It's that time of the month again...and no, I don't mean THAT time (or at least, if I did, I wouldn't post about it here), rather, the time where the exact same identical recipe starts suspiciously popping up on blogs around the globe.
Oh yeah. It's time for Daring Bakers.
This month's recipe was a very fun Milk Chocolate Caramel Tart. I was super stoked to make it, because I don't often stretch my baking boundaries, and since this recipe was incorporating caramel (woohoo!) AND chocolate, I didn't see how it could possibly not be awesome. Well, read on....
Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart
Daring Bakers - August
This tart starts with pastry. I freaking hate pastry.
Chocolate Shortbread Pastry
Note: The Chocolate Shortbread pastry can make 3 tart shells.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
To make 3 tart shells: 9 ½ inches (24 cm) square
or 10 inches (26 cm round)
1 cup (250g ) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 g) confectioners’ sugar
½ cup (50 g) ground hazelnuts
2 level teaspoons (5 g) ground cinnamon
4 ½ cups (400 g) cake flour
2 ½ teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons (10 g) cocoa powder
A day ahead
1. In a mixing bowl of a food processor, cream the butter. (Leslie's Note - this is totally and completely different from any other pastry recipe I've made....they usually call for uber cold butter, so it stays in little bits and makes things flakey. This is strange)
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, the ground hazelnuts, and the cinnamon, and mix together. This part I can totally do. Doesn't it look nice?
3. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing constantly
4. Sift in the flour, the baking powder, and the cocoa powder, and mix well.
5. Form a ball with the dough, cover in plastic wrap, and chill overnight.
So I made a big ole ball outta the pastry. And it felt kinda strange. Almost plastic-like. This should have been another clue.
Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Refrigeration time: 1 hour
½ lb (250 g) chocolate shortbread pastry (see recipe above)
1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 g) heavy cream (30-40 percent butterfat) or crème fraiche
¼ cup (50 g) butter
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 ½ tablespoons (15 g) flour
1 ¼ cups (300 g) whipping cream
½ lb (250 g) milk chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 325 °F (160 °C).
2. Line the baking pan with the chocolate shortbread pastry and bake blind for 15 minutes.
So I had a little fun with this simple little step. Witness.....I rolled out the pastry and it looked just about perfect (especially considering that it was I who was doing this....and I hate making pastry...
So then, culinary genius that I am, I decided to just pick the whole thing up on the waxed paper and toss it in the pan. I didn't want it to stretch and break while I was lifting it, so I figured this would minimize the whole stretchy misshapen pastry issue. Luckly, hubs was on hand to snap away. Witness again.....
No, thine eyes do not deceive thee. That really is the pastry utterly and completely disintegrating. Don't worry, there's an even better picture...
Oh yeah. It was bad. I think it just *might* be worse than the whole charred shortbread incident...not sure though....
At any rate, I eventually squashed it into the pan, and came up with this:
Clearly, not that pretty, a little thick and clumsy, but WHATEVER. At least it's one congruous mass, which is more than we can say for the rolled out version, eh? I lined the pastry shell with foil and weighted it down with uncooked brown rice to keep it from puffing. The bottom line is that this pastry recipe sucks....it's not chocolatey enough to be chocolate and the cinnamon needs to be BANISHED. Blech.
3. In a saucepan, caramelize 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar using the dry method until it turns a golden caramel color. Incorporate the heavy cream or crème fraiche and then add butter. Mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool.
This recipe writer is a total minimalist. The "dry" method means that you are basically heating a pan full of sugar and crossing all the extremities that it doesn't ignite.
The jury seems to be out on whether one should or should not touch the caramel while it brown...I couldn't resist, because I was nervous that the bottom parts would scorch and burn before the top had even melted. So ended up with this:
Meh. It eventually melted and didn't explode, much to my elation. Woot for that. Thankfully I had been warned about the thermodynamics that would ensue with the next step. Cold whipping cream and bubbling hot caramel make for explosive bedfellows, so I thankfully used a large enough pot to contain all the excitement. I was still completely freaked out though, so that's my ugly oven mitt you see blurred in the foreground.
At this point (once it all calmed down), it was totally one of the best things I've ever tasted in my life. I would willingly eat it with a spoon. OMG. GOOD.
4. In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs with the extra egg yolk, then incorporate the flour.
5. Pour this into the cream-caramel mixture and mix thoroughly.
This part was relatively straighforward. No further drama.
6. Spread it out in the tart shell and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
I'm not sure if it was really supposed to be spreading consistency, because mine was very much a pouring kinda mixture. But it looked nice.
Though it didn't set up until about 30 minutes in the oven.
7. Prepare the milk chocolate mousse: beat the whipping cream until stiff. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or in a bain-marie, and fold it gently into the whipped cream.
So I totally ate at least 100g of milk chocolate at this step. I'm normally a dark chocolate whore, but this stuff just beckoned me with its creamy goodness. It's pretty easy to prepare. I melted the chocolate in the micro:
And folded it into the cream. It ended up a touch grainy, but is anyone seriously going to complain about milk chocolate grains in the midst of billowy clouds of whipping cream? If they do, send them my way....
8. Pour the chocolate mousse over the cooled caramel mixture, smoothing it with a spatula. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.
This step makes me seriously wonder if buddy who wrote this recipe f'ed up his verbs. I POURED the caramel into the pan, but I definitely had to SPREAD the mousse. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....mousse......
Thrilled with my handiwork and subsequent kitchen goddess status, I experimented with the ultra narrow depth of field in my new lens...yeah I know...overkill.
Melt ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar in a saucepan until it reaches an amber color. Pour it onto waxed paper laid out on a flat surface. Leave to cool. Break it into small fragments and stick them lightly into the top of the tart.
I had a little fun with this step. I used some of my leftover ground hazelnuts to make some of my caramel into a sort of hazelnut brittle. It was darn good.
I also had fun with the regular caramel (which made cooler shapes):
And bashing it all up with a meat mallet was surprisingly therapeutic (I learned the hard way last time that you don't mess with caramelized sugar....)
Of course, like last time I did the DB challenge, this one was also to survive a 200 km trek (different place this time), so I packed it up to go!
Under the cottage country setting sun, a few rays splashed their way across my cake, further melting the top sugary layer.....
The components of this cake are interesting. I will NEVER EVER EVER EVER AS LONG AS I LIVE be making that crust again. I hated working with it, and worse, I despised the cinnamon. It was WAY too strong and out of place.
That said, I loved the caramel filling. It was amazing. It was like eating a werthers, except I wasn't wondering how its creamy goodness had been made indefinitely shelf stable. I would make the filling again, in a regular pâte sucrée, and top with whipped cream. And it would make me a hero to whoever ate it.
Last, the milk chocolate mousse was yummy, but I personally found it was lost in this recipe. Don't get me wrong, I scooped it out of the bowl like chocolate was going out of style and I just found the last sale, but it's relatively sweet and not super chocolatey, so it wasn't enough to stand up to the assertive cinnamon and caramel flavours. It would also be good in its own tart, or as a filling in a really decadent chocolate cake.
And I totally want that caramel filling again right now.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check out what the other daring bakers created at the blogroll: http://daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com/
Can't wait to see what next month's challenge is!
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