Bakers in August: Milk Chocolate and Caramel TartAugust 29, 2007 at 4:56 pm | Posted in daring bakers, groups, pies & tarts, sweet things | 49 Comments
I was just a lil’ bit excited to see that for this month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge, our co-hosts Veronica and Patricia chose a milk chocolate and caramel tart from Eric Kayser’s book Sweet and Savory Tarts. Not only do I love chocolate and caramel (who doesn’t, really?), I love making tarts, especially when they have a few different components like this one. And, although we were warned from the get-go that the directions were sparse and we’d have to read between the lines, at least there would be no fiddling around with agar-agar like last time.
The first part of the recipe to tackle was the pastry dough. The recipe described it as a “chocolate shortbread pastry,” flavored with cocoa powder, ground hazelnuts and cinnamon. Some bakers who tried out the recipe early in the month found the cinnamon to be overwhelming, and it was later deemed optional by the Veronica and Patricia. I followed these bakers’ advice and opted out of the cinnamon in my batch. I chose to make my dough in the KitchenAid (with the paddle attachment), rather than in the food processor. It just seemed less messy, and came together easily in the mixer.
After my dough had an overnight rest in the fridge, I found it to be quite malleable and very easy to work with. The dough really didn’t resemble shortbread though, and neither the finished product, but it did bake up nice and crisp. I decided to go the mini route and used my 3.5″ fluted tartlette pans to form the shells. I docked them well and blind baked them with beans, thanks to the advice of those bakers who had made the recipe early on. Even though they were small, my shells did take several minutes longer to bake than the recipe stated. And I had to be more careful than I would have liked removing the parchment and beans from the baked shells, because the dough wanted badly to stick to the parchment. With a little patience though, everything was fine. I made eight little tartlettes and put the extra unbaked dough in the freezer for another time.
The next step was to make the caramel layer hidden in the middle of the tart. I must admit here that I only made a half-batch of caramel, since I didn’t make the big 10″ tart. R and I can’t finish a whole tart ourselves, but I promise I was true to the ingredients, techniques and proportions. Our co-hosts did give us a choice when it came to the caramel: while the recipe called for using the dry technique, we could switch that to a wet caramel if we were more confident with the wet method. I have actually made an unusual amount of caramel sauce in my time, and am comfortable with both ways, so I went ahead with the dry version before adding butter and cream. I took it to the edge of dark-but-not-burned, so it would be a bit more flavorful and wouldn’t cause a toothache in combination with the milk chocolate. (To make a dry caramel, I add the sugar in stages, starting with just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. When that melts and begins to color, I add a little more.) To the cooled caramel base, eggs and flour were added so it would set up into a soft but firm candy-like layer in the oven, rather than remain an oozy sauce.
Once again, the caramel in my little tarts had to spend about five minutes longer in the oven than the recipe stated to set up. I baked them until the caramel looked well set around the edges and was no longer jiggly in the center. After cooling down on the counter for about 30 minutes, I popped them in the fridge to thoroughly set for a few hours and charged on with the caramel decorations.
I was hoping to do sugar curls or something fun, but I made this recipe during a patch of rainy days here in Sydney. Humidity and sugarwork are archenemies, so my experiments were just a sticky mess. I resorted to the basic caramel fragments suggested in the recipe, but even they stuck together in little clumps after I broke them up. I liked them though…they looked like sparkly jewels.
For the last step before decoration (and eating!), I made the “chocolate mousse” layer. It was just melted milk chocolate folded together with whipped cream. I just had to be sure to let the chocolate cool to about body temperature before combining, so it wouldn’t melt the cream. I used Green & Black’s organic milk chocolate. They claim to use more cocoa solids than other brands, making it a “darker” milk chocolate. I had never tried it, but as a dark chocolate freak, I was interested in finding something a little less sweet. As luck would have it, it was also on sale!
Eight mini tarts equals four days of dessert for R and me, so I made scaled back amounts of the mousse as well…just enough to fill two each day. After piling on the mousse and letting the tarts chill for a bit, it was time to decorate and try. Boy, were they good…almost like a candy bar, but not too sweet. I tried to get fairly equal layers of caramel and chocolate, and was really surprised by how nicely the tarts cut. All in all, I’d say this one’s a keeper, and it wasn’t even too complicated– thanks Veronica and Patricia! I am interested in trying it with dark chocolate though…