Wednesday 29 August 2007

Daring Bakers August Challenge - Milk Chocolate & Caramel Tart

For the past few months I have kept an eye on what challenge the group known as ‘The Daring Bakers’ had been set that month. I loved the concept of it. A group of baking fanatics all given the same recipe, baking it and posting about it on the same day and discussing the results. I found it amazing the way the same recipe and different peoples interpretations of it could produce such varied results. Some had failures while others had roaring successes, either way they had a great time and were brave enough to take up the challenge.

Recently I found myself longing more and more to be a part of this group, to become a Daring Baker. It was seeing the results of the last two challenges, bagels and a strawberry mirror cake that spurred me into action. I emailed the founders, Lis and Ivonne, asking permission to join and after sitting with crossed fingers I was accepted and sent my first recipe challenge. I have never felt so excited. I was dancing round my room and the fact we had to keep it secret until the posting day made it even more exciting. This months challenge was chosen by Patricia and Veronica and they selected a Milk Chocolate & Caramel Tart.

My first thought upon seeing the tart was ‘oh yum, that looks divine.’ Reading through the ingredients I realised there were quite a few but nothing I wouldn’t be able to get hold of. Upon reading the recipe I realised it was going to take some planning but feeling confidently excited I set to work.

The first task was to make the chocolate hazelnut pastry, as this needed time in the fridge overnight before rolling out. I decided to go ahead and make the whole batch even though only 1/3 of it is needed for the tart, as the rest would keep in the freezer (who wouldn’t want a lovely batch of hazelnut pastry in the freezer?) My first mini challenge was finding the hazelnuts. The recipe stated using ground hazelnuts, which I found impossible to get hold of. Instead I bought some fresh nibbed hazelnuts and decided to grind them down in the food processor. This worked well and I ended up with some small, almost paste like hazelnuts and some still in small chunks which I was quite pleased with as I thought this would add a nice texture. I prepared the rest of the pastry following the recipe to the letter whereupon I was struck by my first bought of doubt. The pastry was a lovely chocolaty brown colour, smelt amazing and tasted pretty good too, but was it supposed to be the texture of thick buttercream? I doubled checked the recipe, no I hadn’t left anything out. How was that supposed to be rolled out? Feeling a little apprehensive I squished it into a log shape, wrapped it in clingfilm and placed it in the fridge.

The next morning I apprehensively opened the fridge door. My pastry looked the same as before. I tentively gave it a poke, and… success! It was now very firm and more pastry like. Hooray! Feeling elated I cut off the required amount and proceeded to roll it out using lots of icing sugar to dust the counter. As I rolled, it became softer, but I managed to form a large enough circle for my tart case. I decided to line the base of my tart case, even though it was a loose bottomed one, as I know from past experience that they can still sometimes be hard to get out. I decided to use a round fluted tart tin, one because it’s a little more decorative and two, because I didn’t have a straight edged one. After doing this I returned to my pastry only to find it had now gone very soft and stuck itself firmly to the counter. Oh nuts. I managed to unstick it and lifted it into my tart case. The base got there in one piece, but most of the sides just fell away. Feeling undaunted I tore little bits of pastry into segments and moulded it into the tin as I have previously done with other pastries. This worked well and I soon had an evenly lined pastry tin. I blind baked it, complete with baking beans and a layer of tin foil for easy removal. Once the allotted time was up, the pastry sides had puffed up slightly but not shrunk at all. Smiling happily I scrunched up the foil and removed the baking beans. The smile promptly fell from my face as the top layer of pastry base came away with the foil. What?! Nooooo! I hastily discarded the baking beans and scraped the pastry off the foil and arranged it back into the base of the tin (thankfully it was a little undercooked). I then put it back into the oven for a couple of minutes to firm up. This worked and I now had a fully baked pastry case. Hahha you silly pastry, you will not beat me!

As it cooled I set to work preparing the caramel filling. I wasn’t feeling too worried about this as I have made caramel once before and the instructions seemed pretty straightforward.

I slowly melted the sugar in a dry pan and swirled it until it turned a lovely golden brown. It then said to add the cream and butter to it, and as I hadn’t remembered to remove them from the fridge beforehand I thought that adding very cold cream to very hot sugar was a bad idea and that it would probably set instantly. So instead I heated it very gently in the microwave until it just felt a little cool rather than cold. I added them to the caramel and stirred, only for it to do exactly as I feared and set into solid lumps. I put the whole lot back on a very low heat and stirred slowly and ‘oh joy’ it all melted and blended back together with only a few small stubborn caramel lumps. I then had to add a flour and egg mixture and as I was by this point feeling a little frazzled I mixed the flour and then the added the eggs on top in a small bowl with the result that it formed a few stubborn flour lumps. Stupid girl, you should had slowly added the eggs to the flour to make a paste not just plonked the whole lot in together. I added it to the caramel anyway and then hit upon the idea of sieving the caramel into the pastry case, like when making a custard tart. This worked perfectly and meant I ended up with a silky smooth glossy caramel. (I would advise using a metal sieve as I suspect a plastic one might melt from the heat of the caramel). I placed it into the oven to bake and licked the sticky caramel remains from the saucepan with my fingers. It tasted amazing, so creamy and rich and it reminded me strongly of something from my childhood. I tasted some more and realised it tasted exactly like Werther’s Original, those set butterscotch, oval shaped sweets that always feature a grandfather and grandson in the adverts. Only this was even better, as this was soft and gooey. It came out of the oven with a lightly set sugary top, looking a bit like a treacle tart and it took a lot of restraint to prevent diving in with a fork there and then.

After it had cooled I prepared the chocolate moussey topping. This was so quick and easy compared to the rest of the tart. The recipe stated to smooth it into an even layer over the top of the caramel, but I wanted something more decorative than this. I had worked very hard over my tart and I wanted it to look more impressive. Instead I filled a piping bag and swirled the mousse over the top and decorated the edges with rosettes. I was thrilled with the outcome. It was now the afternoon and so I put the whole lot into the fridge to firm up before we feasted on it after dinner.

I had tasted the individual components along the way, but eating the whole thing together as one was amazing. All the flavours worked so well. There was the nutty cinnamony pastry which complemented the caramel and chocolate top so well. The pastry turned out crumbly and full of flavour. The caramel was heavenly. Sweet, soft and creamy, yet still firm enough to hold its shape when cut. On its own it was a little too sticky but the light creamy chocolate mousse helped to cleanse your pallet and free your tastebuds, ready for the next mouthful. I had some mousse left over and so I serve some extra with each portion. It tasted SO good and I was so proud of my efforts. I had overcome the little hurdles and set backs that the tart had thrown at me, but this only made the achievement feel all the better. If the recipe had gone too smoothly it wouldn’t have felt like a challenge and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much. This way, I now truly feel like a Daring Baker and can’t wait to see what new challenge we will be presented with next month.

Would I make the tart again? Definitely, especially now I know the little snags and problems to watch out for and how to overcome them. I made this while I was at home for the weekend, as I wanted to have people to share it with. My dad ate three pieces in one sitting and even my brother polished off his plate and he doesn’t usually like ‘fancy’ desserts. I think if I made it again I would probably use dark chocolate for the mousse topping rather than milk, as I love dark chocolate and I think this would help prevent it from becoming too sickly sweet (meaning you could have a bigger slice!).

Thank you so much Patricia and Veronica for selecting this tart for our challenge. It is not one I would probably have chosen to make myself, but I had such a brilliant time making it and an even better time demolishing it. YUM!

P.S. we had the option of making some brittle caramel shards to sprinkle over the top of the tart, but I decided to leave these off as I am not a fan of brittle caramel. Plus, I thought the tart would probably be sweet enough as it was.

Here’s the recipe. It’s originally from Sweet and Savoury Tarts by Eric Kayser.

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart
Makes One 9-inch(24-cm) square tart or one 10-inch (26-cm) round tart.

Chocolate Shortbread Pastry
Refrigeration: overnight
Yields: enough for 3 tarts - 9 ½ inches (24 cm) square or 10 inches (26 cm round)

A day ahead
1 cup (250g ) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 g) confectioners’ sugar
½ cup (50 g) ground hazelnuts
2 level teaspoons (5 g) ground cinnamon
2 eggs
4 ½ cups (400 g) cake flour
2 ½ teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons (10 g) cocoa powder

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.
The following day
½ lb (250 g) chocolate shortbread pastry (see recipe below)
1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 g) heavy cream (30-40 percent butterfat) or crème fraiche
¼ cup (50 g) butter
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 ½ tablespoons (15 g) flour
1 ¼ cups (300 g) whipping cream
½ 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 colour. Incorporate the heavy 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.

Milk chocolate mousse:
7. Beat the whipping cream until stiff. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or in a bain-marie, and fold it 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.
For the caramel decoration (optional):
Melt ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar in a saucepan until it reaches an amber colour. 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.

Serves 6 – 12 (will-power dependant)


The Baker & The Curry Maker said...

Yum! I love the way you piped the chocolate part on. Looks great. I agree with trying dark chocolate next time. Congrats - looks great!

Anh said...

Your tart looks wonderful! I love the piping deco, too.

Peabody said...

Excellent job on your first DB challenge. Welcome to the group.

Pille said...

I agree - the cake looks beautiful, and the way you've piped on the mousse is very artistic! Well done!

Anonymous said...

it is breathtaking!

Anne said...

Very creative indeed! The pipings are great :) Well done!

Anne said...

Oh, it looks wonderful! I'm totally with you on the thoughts about dark chocolate.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Well done on your first challenge. It looks lovely! Look forward to more great challenges from you!

Jen the Bread Freak said...

Your tart looks lovely! I had to patch the dough into the sides of my pan as well :).

Anonymous said...

He he your post made me giggle so much. Sounds like you had a great time baking it!

sunita said...

The tart looks gorgeous...and welcome to group.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic write up. Can't wait to taste the dark chocolate version!

Morven said...

Beautiful beautiful tart. I agree with you that tasting the separate elements and then tasting the whole was quite a different experience. I hadn't thought to mention it and I'm glad you did.

Anonymous said...

Your tart looks amazing. How did you get your crust so perfect? And the decorative swirls of chocolate mousse are neat. Congrats on your first challenge.

kellypea said...

Congrats on your first challenge, and what a success for you! I longed to pipe my mousse, but was just too impatient. Next time? Your tart is very beautiful!

Belinda said...

It turned out are definitely a Daring Baker...a group I both envy and feel quite intimidated by. I love reading about the challenges each month. :-)

Anita said...

Your tart belongs in a patisserie - so pretty!

Deborah said...

Gorgeous tart! Congrats on finishing your first DB challenge with such success!

Lis said...

I am in love with your swirlies and your stars! So pretty!!

You did a beautiful job, Katie!


Patricia Scarpin said...

One of the things I love the most about the DBs' challenges is that there's always someone trying something for the first time, learning something new.
You did an amazing job and we're glad to have you on the group!

Nazca said...

Oh joy. Another over-achiever joins the ranks. You people are starting to make me look bad! :-)

You're a fellow Brit though so I might forgive you ;-)

Dagmar said...

Congratulations on your first challenge! Your tart looks lovely and was piped really pretty!

Sara said...

Wow, you did an incredible job. I love the swirls of mousse!

Brilynn said...

Wow!! Your decoration is just beautiful!

Andrea said...

Your tart is stunning with the piped decoration on top. Great idea!

Elle said...

What a true Daring Baker...undaunted by crust stuck to foil, unfazed by lumpy caramel, smart enough to serve the extra mouse with each slice (wish I'd thought of that) great post and photos, too.

Anonymous said...


That is some decoration! A beautiful tart indeed!

Aoife said...

Beautiful piping! I love the swirl: it's so even and perfect.

Alpineberry Mary said...

My crust also stuck to my parchment after baking. Like you, I scraped off the dough and patched it up. Very nicely done and welcome to the group.

fanny said...

Love the delicate piping.
Just gorgeous!

Love xxx
- fanny

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Congratulations on your first challenge! Nice to see another Daring Baker from the UK. Love the way you piped the chocolate mousse, it looks beautiful!

Dharm said...

Doesnt your tart just look wonderful! I love how you piped it and decorated it... congrats on your first challenge and welcome

Unknown said...

I agree with the piping. Nice job. And welcome!

marias23 said...

Very elegant piping of the chocolate mousse! It looks so professional!

Jenny said...

Beautiful pipping work! Your tart looks wonderful.

Inne said...

Wow, your chocolate mousse layer looks amazing.

Helene said...

That swirl on top is awesome! Congrats on your first challenge!

Lb said...

That is some beautiful piping.

Amy said...

Great job! The tart looks wonderful! I love the way you piped the mousse.

KJ said...

Welcome to the DBs. I think it's great fun. I'm glad I wasn't alone with the clingy pastry. I love your swirls and piping. Your tart looks stunning.

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

The piping looks great!!!!!!!!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

My husband walked by just as your tart came up . . . "That's a work of art."
Great write up too!

Barbara said...

Wow that is beautifully decorated. I Must try harder next time.

Kelly-Jane said...

Your tart looks fabulous, and your piping is so neat and pretty.

Heather said...

I love the piping chocolate topping

Wendy said...

Your tart is decorated so precisely perfect. Your father's 3 pieces say that it tasted even better! I agree,I thought all the flavors worked very well together. Great tart. Wendy

monica said...

wow your tart looks beautiful! such perfect piping and so original. i must say i'm impressed!

Dolores said...

Absolutely stunning! I wish I had your piping skills! I'm also looking forward to trying this one with a darker chocolate...

breadchick said...

WOW!! Your tart is so lovely looking!!! How fantastic a success your first challenge was!! Great job and welcome to our little crew!!!