Last week was a very busy week for us.  We had commitments almost every single evening so I did not do much cooking of actual meals, but I did make a LOT of desserts!  So, for a few days, my blog is going to be full of all things sweet – yay!  One evening we had dinner at Ben’s grandmother’s house.  She provided dinner so I offered to bring dessert.  I had several ideas and I just could not decide which thing to make, so I asked Ben what he would prefer.  As I read the titles off to him, as soon as I said, “Chocolate caramel…” he said, “That one!”  Consisting of a short crust pastry base, a layer of homemade caramel mixed with honey roasted peanuts, topped by a thick layer of chocolate ganache, I should have known this would be his choice since he absolutely loves anything with caramel.  


I was surprised by how quickly this all came together.  I have been wanting to make this tart for quite some time but kept putting it off because it seemed complicated or time-intensive.  It is certainly more complicated than a fruit and cream tart, but not terribly so.  I was nervous about making the caramel, but Dorie’s clear instructions helped it go smoothly.  This is another recipe where an instant-read thermometer was very helpful, because it took all the guesswork out of cooking the caramel.  As soon as I stirred in the chopped peanuts, the caramel seemed to harden a bit.  Several very brief bursts in the microwave got it back to spreading consistency and I was able to get it into the tart shell with no problem.  The rest of the assembly was without incident and I stored it at room temperature as indicated.  However, when it came time to serve the tart, the caramel layer seemed very hard and I was worried it would be inedible.  It took a bit of elbow grease (and a good sharp knife) to cut, but it actually ended up cutting quite nice slices.  The caramel makes it essentially impossible to eat with a fork, so we just picked it up and ate it like slices of pizza…and it was really good!  It was definitely a hit all around and I had multiple requests for the recipe.  Sounds like a winner to me!

Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart
For the tart shell:
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

For the caramel layer:
Scant 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 tbsp. salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
Pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter) 

3/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped 

For the ganache:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

To make the tart shell, in a small bowl stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas.  Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  When you are ready to roll out the dough, unwrap it and place it on a lightly floured work surface.  Roll out with a floured rolling pin, lifting and turning the dough occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the work surface.  Roll it out evenly until it is large enough to line a 9-inch tart pan and is about 1/8-inch thick.  Carefully transfer the dough to the tart pan, pressing it into the sides, and trim to remove the excess.  

Cover the dough with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beads.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Remove the foil and baking beads and using a fork, gently poke holes in the bottom and sides of the crust.  Bake until the crust is golden, 15-20 minutes more.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Before making the caramel, make sure that you have all the ingredients measured out and ready to go because you have to work quickly once the sugar caramelizes.  Also have a medium heatproof bowl at hand to hold the hot caramel.  

To make the caramel, bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, to medium heat and sprinkle in about 3 tablespoons of the sugar.  When it melts, stir it with a wooden spatula or a fork and sprinkle over another 3 tablespoons.  When that sugar is melted, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.  The sugar in the pan may already have started to color and that is fine.  Stir in the corn syrup and boil the syrup until it reaches a deep caramel color – it will probably begin to smoke, and that is normal.

Bring the simmering cream to a full boil.  Stand back from the skillet and stir in the butter and salt, if you’re using it.  The caramel will bubble furiously and may spatter, so be careful.  When the butter is in, add the warm cream – the caramel will bubble furiously again.  Lower the temperature just a tad and let the caramel boil for just 2 minutes.  (If you check the temperature with a thermometer, the caramel should be at 226 degrees F.)  Pour the seething caramel into the heatproof bowl and set it aside while you make the ganache.

To make the ganache, put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or rubber spatula at hand.  Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds.  Working with the whisk or spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at center of the bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles.  Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motion.  When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don’t stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients – the less you work it, the darker, smoother and shinier it will be.

Cover the ganache with a piece of plastic wrap, pressing the plastic against the surface of the chocolate to create an airtight seal.  Set aside at room temperature for the moment.  To assemble the tart, stir the peanuts into the caramel using a rubber spatula.  If the caramel is too thick to stir or spread easily, gently warm it in the microwave in 3-second spurts.  (You can also hold the heatproof bowl about 10 inches above the burner on your range.  Check the consistency after a couple of seconds and repeat if necessary.)  Spread the caramel over the bottom of the tart shell in a thin layer.  Refrigerate the tart for 15 minutes to set the caramel.

Check the ganache.  If it has thickened and is no longer pourable, warm it in the same way as instructed for the caramel above.  Pour the ganache over the caramel and jiggle the tart pan to even it.  Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes but no longer, and then keep it at room temperature until serving time. 

Source: adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan