So in our family, despite our Jewish ways, we have certain Christmas traditions. One is that we always go to the Big Apple Circus on Christmas Day; another is that we always go right home and build a fire in the fireplace right after. Usually, we eat cheese, toast marshmallows, and beg our parents to please, please, please refrain from singing along with the Alan Sherman album. This year, however, scheduling was a little more complicated since Christmas falls on a Friday, and Shabbat starts very early. Therefore, a little creative wrangling was necessary, and we needed to find something to replace the traditional s'mores dessert.
In order to keep in the festive holiday spirit and celebrate our trip to the circus and our usual chocolate overload, my sisters and I-- reunited once again-- decided to make Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate Caramel Crunch Tart. The tart includes three components: the sweet tart crust, a layer of honey roasted peanuts coated in caramel, and a thick layer of chocolate ganache.
We started by making the tart crust, so it could bake and cool while we prepared the other components. I confess that making the caramel made me a little bit nervous-- both the idea of sputtering sugar and the fear of having to wash the dishes afterward struck fear in my heart. However, as I watched the sugar bubble and thicken, and then watched it turn into that rich caramel color as we added other ingredients, I felt that even the time that would doubtless be spent scrubbing the spoon later would be worth it.
The ganache didn't quite set up the way we expected it to. The color was a little lighter than expected, and it didn't get as thick as we thought it should. There was also much conversation about the possibility of blow drying the ganache, as Dorie had taught Sarah, but ultimately we decided to let it be (mostly because there is no blow dryer in this house, apparently.) However, we left in the fridge for longer than the recommended half hour, and it turned out perfectly.
This dessert is definitely not meant to be a light snack. It is intensely rich, and best eaten in small slices. But I promise that you will enjoy every bite.
P.S. This is our 50th post! Wow!
Chocolate Caramel Crunch Tart:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about 2 hours before rolling.
To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (Alternately, you can roll this out between two pieces of plastic, though flour the dough a bit anyway.) Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.
Alternately, you can press the dough in as soon as it is processed: Press it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the tart shell. You want to press hard enough that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that it loses its crumbly texture.
Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To fully or partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. And here is the very best part: Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes.
Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. (To partially bake it, only an additional 5 minutes is needed.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.
Scant 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, room temperature
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, room temperature
3/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 9-inch tart shell made with Dorie's Sweet Tart Dough (p.444), fully baked and cooled
Getting Ready: Because you have to work quickly once the sugar caramelizes, you should have all the ingredients for the caramel measured out and at hand before you start. Also have a medium heatproof bowl at hand to hold the hot caramel.
To Make the Caramel: Bring the heavy cream to a boil.
Meanwhile, put a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat and sprinkle in about 3 tablespoons of the sugar. When it melts, stir it with a wooden spatula or fork and sprinkle over another 3 tablespoons. When that sugar is melted, add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar - the sugar in the pan may already have started to color, and that's 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's normal.
Stand back and stir in the butter. The caramel will bubble furiously and may spatter, so make sure you're away from the action. 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 (226F on candy thermometer). Pour the seething caramel into the heatproof bowl and set aside while you make the ganache.
To Make the Ganache: Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or a rubber spatula at hand.
Bring the cream to a boil. Then pour half of it over the chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds. Working with the whisk/spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don't stir 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 plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface to create an airtight seal. Set aside at room temperature for the moment.
To Assemble the Tart: Stir the peanuts into the caramel. If the caramel has cooled and is too thick to spread easily, gently warm in the microwave in 3-second spurts. Spread the caramel over the bottom of the tart shell; you'll have a thin layer. Refrigerate the tart for 15 minutes to set the caramel.
Check the ganache. If it has thickened, warm it in 3-second spurts. Rap the bowl to break any surface bubbles, pour the ganache over the caramel and jiggle the pan to even it.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes - no longer - then keep it at room temperature until serving time.