Chocolate - caramel - chocolate - caramel.
Have I gone ga-ga? No!!
It's the end of the month and that means we unveil another incredible Daring Bakers challenge for the rest of the blogoshpere. This time a fantastic tart that tantalizes my chocolate addiction. Paired with caramel, it simply goes down as the most extravagant creations to date.
This month it was the beautiful Veron co-hosting with the lovely Patricia who chose the challenge. A tart taken from Eric Kayser's hot cookbook Sweet and Savory Tarts. After I made this tart, I went out and got myself a copy of this and believe me it is hot!
The tart is a simple layering of a chocolate crust flavored with cinnamon, layered with a wonderful soft caramel, then topped with a fluffy chocolate mousse layer and finally, sprinkled with crunchy caramel fragments.
Chocolate - caramel - chocolate - caramel.
Out of this world!
As is always the case we were allowed a few modifications, otherwise everyone had to stick to the recipe given by Veron and Patricia.
- Caramel fragment toppings were optional but make sure that the caramel-cream and chocolate layers are true to the recipe
- If we had no luck with the dry method of making the caramel, then we were able to use the alternate method shown at the end of the recipe.
- The cinnamon can be eliminated if we did not like the spice.
- Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient not available or cost prohibitive in our region
This time I waited a while to go ahead with the challenge. Normally I've had the opportunity to finish it off on the first-second week but this time there were a few other things that needed tending to.
I realized there were a few advantages and disadvantages to both sides.
Completing the challenge earlier in the month allowed me to relax, sit back and help out others in the group with what I had experienced. Disadvantage here was that you had to learn from your own experiences. Doing it a little later on in the month meant that others were able to help out and you used their experience not to make the same mistakes. Disadvantage was that you are a nervous wreck by the time you decide to make the cake because of all the horror stories you have read on the DB blog!
In the end though I think many of us completed this challenge with success. Without much ado - I present the Daring Baker challenge for August 2007.
Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart
Recipe Quantity: One (1) 9" Square or one (1) 10" Round tart
Chocolate Shortbread Pastry
Note: The Chocolate Shortbread pastry can make 3 tart shells. If you would like to cut that recipe into thirds then you may do so, however there is no guarantee it will scale down properly.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
250g (1 cup ) unsalted butter, softened
150g plus 2 tablespoons (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
50g (½ cup) ground hazelnuts
2 level teaspoons ground cinnamon
400g (4 ½ cups) cake flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
A day ahead
In a mixing bowl of a food processor, cream the butter. Add the confectioners’ sugar, the ground hazelnuts, and the cinnamon, and mix together. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing constantly.
Sift in the flour, the baking powder, and the cocoa powder, and incorporate well. Knead the dough with your hands and form a ball, cover in plastic wrap, and chill overnight.
This was the easiest method we've used to prepar dough in the DB challenge. The dough was made within minutes and I really thought that I did something wrong because it was so easy. LOL!
You will notice that the chocolate dough is very soft, but don't worry it hardens well after refrigerating.
Milk Chocolate and Caramel Layers
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Refrigeration time: 1 hour
250g (½ lb) chocolate shortbread pastry (see recipe above)
300g (1 ½ cups) granulated sugar
250g (1 cup) heavy cream (30-40 percent butterfat) or crème fraiche
50g (¼ cup) butter
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
300g (1 ¼ cups) whipping cream
250g (½ lb) milk chocolate
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (325 °F). Line the baking pan with the chocolate shortbread pastry and bake blind for 15 minutes.
I did not have any trouble rolling the dough out, what gave me a bit of problems was trying to get the dough into the pan. I had floured the counter top well but it kept cracking up on me every time I tried lifting it to line the pan. In the end I managed it well, just had to use a bit of patchwork for some sections of the crust.
In a saucepan, caramelize 200 g (1 cup) 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 is the method I used rather than the alternative method mentioned below. I took on the challenge head on. I had no trouble melting the sugar. After reading several comments and statements on the DB blog I kept my cream out to get it to room temperature. However, after adding it to the melted sugar, the caramel went rock hard. But the trick was to keep it on the heat, stirring continuously. Soon I had the most awesome colored cream caramel mixture with no lumps. I dipped my finger for a taste - heaven was in my saucepan!
In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs with the extra egg yolk, then incorporate the flour. Pour this into the cream-caramel mixture and mix thoroughly.
Before doing this my advice here would be to make sure the caramel has cooled down considerably. Then once ready temper the egg mixture. Simply take a few tablespoons of the caramel mixture and add it to the egg mixture, stirring all the time. Once the egg mixture has almost reached the temperature of the caramel mixture simply pour the egg mixture into the saucepan.
Spread it out in the tart shell and bake for 15-20 minutes until the caramel has set. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Prepare the milk chocolate mousse by beating 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.
Pour the chocolate mousse over the cooled caramel mixture, smoothing it with a spatula. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.
My mousse was a bit on the thin side and I was a bit worried if it would set well. It did eventually but took more than an hour. It was OK though as I was serving it the next day.
Melt 100g (½ cup) 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.
My word of advice here would be to do this on each slice of cake separately. I stored the caramel bits in an airtight container and just before serving sprinkled the slice with the fragments. I noticed that if you spread the fragments all over the cake and then refrigerate the caramel kind of disintegrates into the cake. Leaves you with outlines of where the bits were but no crunchy bits to bite.
Alternate Caramel Method:
If you have problems with the dry method, you may use this method.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
Set mixture in a pot over medium-high heat and stir slowly. When the mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring and leave it alone. Wait till desired color is attained .
Proceed with the rest of the recipe.
A fantastic recipe. It was fun and easy to make. In between the stages I even was able to clean the entire house top to bottom!! I enjoyed this recipe the most and would call it my current favorite. The caramel was lovely - ooey and gooey just like I imagined it to be. The mousse was fluffy and light. Together it melted in the mouth like silk.
The only bit of a down was the extreme cinnamon flavor in the crust. It really stood out. I have nothing against cinnamon, being an Indian have had it in all sorts of things that most people would not pair it with. But it was always just an hint. In this tart it was quite over-powering. Another thing about the tart is that it is amazingly filling. A little piece and it's all you can take. I brought this as dessert to a pot luck barbecue party at one of our neighbors' and served it in little square bite sizes. This was the ideal way as people were able to indulge in it a little more than just one huge piece. All in all it came off with everyone really well and I know many of the guests will be tuning in today to check out the recipe.
Would I make this again?
Yes, actually I already have plans to make this again for another party next month. This time I will cut down the cinnamon amount so that it's not as intense. There was nothing about this recipe I did not enjoy. The only shock second I had was when the caramel went hard as soon as the cream hit it, but I relaxed after it all started melt into the right consistency again.
What did I learn from this challenge?
That a food processor is my best friend when it comes to making dough. I have been one that always kneads with the hands or uses the kneading hooks on my hand mixer. The food processor has been used only a very few times to actually make dough. This challenge reminded me that I should use it more often.
I thank both Veron and Patricia for choosing this brilliant challenge for us and also for answering all questions so promptly. If you would like to get more of a chocolate and caramel rush then I would advice you to work your way down the list over at the Daring Bakers' Blogroll.
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