My last post was in August. August, people. I knew it would be hard for me to blog while I was student teaching, but I had no idea I’d all but abandon the blog during that time. It was next to impossible for me to find any time to cook for myself, let alone take photos, write posts, and publish them for you. My apologies for my absence. I’m back now. And so glad to be here.
Student teaching went well; who knew I’d grow so attached to 121 different 8th graders? I remember myself at that age and I recall it being a really tough time in my life. I’m sure it’s the same for most people, but to be in it every day for three solid months was a wake-up call, for sure. I had some tough days…days when I thought I just wasn’t cut out for teaching, but then those days would wind down and quickly be replaced by really great days in which I felt completely at ease and comfortable in front of the class. Student teaching ended just before Christmas, as well as my graduation. After all this time in school, it’s suddenly over. I feel a bit lost, to be honest, but I’m sure I’ll find my new normal routine again soon.
There are only two short days left in 2014, a year that had some really wonderful ups and some devastating downs for me. What better way to ring in 2015 than with chocolate and caramel, right? This dessert is SWEET. Now, if you know anything about me, you know that my sweet tooth is quite small, but for those of you who love rich and sweet desserts, this one is for you! I used some buttermilk to replace a little of the heavy cream in the caramel, so it has a bit of a sweet and tangy flavor. I quite like it, but if you are not as partial to buttermilk as I am, go ahead and use all heavy cream.
Also, this is a labor of love, this tart. There are a lot of steps and a lot of refrigerator wait-time. That’s okay, though. Just make it over the course of a couple of days, as I did.
The crust is pretty easy to throw together. All it requires is a food processor, almonds, butter, sugar, flour, salt, and vanilla.The crust pressed into a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. I used the bottom and sides of a measuring cup to press the crust up the sides and flatten it.Baked crust, cooling.
Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart
Adapted from Epicurious
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted almonds, skin on
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and chilled
1/4 cup heavy cream combined with 1/4 cup buttermilk, measured and chilled
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For chocolate ganache:
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Guittard)
5 ounces full fat sour cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
Maldon sea salt
To make crust:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor, pulse almonds until they are finely ground, transfer to a small bowl and set aside. To processor, add butter, sugar, and vanilla, pulse to combine. Add ground almonds back to processor along with the flour and salt. Pulse until a dough begins to form – it will be crumbly, almost sandy. Don’t worry, that’s how it’s supposed to look. Pour into tart pan and using your fingers and the bottom and sides of a measuring cup, press dough evenly into tart pan. Don’t forget to push some up the sides of the pan. Take your time, this is what will hold in the contents of your tart – you want it to be even. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow it to set up. Prick all over with a fork and bake until just golden, right around 40 minutes. Keep an eye – you don’t want it to burn! Remove from oven and allow it to cool completely.
To make the caramel:
Don’t be afraid of caramel. That is the first rule. Just keep your pan at a medium-lowish temperature and be patient. Allow your nose and your eyes to tell you when the caramel is ready; often thermometers are inaccurate.
In a medium saucepan, add sugar, then water. Stir with the handle end of a wooden spoon, just to moisten the sugar. Place pan over medium- to medium-low heat and don’t touch it. Don’t whisk it, don’t stir it, really, don’t even swirl it for a while. As the sugar begins to melt, it will come to a boil. If you’re on the lower end of medium raise the heat a bit so it begins to boil. Now is when you need to keep a close eye. The sugar will go from clear to deeper shades of amber quite quickly. At this point you can gently swirl the pan – don’t go nuts; you don’t want sugar crystals to form. This may take up to 20 minutes or more in order for it to get to a deep amber color. Don’t allow it to burn. Once it reaches a lovely deep amber, remove from heat and carefully add cream/buttermilk mixture (it will bubble up and that’s okay). Add butter, vanilla, and salt. When bubbles die down, whisk caramel until smooth. Pour into cooled tart shell and leave on counter for at least 30 minutes to cool down a bit. Then place in refrigerator until chilled, at least 1 hour, or overnight.
To make the ganache:
Fill a small to medium saucepan with an inch of water. Place a glass or metal bowl over pan and set over medium heat. Allow water to barely come to a simmer and dump chocolate in to bowl. Melt slowly in the double-boiler until chocolate is smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, followed by sour cream and corn syrup. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour over caramel and spread evenly – I didn’t use all the ganache, simply because I think it would have overflowed. Place in refrigerator and chill completely. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt (or other flaky sea salt), if desired.
This is best served after it has chilled completely; overnight, even. The caramel may ooze a little, but hey, what’s wrong with that? Cut into thin wedges with a sharp knife and serve with coffee, milk, or even a glass of red wine.