April 22, 2012

Further Experiments From The Castle Secondmost Kitchens: Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

Saturday's Dickensian atmosphere all but demanded that one take advantage of the dropping temperature and make something really indulgent.

This is what we in the social sciences refer to as "rationalization."

This recipe for Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart has been making the rounds of late, and it seemed like an opportune time to give it a whirl.

Of course, I had to tinker with the recipe. While pastry knows no more obsessive fan than Yr. Obdt. Svt., this filling practically cried out for a graham cracker crust. (Maybe it just seemed like a giant candy bar waiting to be made into the wrongest s'more ever?)

I decided to go for the crumb crust, as well as to take the slightly risky route of making the tart in a regular pie plate. I'd love to tell you that I had some clever reasoning for that part, but the real motivation for using a pie plate was that I have no idea where the springform pan is. Last time I saw it, it was looking pretty rough, and I think we may have chucked it before moving. In any case... you go to war with the bakeware you have.

So, I whipped up my favorite graham cracker crust in a few minutes flat--yet another reason to be thankful for food processors--and patted the crumbs into a pie plate. Then I set about caramelizing the sugar. While that was cooking, I readied the dairy products to be added once the sugar was off the stove--butter and cream, plus sour cream subbing for the specified crème fraîche. (Yes, yes, I know.)

It's good fun making any kind of caramel concoction, because you get to watch the tempest in a saucepan that results from dumping alien substances into molten sugar syrup. In with the butter... WHOOOSH. A magnificent roiling. The sugar swells with anger at the intrusion. In with the cream... another, slightly more subdued uproar. Finally, in with the sour cream; relative calm. And so the democratizing effect of the melting pot again works its magic.

I poured the caramel into the waiting pie crust. It was then that the reality set in that this was a pie plate full of candy.

The caramel set up relatively quickly thanks to the otherwise unpleasant turn in the weather. Once the filling was mostly cooled, I started to make the chocolate ganache. Easy peasy. I poured the chocolate on top of the tart, using a wire strainer to catch any stray unmelted bits (and there were a couple).

And then, the agonizing wait.

I maybe jumped the gun a bit.  Okay, I definitely have no patience whatsoever when confronted with a pie plate full of homemade caramel. The ganache slid all about when I cut the first slim slices. (Incidentally, I also decided not to salt the top, because even I was starting to think this was excessive.) I made a little foil dam to keep the sliding in check and figured I'd extract a nice photogenic slice in the morning.

Let's just say the springform pan would have been a bad idea after all. By morning, the sides of the pie had oozed in--not disastrously, but enough to disturb the formerly smooth chocolate veneer. The most glamorous slice I could get looked a little something like this:
Seriously, this is an excessively large slice.

So much for my hopes for glamorous-looking blog fodder. But it does taste delicious, no doubt... it's every bit as rich as it looks, and it will be consumed enthusiastically (if in small, small slivers).

If I make this again, I'll probably minimize the mess and do individual servings in a style similar to a pecan tassie. I also grudgingly admit that the graham cracker crust was too sweet for this filling--I'm still not digging the idea of the original chocolate crust, but a good buttery shortbread base would probably be ideal.

And this is definitely, boldface and underline, NOT summer food. If you feel like something ludicrously rich to console you through the forecasted late-April snowstorm, this could be your ticket.

Salted Chocolate Carmel Tart (Serious Eats)