It’s been so cold here these past two weeks. The kind of weather which makes you want to stay inside and eat comfort food. Unless…you can go ice skating! This is THE activity when the canals freeze up. I had a bit of ice fever this past weekend as well and went ice skating with my dad. The signs at the canal said ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Enter at own risk’, because the ice wasn’t thick enough in some places. Still, that didn’t stop us and the other 100 people or so from having some fun on the ice. The Dutch are well-known for lots of things, obedience isn’t one of them. A few laps around the shoveled natural ice rink and, as if that wasn’t daring enough, my dad suggested we’d skate to the windmill and the ‘koek and zopie’ stand (literally a cookie and drink stand). With no clear path because of the snow, we skated to the koek and zopie stand for some hot chocolate. Could it be more Dutch? Having a hot chocolate on ice skates with a windmill in the background. I think not! But, it is pretty awesome when you think about it.
Anything that’s hot or has chocolate (preferably both, like hot chocolate) is a winner with these kind of temperatures. Then again, chocolate in my book is always a winner. Not to speak of chocolate and caramel. Mars bars are the first thing that come to mind. Sometimes I really crave them. The silky milk chocolate and the soft caramel are just such a delight. The recipe posted today kind of reminded me of it. Although, it’s definitely more decadent. The ganache is made of dark chocolate which creates a fuller flavour and the chocolate crust gives this extra texture.
I’ve been wanting to make this recipe from Saveur for ages, but recipes with caramel tend to scare me. Not just the failing part and ending up with something black and solid in the pan. It’s the actual pain I’ve had from caramel recipes gone totally wrong. I once tried spun caramel as part of a decoration on a dessert. Don’t ask me how, but I managed to get three fingers burnt on each hand. Very very painful. So, whenever I see a caramel recipe, my sore blistery fingers are the first thing I think of (kind of Pavlov right?). This weekend, I practiced my caramel making skills once again and it went quite well (Extinction! I should have thought of that sooner being a psychologist and all).
Chocolate caramel tart
So many people have commented that their caramel burnt way before they hit 340 F. With an accurate sugar thermometer you should really get to 340 F without having problems. If you’re not sure about the accuracy of your thermometer, make sure to watch the colour of the boiling sugar mixture. It can be difficult to see the actual colour, because of all the bubbling going on. I took a teaspoon of the mixture every so often and dropped it into a glass of cold water. You really want dark golden in this recipe, not yellow. The mixture will smell just a tad bit burnt. After reading all the comments about the caramel leaking out of the tart at room temperature, I decided to try reheat the caramel back to 250 F after adding the cream and butter. Even though the taste was great, the caramel was just a bit too hard (some bits more like toffee). So my advice would be to follow the recipe as is and just keep it refrigerated. Next time I make this, I will make the crust just a bit thinner and make a little less ganache for the topping. This will make the caramel stand out more, like it deserves.
For the crust
- 1 1⁄2 cups flour
- 1⁄4 cup plus 1 tbsp. dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
- 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and softened
- 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tbsp confectioners sugar
- 2 egg yolks, preferably at room temperature
- 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the caramel
- 1 1⁄2 cups sugar
- 3 tbsp. light corn syrup
- 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
- 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 6 tbsp. heavy cream
- 1 tbsp. crème fraîche
For the ganache
- 1⁄2 cup heavy cream
- 4 oz (113 gr) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- Gray sea salt for garnish
1. Make the crust: Heat oven to 350˚F (177˚C). Combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until mixture is pale and fluffy; mix in yolks and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Transfer dough to a 9″ (23 cm) fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and press dough evenly into bottom and sides of pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prick the tart shell all over with a fork and bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool.
2. Make the caramel: In a 1-qt. saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 6 tbsp. water and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 340°F (171 °C). Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter, cream, and crème fraîche (the mixture will bubble up) until smooth. Pour caramel into cooled tart shell and let cool slightly; refrigerate until firm, 4–5 hours.
3. Make the ganache: Bring cream to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Put chocolate into a medium bowl and pour in hot cream; let sit for 1 minute, then stir slowly with a rubber spatula until smooth. Pour ganache evenly over tart and refrigerate until set, 4–5 hours. Sprinkle tart with sea salt, slice, and serve chilled.