Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Kings and Queens of Tarts

Another Daring Baker challenge my friends...a tart. Veron and Patricia have given us a most yummy challenge in the form of a Milk Chocolate Caramel Tart from Eric Kayser’s Sweet and Savory Tarts. The recipe can be found at the bottom of this post.

Due to lots of commitments at the end of the month, I baked this tart early in the month, so mine included the cinnamon in the crust (which became optional later) and the dry method of making the caramel (which also became one of two options later).

Learning new skill, or revisiting old ones is part of the joy of these challenges. I'd never made caramel using the dry method, so I learned how, with a little experimentation (see below). Since the recipe was brief and assumed some experience in making the various parts, we were instructed to "read between the lines" in making the tart. Very glad to have made this recipe. It was rich, but delicious and surprisingly light. Despite my best intentions to give some of it away, I'm afraid that Sweetie and I ate most of it ourselves over a period of 5 days. The tart tasted better to us each day, especially the caramel, which got more and more gooey.

The August challenge for the ever growing ranks of the Daring Bakers is a European style tart, thin and rich and elegant. The crust includes ground hazelnuts, cocoa, cinnamon, butter and confectioners sugar. Its texture is crisp and cookie-like. Inside this crisp, not too sweet crust is a layer of very sweet caramel topped with a frothy mousse of whipped cream and melted milk chocolate.

My caramel is soft but not runny and so the combination of textures works well. The flavor components are another matter. Both the caramel and the mousse are fairly mild and dairy flavored. The crust has a very strong cinnamon flavor and, less so, a cocoa flavor. The nuts give negligible flavor to the dish. If I were to do it again, I’d leave out the cinnamon, but maybe put some ground dark chocolate into the crust instead, or a good shot of vanilla. With some whipped cream decorations around the edge, the tart is pretty and perfect to serve to some favored friends.

I learned some new skills while making this tart and revisited some, too. I used a hand rotary grinder to grind the nuts, which is something I learned from a German friend of mine. It produced a finer texture, almost like a flour, than what you get with the food processor. One thing I made sure to do was to really beat the dough mixture well at each point. That resulted in a nice, plastic-like texture which made it easy to form into a crust in the tart pan. The recipe makes enough dough for 4 tarts, so if I were to do it again I’d cut the recipe for the crust in half. Blind baking by pricking the dough with a fork, then lining the tart with parchment, then filling it with dry beans (which I save for this purpose) resulted in a nice thin crust. Once I removed the beans and parchment, I put the tart crust back into the turned off oven for 15 minutes to crisp up the bottom.

The caramel presented even more of a challenge. I made my tart early in the month before a different version of making the caramel had surfaced. In some ways I’m glad, because I learned so much this way.

I had no trouble turning the sugar into caramelized sugar, but when I added the cream, which had been warmed a bit, the whole mixture seized up. Panic would have ensued without prior assurances by another Daring Baker that if this happened, to keep stirring and cooking until it all was smooth again. Well, I added the butter and tried that, but grew impatient. After straining the liquids from the solids, I returned the solids to the pot and, over high heat, let it liquefy again. Once that happened, still over high heat, I whisked the liquid into it, a little at a time. That worked well. The mixture thickened up a bit. When it came time to do the eggs, I added a tablespoon of flour to the eggs and saw that there were lots of lumps. I strained that mixture, too. Learning from my mistakes, I ended up incorporating some of the mixed eggs into the rest of the flour rather than adding the flour to the eggs. The resulting mixture easily mixed into the cooled caramel mixture. Then I poured it into the cooled tart pan and baked it 15 minutes. It looked perfect.

I let the tart cool overnight in the fridge and made the mousse the next day. Melting the milk chocolate in the microwave was easy. One minute at a time at half power, stir, another minute at half power, stir, and so on until its all melted. The cream whipped up in the chilled Kitchen Aide mixer just fine. I folded some of it into the slightly cooled melted milk chocolate to lighten the chocolate, then folded that into the rest of the whipped cream. Even so, I had a few little flecks of unincorporated milk chocolate, but that didn’t affect the taste. I suspect that if I had cooled the chocolate just a bit more that there would not have been any flecks.

I smoothed the mousse over the caramel as well as I could, then refrigerated it for about 4 hours. Then I removed the tart from the pan and decorated it with little whipped cream starting around the rim and a few in the center. For serving, I used a serrated small knife to make sure that I could cut the crust. It was a hit, aside from the strong taste of cinnamon. When I just tasted the caramel and mousse together, it was even clearer that I didn’t care for the cinnamon flavor at all with this tart.

Glad that Veron and Patricia chose this luscious Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart for August. I learned that my idea of incorporating something was the exact opposite of what the recipe said. I stayed cool when my caramel turned bad and celebrated when it was saved. I barely resisted eating all the left over mousse in the bowl and did not resist having a second piece. Delicious! Even more delicious the next day.

Read all about how each King and Queen of Tarts (Daring Bakers) made their tart by visiting the blogroll

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart
Daring Bakers Challenge #9: August 2007
Hosts: Veron (Veronica's Test Kitchen) and Patricia (Technicolor Kitchen)
Post Date: Wednesday, August 29
Quantity: One (1) 9" Square or one (1) 10" Round tartChocolate Shortbread PastryNote: The Chocolate Shortbread pastry can make 3 tart shells. So, if you want to cut that recipe into thirds then do so but Veron and Patricia are not promising it will scale down properly.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Refrigeration: overnight
To make 3 tart shells: 9 ½ inches (24 cm) squareor 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
2 eggs
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.
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, the ground hazelnuts, and the cinnamon, and mix together
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.

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.
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.
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.
6. Spread it out in the tart shell and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
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.
8. Pour the chocolate mousse over the cooled caramel mixture, smoothing it with a spatula. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.

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.

Caramel Fragments:
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.


  1. Gorgeous gorgeous tart, Elle! Hubbs and I liked it a lil too much as well. hee!


  2. Anonymous12:07 PM

    Elle! your tart looks terrific! I think a lot of Db's favorite including mine is making the caramel layer. I agree with you that with each challenge is a learning of new skills or revisiting old ones.

  3. This looks lovely, Elle!. I just love the cute blobs of cream. Great job!

  4. You did a great job there Elle, well done =)

  5. I agree, it was better the next day.
    Beautiful tart.

  6. Wonderful job Elle! I love how you decorated the tart!!

  7. "Learning new skills and revisiting old ones" that's what I love about the DB! Not to mention the boost of self confidence (now, let's hold on to that this time)
    You are right Elle, this tart tastes even better after a few days of refrigerating, which makes it an ideal tart to bake in advance. Gorgeous Tart!

  8. Yum! I just want to take a big spoon to that pile of chocolate cream (in your first picture). Nicely done.

  9. Your tart looks perfect! Sounds like you were able to make it through the problems to create a wonderful tart!

  10. I think you are right - some vanilla and maybe a bit of salt in the crust would have made it better. I wish I had thought to keeping going when my caramel seized up instead of throwing it away and starting again!

  11. Looks like your caramel set up quite nicely! Lovely tart.

  12. This looks very very nice! I love how you decorate the tart.

  13. I love that last photo. Makes me want to help myself to a slice!

  14. Your tart looks very tasty. I like how thin you made the crust. Your layers look so perfect. Wendy

  15. Wow, your tart looks seriously professional! I really admire your caramel tenacity; way to keep at it!

  16. Anonymous6:38 PM

    That is a most regal tart, indeed!

  17. Gorgeous! I want to make it again with some cinnamon in the crust and salted butter for the caramel. Ours were without spice and it was pretty bland. I am not surprised you guys ate most of it, we did too, just because of the caramel!!

  18. Your layers of caramel and mousse are perfect Ellie. Well done.

  19. Woo Hoo! What a lovely tart! Well done Elle and like you, we all enjoyed it immensely. Much nicer the next day and the day after too. Very nicely done! :)

  20. Your tart looks fantastic and so yummy! Well done. I like the whipped cream on the top, adds contrast.

  21. Well done! Your tart is beautiful! I love the cream border.

  22. Wonderful tart Elle. I loved all of the elements separately I just found it too sweet all together. Saying that there's some in the fridge as we only made it yesterday and I'm more than willing to eat it with a cup of coffee - LOL!

  23. What a great job.

    Problem solving is a great skill in itself I think. If it doesn't go exactly right, being able to find a way to still make it work. I think confidence also plays a big part in this. Well done.

  24. A beautifully decorated effort. I've seen several now and I'm still going - wow I could SO eat that with each one.

  25. I really like the way you decorated your cake Elle, it's very pretty!

  26. Your tart looks great Elle! Sounds like you more than earned a piece (or two or three or four) of it after all your efforts.

  27. Nice job! I bet it tasted wonderful with whipped cream!

  28. Simply lovely, Elle. The piped whipped cream edge adds a touch of elegance :)

  29. Lovely! Your mousse looks very creamy, yum!

    I have to say that this is the first dessert I perhaps did NOT eat alone at home with my husband... hee hee.

  30. wow your tart is beautiful! such even layers...great job on the challenge!

  31. Keep all other parts of the tart, just give me the mousse :)

  32. It did just keep getting better until it was all gone. Elle yours is beautiful!! Great job.

  33. How beautiful your tart turned out!
    I think I may have to revisit this tart and see what else I can do with it!

  34. Just finished visiting the other 50+ blogs of fellow Daring Bakers. SO many talented cooks. Lots of fun.
    Thankss to all of you who visited and commented. It was a terrific challenge. Go Daring Bakers!

  35. Oh my dear Elle,
    It looks delicious. I love the whipped cream! Hope your well.

  36. Elle, this looks fan-tab-u-lous! :) Great job.

  37. I love how you incorporate earlier "lessons learned" in each new challenge -- it shows your growth and helps your readers to grow in experience as well. Congratulations on another successful challenge!

  38. Well Elle, you did great once again! Your keep to it attitude every month is such an inspiration for us!! I also liked the contrast of white and chocolate piping.