Friday, April 15, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Almond Tartlets

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you probably know how much I adore the combination of caramel and chocolate. Add some toasted almonds, and my salivary glands go 

into overdrive and my body begins to quiver.  Combining these flavors almost guarantees a successful outcome when making a dessert, whether it’s in the form of a cake, ice cream or individually 

sized tartlets, as in this week’s feature recipe. I originally created a full-size tart version of this recipe for Fine Cooking magazine a few years ago, and this is the pint-sized tartlet version. It’s a tender-

crusted tart with a buttery caramel and toasted almond filling, topped with a rich dark chocolate ganache. At room temperature the caramel filling is luxuriously runny, making a full-size tart 

somewhat tricky to slice, so the individual serving tartlet is an ideal form for this particular recipe. I like to eat these tartlets chilled, so that the caramel and ganache has a little bite to it, but they’re also

delicious at room temperature. If you prefer to make a whole tart instead of tartlets, use a 9 ½-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Chocolate Caramel Almond Tartlets

Makes nine 3 ½-inch tartlets

Tart Dough:
1 ½ cups (181 g) all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (43 g) cake flour
3 tablespoons (37 g) granulated sugar
¼ plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes and frozen for at least 20 minutes
3 tablespoons shortening
3 tablespoons ice water

Caramel Almond Layer:
3/4 cup (90 g) blanched whole almonds
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (116 g) heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate truffle layer:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup (77 g) heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the tart dough:
1. Place the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse few times to combine. Add the butter pieces and shortening and toss lightly with a spoon to coat them with flour. Blend the fat and flour with about five 1-second pulses or until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal with some of the butter pieces the size of peas. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture and process continuously until the dough begins to clump together.  Do not over-process; the dough should not form a ball. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into a 4-inch wide disc. Wrap disc in plastic wrap and chill until firm enough to roll, about 30 minutes.
2. Place the unwrapped dough disc on a work surface that has been lightly dusted with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into 13-inch x 11-inch rectangle, lifting and rotating the dough often, while dusting the work surface and dough lightly with flour as necessary. Arrange 2 rows of 3 3 1/2-inch mini-tartlets pans right next to each other. Roll the dough up on the rolling pin and unroll it over the tartlet pans. Gently press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the pans. Roll the pin over the top of the pans to trim off the excess dough. Gather up the dough scraps and reroll them to line the remaining 3 tartlet pans. Lightly prick the bottom of the dough with a fork 3 or 4 times in each pan. Refrigerate the dough in the pans for 20 minutes to firm up the dough.
3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Right before baking, line the dough in each pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and cover with pie weights or dried beans. Place the tartlet pans on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Carefully lift the foil (along with the weights) out of the tartlet pans and bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes longer. Transfer the tartlet pans to a wire rack and cool completely. Leave the oven on.

Make the caramel layer:
4. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet for 8-12 minutes, until golden. Let the nuts cool, then coarsely chop them and set aside. Remove the tartlet shells from their pans. Fill a cup with water and place a pastry brush in it (this will be used for washing down the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization).
5. In a clean, heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, stir together the sugar, 1/4 cup water and lemon juice. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan to wash away sugar crystals, until the mixture starts to color around the edges. Gently swirl the pan to ensure that the sugar caramelizes evenly and turns a medium-dark amber color.
6. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the heavy cream— the mixture will bubble up furiously. Once the bubbling has subsided, add the butter and stir until completely melted. Whisk in the salt, vanilla, and chopped almonds and stir until the nuts are completely coated. Divide the hot caramel mixture among the cooled tart shells, using a spoon to make sure that the nuts are evenly distributed. Let the caramel cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate until the caramel is chilled, about 1 hour.

Make the chocolate truffle layer:
7. Place the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan over low heat and, stirring occasionally, cook until the chocolate is melted. While still on low heat, add the butter and stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the center of the caramel on each tartlet, gently spreading it the edges with a small, offset metal spatula. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until the chocolate is set. Garnish the tartlets with sugared almonds if you like (to make them, toss ¼ cup slivered almonds with a small amount of egg white [about 1 tsp] and 2 tsp sugar. Spread onto a lined baking sheet and bake at 325°F for about 5 minutes, stirring them occasionally).  Serve the tartlets with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if you like.