Photo from Nordljus.
Valentine's Day is just around the corner and if you are looking to treat your lover to a romantic candlelit dinner, then consider ending the evening with this sexy dessert. It's a chocolate caramel tart conceived by Claudia Fleming, renowned pastry chef and author of the cookbook "The Last Course".
This exceptional tart starts off with the required Valentine's Day ingredients of chocolate and caramel. But the dessert itself is much more than just putting two good things together, this tart is about thoughtfully prepared elements using the best ingredients to bring about an experience of texture, intense taste sensations and visual appeal. A not-so-sweet chocolate crust is the container to a rich, buttery soft caramel which is then topped with a dark chocolate ganache glaze. The tart is garnished with fleur de sel salt that makes a bite of this dessert sing in your mouth. Just imagine this thick, deeply golden flow of caramel flowing from the dark chocolate ganache glaze as your fork sinks into the tart to take your first bite. This tart is unforgettable.
Thinking about the chocolate caramel tart brings back memories of an evening Scott and I shared last year. For his birthday, I treated Scott to an overnight getaway at the Battery Park Ritz Carlton. Our room had a telescope to view the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks along the Hudson River, this appealed to Scott's voyeuristic tendencies. That night we indulged in room service and a bottle of the most excellent Roederer Estate's L'Ermitage cuvée, which we now call 'naughty champaign'. The pleasurable taste of that sparkling wine is like nothing we had ever enjoyed. Something about tasting something that good certainly makes you feel a little naughty. At the end of the meal, I surprised Scott with the chocolate caramel tart topped with a single lit candle and a sprinkling of salt. It was a delightful highlight to a memorable evening in honor of Scott.
The chocolate caramel tart is definitely a special occasion dessert. Give yourself plenty of time to make it as you will need to make it in phases (pastry first, then caramel, then chocolate glaze). Don't skimp on the ingredients - make sure you use a good quality dark chocolate (Valrhona, Callebaut, Scharffen Berger are all wonderful chocolates). The end result will be well worth the effort and your lover might just thank you in more ways than one ;)
Looking for other Valentine's Day treat ideas? Try this Chocolate-Dipped Florentine Shortbread recipe by Pierre Hermé.
Chocolate Caramel Tarts
Chocolate Tart Dough
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp crème fraiche
Chocolate Ganache Glaze
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 oz extra-bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch of fine sea salt, such as fleur de sel
1. To prepare the tart dough, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and confectioner's sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and beat on low speed until just combined. 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 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the tart dough to an 18 x 12 - inch rectangle, 3/16 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2 inch round cutter, cut out 24 rounds of dough and press them into mini muffin tins or 2-inch tart pans, trimming away any excess dough; 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 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until the pastry looks dry and set. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. (The tart shells can be made 8 hours ahead.)
4. To prepare the filling, place 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan. Add the sugar and corn syrup and cook the mixture over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until you have a dark amber caramel, about 10 minutes. Carefully whisk in the butter, cream, and crème fraiche (the mixture will hiss and bubble up, so stand back), whisking until smooth. (The caramel can be made up to 5 days ahead and refrigerated.) Divide the caramel among the tart shells while still warm (or reheat the caramel in the microwave or over low heat until it is pourable) and let sit until the caramel is set, at least 45 minutes.
5. To make the ganache glaze, 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 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Pour some of the glaze over each of the tarts while still warm. Let the glaze set at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving. Sprinkle with salt, if desired, just before serving.
For a large tart, line a 10-inch tart pan with the pastry dough, then prick, weight, and bake as directed, adding 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time. When the tart shell is cool, spoon in the warm caramel filling. Allow the caramel to set before pouring the warm ganache onto the tart.