I made a trip home this past weekend, and my mom had invited my brother and his wife over for dinner on sunday night. Of course I volunteered to make dessert without really thinking about what to make. I brought home my (soon to be) favourite cookbook to find a recipe. I got this cookbook for Christmas after reading many MANY reviews of the recipes. I had only made one thing from it before this weekend, so I thought this would be a good time to try something new! The book is Baking: From My Home to Yours by the amazing Dorie Greenspan.
This book is so well respected and viewed that there is even a blogging group that makes one recipe a week from the book with the goal of eventually making everything. Kind of Julie and Julia-esque. It’s just one of those things where you KNOW you can trust the recipes, and that everything will probably be delicious, to your own tastes. So anyways, on to the baking!
My mom actually chose the recipe for me, but it is definitely something I would have picked out on my own as well. I think I inherited my love of sweets from my mom. I will always pick the chocolatey dessert over the fruity one. Throw some peanut butter in there and I will probably skip dinner to eat it right away (I would proabably do this with any dessert if it was socially acceptable).
The recipe is called Chocolate Crunched Caramel Tart and it is very rich, sinful and delicious. It consists of a sweet shortbread like crust, with a layer of peanuty caramel, followed by a healthy layer of chocolate ganache. If you don’t think ganache is the best thing in the world, you don’t belong here! 😉 You can throw some heavy cream into my chocolate any day of the week!
My family LOVED this tart and I would definitely make it again. Dorie says to refrigerate for 30 mins max, and to serve at room temperature. My fam agreed that it would be a little better if the ganache was slightly firmer, which could be fixed by serving the tart chilled, or by using a little less cream to make the ganache. I think the reason she recommends serving it at room temperature is to keep the texture of the caramel. When it’s cold, it will get stiffer, and harder to eat. But this is something I will consider next time I make this!
The ganache is so silky and rich. This is definitely not a fluffy light dessert. I was most surprised by how good the crust was. For a quick minute, I thought it would be easier to use a premade storebought crust…don’t do it! This is not a regular pie crust, it’s like a buttery, sweet shortbread cookie. You are actually supposed to make this in a fluted tart pan, but my mom didn’t have one, so we improvise and used a regular pie pan. The only difference is that with the tart pan you will get a deeper crust, and more space to layer the caramel and ganache. It will be a little prettier, but in the end, they are both equally delicious.
All in all, this recipe seemed a little intimidating at first, with the homemade caramel and shortbread crust, but it was actually very simple to put together (with my mommy’s help!) and the end result was well worth the small amount of effort. If you are looking for a good baking cookbook, I would highly recommend this one! Dorie knows her stuff and she gives lots of tips on ingredients and variations as well.
The recipe is pretty long and there are a few steps as each layer of the tart is made separately, but it is not that time consuming and actually pretty simply! Don’t be afraid!
Chocolate Crunched Caramel Tart
from Baking: From my Home to Yours (Dorie Greenspan)
For the tart shell:
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
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
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 tart shell, in a small bowl stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When you are ready to roll out the dough, unwrap it and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out with a floured rolling pin, lifting and turning the dough occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the work surface. Roll it out evenly until it is large enough to line a 9-inch tart pan and is about 1/8-inch thick. Carefully transfer the dough to the tart pan, pressing it into the sides, and trim to remove the excess.
Cover the dough with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beads. Bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the foil and baking beads and using a fork, gently poke holes in the bottom and sides of the crust. Bake until the crust is golden, 15-20 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
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.
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.