Did you guys go nuts when you saw this a few months ago on the cover of Saveur? I lost my little mouse mind—which is impressive, considering that I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth.
I knew I had to make one for my dear Angry Chef, who loves sugary things, especially any combination of chocolate and caramel.
This is one of those desserts that’s kind of a pain to make—but is 110% worth the time and effort. The method itself is actually pretty simple: Make a chocolate shortbread crust, fill it with caramel, then top it with chocolate ganache.
The killer is waiting for each layer to cool properly before adding the next.
The end result is like a grown-up candy bar, in decadent tart form. The cookie crust is crisp and buttery. The caramel is creamy with just a little tang from the addition of a dollop of craime fraiche. The chocolate ganache is velvety and rich. I’m going to be bold: This might just be the perfect dessert.
While it may sound nuts, French grey sea salt (a.k.a. sel gris) is one of those things that pairs amazingly well with caramel. A sprinkling of the briny crystals enhance the sweetness and flavor of the caramel and chocolate.
Trust me on this one. You won’t be sorry.
What is creme fraiche?
Creme fraiche is cream that’s introduced to a little well-meaning bacteria, then allowed to age so that it gets gloriously thick, like sour cream.
Find it at a good cheese shop or dairy, or at a Whole Foods.
You can also make your own at home by mixing 2 tablespoons of buttermilk or sour cream into 1 cup of heavy cream in a sterilized jar, then letting it sit out (covered) at room temperature overnight. Once it’s thickened, keep it in the fridge, and use it up within 10 days or so.
Creme fraiche is a great creamy addition to cooked dishes, because it won’t curdle like milk or cream when it boils.
I was feeling lazy (OK, I just didn’t want to wait for the tart), and snagged some from Whole Foods.
Where to find a good tart pan
Use a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. If you don’t have one, most good kitchen stores will carry them. Williams Sonoma sells them for about $9. Or you can order one from Amazon.com here. In a pinch, you could improvise reasonably well with a springform pan. You’d just be missing that nice, ridged edge on your crust.
Chocolate Caramel Tart
Originally published in Saveur magazine
1 1/2 cups flour
5 Tbls. unsweetened cocoa powder (not sweetened hot chocolate mix)
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
10 Tbls. butter, diced and softened
1/2 cup + 2 Tbls. confectioner’s sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 Tbls. light corn syrup
6 Tbls. water
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
6 Tbls. butter
6 Tbls. heavy cream
1 Tbls. creme fraiche
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
French Grey sea salt, for garnish
Makes 1 9 1/2-inch tart. Serves as many as you can bear sharing with.
Part 1: Make the chocolate shortbread crust
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease your tart pan and set it aside.
Put the butter and confectioner’s sugar in the bowl of your mixer (or in a large mixing bowl if you’re mixing with a handheld, electric mixer.)
Cream the butter and sugar together until they’re light and fluffy…
Toss in the egg yolks and the vanilla. (Learn how to make your own vanilla extract here.)
Mix to combine.
Toss in the flour, cocoa powder, and kosher salt.
Beat well until combined. The mixture will be kind of dry, and somewhat crumbly—like good, fresh Play-Doh.
Gather it into a rough ball and plunk it down in the middle of your greased tart pan.
With your hands, smoosh the dough down so that it spreads and fills the whole tart pan. Try to spread it out so that it’s a fairly even thickness all around.
Press the dough into the fluted edge of your pan, so your crust has a pretty shape.
Press the edges down to level them so they’re relatively flat. (Don’t make yourself nuts. It’s going to be delicious, regardless of how neat the edges are.)
You want the dough to look about like this (all those fingerprints are just fine):
Prick the dough all over gently, with a fork. These little holes will release steam (from the water in the butter and egg) as the crust bakes, which will help to keep your bottom crust flat. (If it does somehow manage to poof up alarmingly once it’s baked, make a few pinpricks in the bottom, and gently press the surface down, squeezing out the air.)
Pop it into your pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until the dough is lightly browned on the edges. If your crust cracks a little bit, don’t fret. It’s so totally not a tragedy.
Set the crust aside to cool completely.
Part 2: Make the caramel filling
Once your tart crust has cooled, make the caramel. Put the sugar in a heavy-bottomed, 1-quart saucepan. Add the light corn syrup, water, and salt.
For light corn syrup, I like Karo syrup. You can find it in most U.S. markets.
Whisk the mixture together until well combined. It will take a minute or two to dissolve that sticky corn syrup.
Set the pot on the stove over high heat. Cook, without stirring.
The mixture will come to a tall boil, then subside. Keep the heat on high and resist the urge to stir (you’ll form larger sugar crystals, which will make lumps in your caramel). Boil until you hit 340 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
When the mixture reaches 340 degrees, take the pot off the heat. (Be really careful with this part. Boiling sugar is like napalm.) Your mixture should be a light caramel color, kind of like light maple syrup.
Add the butter, cream, and creme fraiche to the pot.
Whisk the ingredients in with the boiling sugar. The mixture will bubble up dramatically as you stir.
Then it will subside.
Whisk until the mixture is uniform in consistency, like this:
Pour the caramel into your cooled tart shell.
It will just about fill the tart to the top. That’s just fine (it only gets a thin layer of ganache on top).
Let the tart cool to room temperature on the counter, then transfer it to the fridge until the caramel is quite firm. This will take about 4-5 hours. The surface of the tart should feel—firm to the touch—like a marshmallow…firm, but not hard…when you press on it gently with a finger.
Part 3: Make the chocolate ganache
When the caramel is cold and very firm, make the chocolate ganache. Roughly chop up your chocolate. Put it in a heatproof bowl and set it aside while you heat up the cream.
Put the cream in a 1-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil.
Pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate.
Let it sit for maybe a minute to start softening up the chocolate.
Then stir it with a spatula or wooden spoon until the chocolate is completely melted.
After a minute or two of stirring, all your chocolate should be melted, and your mixture should look about like this:
Pour the warm ganache on top of the caramel filling.
Spread it around gently with a rubber spatula. (Spread it gently across the surface of the caramel. Try not to press down too hard.)
Tuck the chocolate up to the edges, so that it touches the crust.
Your finished tart should look about like this:
Mmmmm….(Resist the urge to dive in and swim around in your creation.)
Pop the tart into the fridge until the ganache is totally set, about 4-5 hours. (If you don’t wait, it will ooze a lot when you cut it. I learned the hard way…)
Serve and enjoy!
When the ganache is cool and totally set, slice the tart into wedges, and sprinkle with a few grains of French grey sea salt.