And like that, we're back. Or rather, baker-of-ages Sabra is, which is a great portend for the days ahead. Welcome, 2013. We're going to eat real well before you're up.
I hope you and your dear ones had some good holidays. We did. We, in the snow. We did.
This looks so delicious. (Also, I just made these--these--too and now I'm pretty much full-on-chocolate-caramel-sea-salt-always.)
A few years ago, my Mom visited me in Madison, WI and she took my partner J and I out for an unforgettable dinner at the Underground Kitchen. One of the most memorable parts of the meal for me was a chocolate caramel tart sprinkled with sea salt and baked in a rectangular tart pan, such that our slice was a rustic hard-edged corner rather than the iconic pie shape. The dessert was incredible: a chocolate shortbread crust, with chewy caramel in the center, a layer of dark bitter chocolate on top, and the piquant crunch of salt to offset the sweetness. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Sadly, the Underground Kitchen has since burned down and seemingly with it, this amazing dessert.
A self-proclaimed foodie now residing in Boston, I receive at least five to six emails each day from various sources with recipes to tempt my taste buds and baking urges. A few months ago, a recipe arrived in my Inbox from Saveur that appeared to be exactly the recipe for the Underground Kitchen dessert. I wanted to make it immediately, but managed to hold out until the holidays so that J and I weren’t consuming the whole tart on our own. I began making it on Christmas Eve and brought it to an Orphan’s Christmas Dinner in Jamaica Plain (known as “JP” to the locals) where it was thoroughly enjoyed in all its decadence. Happily, it tasted just like I remembered it from the Underground Kitchen, which is to say: it was amazing. Admittedly, it’s a project, but the result far outweighed the time it took to create it. And who doesn’t love the combination of chocolate, caramel and salt? I only wish the Tuesday dinner folks in Madison could have tasted it. Enjoy!
Chocolate Caramel Tart
1½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
10 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed and softened
½ cup plus 2 tbsp confectioners' (powdered) sugar
2 egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups white sugar
3 tbsp light corn syrup
¼ tsp kosher salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter
6 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp crème fraiche (I used whole-milk Greek yogurt, FAGE-brand Total 2%)
½ cup heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Giradelli-brand and chopped it in a food processor)
Gray sea salt for garnish (I used fleur de sel)
For the crust: Heat the oven to 350˚. Using a whisk, combine the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set it aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Mix in the yolks and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients. Transfer the dough to a 9" fluted tart pan (or a rectangular tart pan of similar volume) with a removable bottom and press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate the unbaked crust for 30 minutes. Prick the tart shell all over with a fork and bake it until it’s cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer the crust to a rack (still in the tart pan) and let it cool.
For the caramel: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 6 tbsp water and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook it over medium heat, without stirring, until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 340°. (Note: I spent a lot of time reading the reviews for this recipe and found much disagreement about which temperature was correct. Not having a candy thermometer myself, I followed one of the reviews, which instructed me to look for a light amber color, and then turn the temperature to low until the color becomes dark amber. For me, the mixture turned dark amber only in some places and seemed to be getting too dark, so I ended up swirling the mixture to distribute the dark spots until the color was evenly dark amber). Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, cream, and crème fraîche (or Greek yogurt), until smooth. The mixture will bubble up, but the bubbles will settle as it is stirred. Pour the caramel into the cooled tart shell and let it cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Refrigerate the crust and caramel until firm, 4–5 hours. (Note: It might help to begin this project the day before the finished product is needed to allow ample time for resting the layers).
For the ganache: Bring the cream to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Put the chocolate into a medium bowl and pour in the hot cream. Let the mixture sit for 1 minute, and then stir it slowly with a rubber spatula until smooth. Pour the ganache evenly over the tart (Note: I found that I needed to spread the ganache with the rubber spatula and decided to go for a more rustic look, rather than trying to get it completely smooth). Refrigerate the tart until set, 4–5 hours. Sprinkle the tart with sea salt, slice it, and serve it chilled. (Note: We found it difficult to slice the tart neatly when it was completely chilled. It might be useful to let it sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes before cutting it. Also, the caramel began slowly seeping out of the cut sides, as it warmed up. This did not affect the taste or texture of the caramel, but next time I might try cooking the caramel slightly longer to see if it sets up more firmly).