Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Just A Bunch Of Sassy Tarts

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The Daring Bakers are back and this time we're bringing you a milk chocolate and caramel tart! Who are the Daring Bakers you may ask? Well, we're a group of rogue operatives strategically placed all over the world and secretly trying to conquer our baking fears one recipe at a time. At least that's how I see it. In actuality, we're a group of food bloggers who, once a month, make the exact same recipe and then blog about our experience on the same day. It's a fun way to try new recipes and techniques. Everyone has such a unique experience preparing the same recipe and the posts are always interesting to read.

I have to admit that I wasn't overly excited when this month's challenge of Eric Kayser's milk choclate and caramel tart was announced. No offense to kind hostesses Veronica of Veronica's Test Kitchen and Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen, but I'm just not a big fan of milk chocolate or caramel. But being the obedient Daring Baker that I am, I put my personal preferences, and perhaps even food prejudices, aside, and tried my very best with the assigned recipe. [And on a side note, I was so excited to meet Veronica for dinner when she was visiting San Francisco a couple weeks ago. She's super sweet and super smart!]

Like with most of our challenges, there were some positives about this challenge. Once again I would be tackling caramel like I did for the Gateau St. Honore challenge. I'm still not completely over my fear of caramel making, but I'm slowly finding my way to a comfort zone. But I think one can never get too comfortable with making caramel. I always have a big bowl of ice water within arm's reach. And to complicate matters a bit, the caramel would be turned into a caramel cream sauce which is then turned into a caramel cream "custard". Hot molten sugar! Furiously bubbling cream! Potential clumping from the eggs and flour! Oh, the dangers we face as a Daring Baker! And to top it all off, I still have trouble rolling out tart and pie crusts into a circular shape. It always looks so easy on television. So here was another wonderful opportunity to practice my rolling skills. This is why I love these challenges. I always find something new to learn, techniques to refine or discover an appreciation for an ingredient or certain component of the recipe.

MILK CHOCOLATE
I don’t normally use milk chocolate but since I vowed to follow the rules, I tried to find some high quality and, hopefully, high cacao percentage milk chocolate. I found a couple of milk chocolates at my Whole Foods market that seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Michel Cluizel's Grand Lait 45% and El Rey's Caoba 41%, which is, according to El Rey's website, "a fluid, smooth 'dark' milk chocolate with wonderful caramel, nut and earthy flavors. Its notable flavor is the result of increased cacao content, among the highest of any milk chocolate on the market". The combination of the two milk chocolates for my chocolate mousse layer would be nice. With my milk chocolate secured, I was ready to move forward with the recipe.

CRUST
I had no clue how thick to roll out the shortbread dough for my crust or how high the sides should be to hold both fillings. The chilled shortbread dough rolled out nicely but transferring the rolled dough to my springform pan in one piece was a total pain. So I just patched and pressed the dough into the pan as evenly as possible until I had no more dough left. So that's how thick and how high it ended up.

To blind bake my crust, I lined my crust with parchment paper and filled it with pie weights. After baking for 15 minutes the bottom dough was still uncooked and actually stuck to the parchment paper as I lifted it away. I really, really didn't want to roll out another disk of dough since the other two-thirds of the shortbread dough were frozen. Instead, I tried to save my swiss-cheese looking crust. So I removed my pie weights, scraped the dough off the parchment paper, patched my bottom crust with the scrapings, returned it to the oven for a few more minutes and hoped that I managed to salvage the crust. It ended up a tad lumpy and bumpy but at least it didn't have any more holes. I guess it was okay, but I wouldn't know for certain until I cut into the finished tart.

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lumpy and bumpy crust

CARAMEL
I have to say making the caramel wasn't too scary this time. I used the wet method by adding 1/4 cup of water and 2 teaspoons of corn syrup to my 1 cup of sugar. I placed my saucepan with the lid on over medium heat for about 4 minutes and then removed the lid and increased the heat to high until my desired color and temperature. The lid traps some of the condensation and actually "washes" down the sides of pan so I wouldn't need to do that with a wet pastry brush.

Sadly I think I let my caramel get too dark before adding the cream. My goal was to let the caramel get to 335F (per Veronica's recommendation) to 350F (per Sherry Yard's "The Secrets of Baking"). But I don't think I got an accurate temperature reading since I couldn't immerse my thermometer more than 1 cm into the caramel without touching the bottom of my saucepan. I guess I can call this a burnt caramel.

Also, my caramel cream custard refused to set in the oven after 15 minutes of baking. So I actually continued baking it until the edges were set and the center still wiggled a bit. I think it took a total of 30 minutes. At this point the top of the baked caramel was pretty dark (and I mean as dark as black coffee). So this meant that my caramel could be doubly burnt. The outlook was grim.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
From the chatter during the days prior to posting, some Daring Bakers had issues with their cream deflating when the melted milk chocolate was added. I had the opposite problem. My melted chocolate seized up a bit when I folded the cream and chocolate together. So if you look closely, you may see little bits of chocolate speckled throughout the chocolate mousse. So now I may have to call this a double burnt caramel and mini milk chocolate chip mousse tart.

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THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
So after the required chill, I finally cut into my tart. I was really afraid that the caramel layer would be dark all the way through and be completely inedible. I told myself that I could still salvage dessert if I scraped off the chocolate mousse and serve the mousse in cups. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw that the caramel was not black but a rich caramel brown. Thankfully, the caramel didn't taste burnt either.

I liked how the crust held together nicely when the tart was sliced and was very tender. Sadly I felt it was a bit flavorless though. The crust was neither chocolaty nor hazelnutty nor buttery. The flavors were a bit muddled. I did like the hint of cinnamon. (BTW, I only used 1/2 tsp cinnamon in the dough since 2 tsp seemed overwhelming.)

I expected the finished tart to be super sweet. But surprisingly, it wasn't as sweet as I thought it would be. Perhaps it's because the caramel was a bit darker and the milk chocolate had a high percentage of cacao (and therefore less sugar). The mousse was delicious even with the tiny random bits of chocolate I encountered and the caramel was pretty delicious. The two fillings definitely made a nice pairing. So overall I would call this challenge a wonderful success. I would definitely make both fillings again, but I would probably use a different tart dough. The tart was an excellent breakfast with my morning coffee. (Yes, I am admitting to having a slice for breakfast.)

And as always, you can find links to the other Daring Bakers' tart posts on our blogroll.
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Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart
(from Eric Kayser’s "Sweet and Savory Tarts")

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Refrigeration time: 1 hour
One 9-inch (24-cm) square pan or one 10-inch (26-cm) round baking pan

Ingredients
Crust
1/2 lb (250 g) chocolate shortbread pastry (see recipe below)
Caramel Layer
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 g) heavy whipping cream (30-40 percent butterfat) or crème fraiche
1/4 cup (50 g) butter
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 1/2tablespoons (15 g) flour
Chocolate Mousse Layer
1 1/4 cups (300 g) heavy whipping cream
1/2 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. (Or alternatively, caramelize using the wet method by adding 1/4 cup water + 2 tsp corn syrup.) Incorporate the heavy whipping 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 on low or in a bain-marie, and fold melted and slightly cooled chocolate 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.

Optional decoration: melt 1/2 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.

Chocolate Shortbread Pastry

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Refrigeration: overnight
To make 3 tarts, 9 ½ inches (24 cm) square or 10 inches (26 cm round)

Ingredients
1 cup (250g ) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 g) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup (50 g) ground hazelnuts
2 level teaspoons (5 g) ground cinnamon (optional)
2 eggs
4 1/2 cups (400 g) cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons (10 g) cocoa powder

Prepare dough at least one day before you need the dough.
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.

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60 comments:

Anne said...

I love how you got the top so even! I panicked at the very though of smoothing the mousse, and piped it instead. Yours look really great!

Meeta said...

Gorgeous tart Mary! It looks so pure. I love how the layers look clean. Well done!

Kelly-Jane said...

Well done lovely tart, we loved it too :)

Peabody said...

Perhaps if I used the higher quality chocolate it would not have been so sweet. Mine was very sweet. Excellent job.

Anne said...

I envy you since you have a thin crust. Mine somewhat puffed out regardless how thinly I rolled it. the filling looks heavenly as well!

Baking Soda said...

Here's to bumpy lumpy shells! The end result looks very pretty!

Dharm said...

Nice. very nice. Well done Mary. Looking at all the DB tarts (the edible kind that is) *Cheeky Grin* has made me hungry and wishing there was more left over. Truly a lovely dessert!

linda said...

Great post! Thanks for the lid tip when making caramel. Your chocolate mousse layer does look a bit darker than the other tarts I've seen...
The burnt caramel makes your tart more of a Michael Recchiuti tart ;) Looks wonderfully yummy!

Jen the Bread Freak said...

I'm so envious of how thick your mousse and caramel layers are! Mine look a bit wimpy :). Beautiful tart!

Honeybee said...

This looks good!! I'm considering joining the daring bakers but who will eat all the goodies? Maybe I could just strategically invite people for dinner every month for when the challenge is due?

Ivonne said...

Rogue operatives ... I love it! Mary you are the QUEEN OF SASS! Gorgeous tart!

veron said...

Great layers Mary! And letting the caramel get darker definitely gives it a better flavor. I tried to keep mine light and it was too sweet.I'm definitely making this tart again although like you I might go looking for a different crust.

veron said...

..and I loved meeting you in San Francisco. So much fun!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Mary, your tart looks so beautiful! And I'm with Anne, the top is so even, I couldn't do that in a million years.

Leslie said...

Your crust is like 1/4 the thickness of mine, and my milk chocolate was about fifty times grainier through the mousse! I'd call yours a success!!!!!!!! :)

Not sure what to call mine.

Anita said...

I loved reading your commentary about the recipe, Mary. And I think it turned out beautifully - it's a big tart!

Belinda said...

Your tart looks gorgeous, Mary...really lovely. I'd gladly race to the kitchen first thing in the morning to have a slice for breakfast! :-)

Deborah said...

I thought I had burnt my caramel as well, but it didn't taste burnt once the tart was finished. I guess the other flavors cover it up!! Gorgeous tart!

Garrett said...

I am always so tempted to join daring bakers, but I always feel that I might not have time. I feel I barely get to cook the things I want as it is. Is it a real time sucker for you or no?

Brilynn said...

I know I let my caramel get too dark, but yours looks just fine to me, and your layers are so neat!

Lis said...

As always, such a beautiful job, Mary =)

I love the color of your caramel - didn't look too dark at all!

Way to go sweetie =)

xoxo

ChefSara said...

Looks great...and I've been meaning to ask...is there room for another daring baker? I'd love to participate if possible!

Sara said...

I would call your crust "textured" :). It looks beautiful!

Ilva said...

It´s such a beautiful tart! brava!

sara said...

Lumps and bumps are natural! ^_- goreous photos, and once again, you inpspire me!

Elle said...

A slice for breakfast - great idea! Your tart look beautiful and yummy! My chocolate did the same bit of flaking in the mousse, but not enough to bother anyone. Great job.

bea at la tartine gourmande said...

Looks so good. All of you daring bakers make me want to get in the kitchen to make my own now!

Andrea said...

Your mousse looks so tall and lovely! I think mine lost a bit of volume when I folded in the chocolate.

Anh said...

Lovely! So I am not the one who is having the leftover tart for breaky! :D

kellypea said...

I love how deep your tart is -- very luscious looking, indeed. This seems to have been an experience of surprise for many of us, hasn't it?

Marce said...

It looks wonderful, Mary. And I also had the same concerns about it being too sweet, so i chose a not-so-sweet milk chocolate, i think that was the only way to avoid it being a bit too sweet.

Aoife said...

I wouldn't worry about the lumps and bumps -- I wouldn't have even noticed them if you hadn't pointed them out. I agree about the sweetness of the tart, and yours looks lovely!

The Baker & The Curry Maker said...

I love your little analogy of us Daring Bakers! You're tart looks so delicious. I always enjoy your photos. Wonderful read, thank you.

Tartelette said...

Gorgeous tart! I also used higher cocoa % milk chocolate and I wish I had saved it for eating. I am dying to try making the caramel again with salted butter.

Cusinero Ge said...

I love your thin crust. Mine wouldn't go so thin. Had similar problems with the mousse... finally solved it by bringing the chocolate to room temperature, temepering it with a little bit of room temperature cream and some whipped cream, then finally folding the whipped cream in. Your tart looks WAY better though! Would love to taste it!

Barbara said...

That is beautiful. The layers are perfect.

Amy said...

I had a tartlet for breakfast as well. It was fantastic, nothing like chocolate and caramel to start your day. :) Your mousse looks terrific!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Your tart looks beautiful. I'm admitting that I'm just about to have a slice for breakfast having only made it yesterday.

*fanny* said...

Despite what you may think about your burnt caramel and choc chip mousse tart, it looks just perfect to me!

Love xxx
- fanny

KJ said...

Hi Mary, I had exactly the same problem with the dough sticking to the lining in the blind baking. Alls well that ends well though.

Great tip in using the pan lid when making caramel. I will definitely try this.

Your tart is beautiful. congrats.

slush said...

The pictures and commentary are fabulous. And your tart looks SOOO GOOD! Your layers are perfect. I had the same problem with the crust. Bumpy and too thick in spots. But it tasted good!

Jenny said...

I think any dessert is fair game as breakfast. What's the difference between a tart and a donut? :)

Beautifully done - nice and even.

Inne said...

Your tart looks great Mary, even with the 'lumpy and bumpy' crust - which I totally wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't pointed it out.

valentina said...

Mary, what a lovely narrative. So honest and engaging. Your tart looks beautifully creamy. I only got round to making the pie. Just can't handle my work load at the moment..One of the great things about these challenges is that they indeed push the boundaries..all the way.

Quellia said...

Beautiful work Mary! It looks like all your fears resulted in a stunning dessert.

Renz said...

Your post makes me wish I had sprung for better milk chocolate. Your tart looks delicious. Did you use Dutch-process cocoa in your pastry?

Chris said...

You're tart looks wonderful! I wish my caramel was that thick. Well done!

the pastry princess said...

such a great post! and i love your blog! your tart looks amazing, and i'm very impressed with the evenness of your layers...

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Beautiful tart!
I think I need to find some of your chocholate. Mary I must be the only one who used the 2 tsp AND liked the taste and it seemed my tasters did also.

sher said...

Perfect! Really! Everything about it is so wonderful!

Katie said...

That looks fantastic, so perfect and even

Cynthia said...

From all that I've been reading about the making of this tart, I'd say that your post title apt describes it - sassy!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Fabulous! I can find no other word to describe this yummy beauty...

Jerry said...

Lovely as usual!

Renz said...

I wish I had thought to use Dutch process. In such a small amount, it might not make a big taste difference, but it sure does look a lot sharper. Yours is so minimalist and sleek, ooh la la...

wmpe said...

Your tart looks perfect. I cannot roll a perfect circle or square or rectangle. All my doughs have some amoeba like shape. Your photos are lovely too. Wendy

Dolores said...

I love the deep, rich color of your 'burnt' caramel. Sounds like it *was* a challenge, but it sure came out stunning!

breadchick said...

Um...Mary...

I think you can safely say you have mastered caramel! Your layers are absolutely lovely!!!

Brittany said...

Hi Mary! Tart looks GREAT! I just wanted to stop by and introduce myself...I recently was in touch with Lisa at Mia Cucina and I'll be joining the fun with the daring bakers at the end of this month. Yay! Looking forward to getting to know you all : )

s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this