Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter Chocolate Caramel Tarts

I love Easter for lots reasons, many of which involve sweets: big chocolate bunnies, small caramel-filled eggs, malted eggs, pastel jelly beans and marshmallow chicks. I love the Easter bunny, 

hunting for Easter eggs, and seeing little kids in their brand-new Easter outfits. I remember once, in fact, when my sister told me that she saw the Easter Bunny's tail going out the back door in the 

middle of the night. I was so excited I almost fainted.  If I had to pick one flavor combination that transports me to the Easters of my childhood, though, it would have to be chocolate and caramel. It’s 

one of my preferred pairings, and I’ve featured it in a few recipes (like this one) on this blog. Here’s another one of my favorite recipes, which comes from Claudia Fleming’s wonderful book, The Last Course (Random House, 2001). Happy Easter to all!!

Recipe notes: I found the tart dough to be a little crumbly and hard to work with, so I added a little cold water to the dough, as directed below. I also found that there was too much caramel

filling in the original recipe, so I cut it in half. The original recipe also called for using 2-inch tartlet pans, which I think are a bit too small, so I used 3-inch pans instead.

Chocolate Caramel Tarts

Adapted from The Last Course (Random House, 2001) by Claudia Fleming

Makes 8 tartlets

Chocolate Tart Dough:
½ cup (1 stick/113 g) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (64 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg yolk
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups (150 g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (23 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 to 2 teaspoons ice-cold water, if necessary

Caramel Filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
¼ cup (58 g) heavy cream
1 tablespoon crème fraiche (or omit and increase amount of heavy cream to 5 tablespoons)

Chocolate Glaze:
½ cup (116 g) heavy cream
3 ½ ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Make the Tart Dough:
1. In the bowl of an electric  mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and confectioners’ sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until smooth. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and beat on low speed until just combined. If the dough seems crumbly, add as much of the ice-cold water as necessary. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a disk. Wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour, or up to 3 days.
2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the tart dough out to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 4-inch round cutter (or a plate and a paring knife), cut out as many rounds as possible from the dough and press each round into a 3-inch tartlet pan, trimming away the excess dough. Gather up the dough scraps, reroll them and repeat to make a total of 8 tartlets. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Chill the tart shells for 20 minutes.
3. Line the tart shells with foil and fill with dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the pastry is no longer shiny. Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

Make the filling:
4. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with ¼ cup water. Cook over medium-high heat, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming, until you have a dark amber caramel. Carefully add the butter, cream and crème fraiche, whisking until smooth. Divide the caramel amoung the tart shells and let sit until the caramel is set, at least 45 minutes.

Make the glaze:
5. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Place the chocolate in a bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Pour some of the glaze over each tart while still warm. Let the glaze set at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.