So last year I made this dessert to take to my father’s house for Christmas night dinner. I mean, I knew we’d all like it, as it is primarily composed of chocolate, butter, and cream, but I was wholly unprepared for the almost maniacal passion Dad conceived for this thing. In the lead-up to Christmas 2012, nary a phone conversation ended before Dad let me know in no uncertain terms that if this tart failed to materialize on his table Christmas night, I’d have wasted a plane ticket to Virginia. Bless him, is it any wonder I love chocolate as much as I do? I had also hoped to share the dessert planned for the pre-Christmas party at Mom’s house, but my flight was cancelled and Julia Lambert was forced to make it solo, which she did beautifully. I made it home in time to make the tart, though, and here it is, my last post of 2012.
[Note: remember how I said that I didn’t understand why pie crust was such a big deal, and how I never had a problem with it, and how I was the greatest pastry chef of them all? Yeah, making caramel turns me into a STRESS BALL. Don’t let that stop you. Take your time, follow your color cues, and at the end of the day, it’s just sugar. Let your pan soak overnight and try again. Lady Mary recommends just making jar after jar of caramel until it’s second-nature, and I can’t help but wonder if she’s on to something.]
Chocolate-Caramel Tart with Fleur de Sel
Recipe adapted from Cooking with Rockstars
2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (store-bought chocolate wafers or chocolate Teddy Grahams work beautifully. I used Deb’s homemade chocolate wafers, and I encountered some interesting hiccups, to be explained below)
3/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. water
2/3 c. heavy whipping cream
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 oz. pieces
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
6 oz. high-quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
So, I swore up and down that I had sent Mom a detailed grocery list for all the holiday meals and cooking projects. Turns out I only sent the menus, which are significantly less helpful. As a result, when it came time to make the tart, there were no cookies to be had in the house, and unsurprisingly, none of us wanted to go to the grocery store the morning of Christmas Eve. So I decided to make my own.
Pulverize your cookies into fine crumbs and measure out about two cups of crumbs. Return the crumbs to the bowl of the processor.
Take it from me: if you use homemade cookies instead of store-bought, use only as much melted butter as you need to coat all of the cookie crumbs and make a damp, crumbly mass. Nice lovely homemade cookies are softer and already contain plenty of butter, unlike their drier store-bought counterparts. I made cookies, let them cool, pulverized them, and then merrily dumped all the butter in, creating buttery cookie soup. Don’t be like me. You probably need about 1/4 c. melted butter if you use homemade cookies, and 3/4 c. if you use store-bought.
Once all of the cookie crumbs are coated, transfer them to a 9-inch tart pan or pie pan, pressing them up the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake the crust for ten minutes, then remove and allow to cool at room temperature.
Caramel time! Look, it’s not that big a deal. Caramel is just sugar that’s been cooked to not-quite-burning. Drizzle it over a cake or a sheet of parchment paper, and it hardens into to shining golden strands; add butter and cream and you have luscious, smooth, gooey, drippy caramel sauce. Let’s do this thing.
Combine the cream, vanilla, and pinch of salt in a measuring cup. Combine the sugar and 1/3 c. the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally and brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush.
Continue to cook until the color deepens to a rich amber color. The time will depend on your pan and your stove, but for us the whole process was about 20-25 minutes (Lady Mary advises that as soon as the caramel starts to smoke slightly, it’s ready).
Immediately remove the pan from heat and dump in the butter and cream-vanilla-salt mixture. It will sputter and steam and bubble quite a lot, but don’t panic.
Return the pan to heat and bring back to the boil. Continue to cook until the butter is melted, any hardened caramel bits have dissolved, and the color deepens further, about 8-10 minutes.
Remove the pan from heat and refrigerate until the caramel has cooled but is still pourable, about 45-50 minutes.
Pour the cooled caramel into the prepared pie crust and transfer the tart to the refrigerator to set. You’ll want a nice deep layer of caramel, but there may be some left over, which, oh no, WHATEVER WILL YOU DO?
Now, here’s the best part: ganache. Ganache, I love you, for being so blessedly simple. Bring cream to a low boil over medium heat, remove from the stove, dump in the chopped chocolate, whisk until smooth. Allow the ganache to cool to room temperature, then pour in a smooth, even layer over the chilled caramel. Refrigerate the tart until chocolate is fully set, at least an hour.
Remove the tart from the fridge about 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with a fairly generous sprinkle of sea salt over the chocolate layer right before slicing. Serve very, very thin slivers, then collapse in a blissful sugar coma. Enjoy!
Can you even handle my Dad’s cat, Bucky? Dad loves him more than he loves most people. He’s a Siamese. He’s adorable. He’s also brutally, brutally cross-eyed. I mean, holy pants, THIS CAT, y’all.
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I have looked at A LOT of lingerie in 2012, thanks to starting Sweet Nothings. I have learned a tremendous amount about the needs, loves, requirements, and desires that lots of different women have when it comes to their lingerie. I have loved a lot of what I’ve looked at. Of everything I’ve looked at, of everything I’ve tried, the most surprising, the most delightful, and the loveliest has been the beautiful pink babydoll by Bijte I won at the Busty Clothing Swap. There’s really nothing else like it out there, especially in the full-bust market. So I paired our tart with the same lovely babydoll, in a chocolate shade rich enough and luxurious enough to hold its own against such sinful sweetness.
Thank you for being such enthusiastic readers, for sharing your stories and finds and questions, and for being your gorgeous, talented, sensitive selves. Have a very, very Happy New Year!