chocolate caramel tarts

Chocolate Caramel Tarts
Recipe courtesy Claudia Fleming

Chocolate Tart Dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Caramel Filling:
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons creme fraiche

Chocolate Ganache Glaze:
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch fine sea salt, such as fleur de sel, optional
To prepare the tart dough, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and confectioners' sugar until just combined, about 1 minute. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until smooth. 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.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the tart dough to an 18 by 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.

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.)

To prepare the filling, place 1/2 cup water in 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 caramel, about 10 minutes. Carefully whisk in the butter, cream, and creme 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.

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.

Variation: 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 the warm caramel to set before pouring the warm ganache onto the tart.

Yield: 2 dozen tarts
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Difficulty: Medium

Notes: It is better not to leave the dough in the fridge over night because it actually was harder for me to work with and would crack while i was putting it in the muffin pan- but if that does happen its not hard to fill in the cracks with a little extra dough -or press it back together- Also I left off the salt and put strawberry hearts on instead- and they are delicious!!

(From Carolyn Sweterlitsch)


Simple Sugar Syrup (for use in ice pop recipes):
2 cups sugar
4 cups water

Stirring from time to time, heat sugar and water to the boiling point in a heavy saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer five minutes. Cool and refrigerate in covered glass jar until needed.

Basic Berry Pops:
1-teaspoon gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1/4-1/3 cup simple sugar syrup
Juice from one lemon
1 cup strawberry, raspberry or blackberry puree made in the blender and strained

Stir gelatin into water. Heat 1/4 cup sugar syrup to boiling point, add to gelatin mixture and stir until gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Mix gelatin, syrup mixture and lemon juice into berry puree. Taste. If not sweet enough add a little more sugar syrup. Pour into ice pop molds or small paper cups and freeze. Run hot water briefly over molds to release ice pops.

Peachy Cream Ice Pops:
1-1/4 cup peach puree (made in blender with fresh peaches or unsweetened canned peaches)
1 heaping tablespoon peach or apricot preserves
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 drops almond extract or 1 tablespoon amaretto (optional)

Pour peach puree into blender. Add preserves, half-and-half, and almond extract or amaretto. Blend briefly. Taste and add a little more preserves if further sweetening is needed. Pour into ice pop molds or small paper cups and freeze. Run hot water briefly over molds to release ice pops.

Watermelon Ice Pops:
1-teaspoon gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1/3-1/2 cup simple sugar syrup
2 cups watermelon pulp and juice (with seeds removed)

Mix gelatin into water. Heat 1/3-cup sugar syrup to boiling point and stir into gelatin mixture. Set aside to cool. Puree watermelon pulp and juice in blender or food processor. Add gelatin/syrup mixture and blend briefly. Taste. If not sweet enough add a little additional sugar syrup. Pour into ice-pop molds or small paper cups and freeze. Run hot water briefly over molds to release pops.

From The Washington Post, July 7, 1985.

whipped cream chocolate frosting

1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix (do not whip) all ingredients in a bowl. Set in refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours. Then beat until mixture is so thick it holds its shape and will stand in peaks. This makes enough to frost the top, sides and between layers of a 3-layer cake, even when you use a generous hand. Note: Pop cake in refrigerator after frosting to allow it to set. Store cake in refrigerator so frosting will not spoil.

thick and chewey chocolate chip cookies

These oversized cookies are chewy and thick, like many of the chocolate chip cookies sold in gourmet shops and cookie stores. They rely on melted butter and an extra yolk to keep their texture soft. These cookies are best served warm from the oven, but will retain the proper texture even when cooled. To ensure the proper texture, cool the cookies on the cookie sheet. Oversized cookie sheets allow you to get all the dough into the oven at one time. If you’re using smaller cookie sheets, put fewer cookies on each sheet and bake them in batches.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside.

3. Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in chips to taste.

4. Roll scant 1/4 cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth dough’s uneven surface. Place formed dough onto cookie sheet, leaving 2-1/2 inches between each ball.

5. Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking (from top to bottom and front to back), until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15-18 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets. When cool, peel from parchment.

From America’s Test Kitchens.

russian torte

4 cups walnuts
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 package dry yeast (not rapid rise)
1/4 cup warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups butter
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
2 cans apricot filling

Process walnuts in food processor until finely ground or grind in grinder. Combine ground walnuts, sugar and cinnamon. Measure 1/2 cup and reserve for topping to sprinkle over icing.

Combine yeast and warm water. Set aside. Sift flour into a bowl and add butter and cut into flour as for pie crust. Add slightly beaten egg yolks, milk and yeast mixture. Blend batter until it pulls away from side of bowl. Place on floured board and knead for a few minutes. Divide dough into three balls. Roll out one ball and put into a large, slightly greased cookie sheet. Work edges of dough up sides of pan, patching a little, if necessary. Spread walnut, sugar and cinnamon filling over dough. Roll out second ball of dough and place over nut filling. Spread apricot filling on second layer. Roll out the third ball of dough and place over apricot filling. Cut off all dough edges to be even with edges of pan. Prick dough with a fork in several places. Cover torte with a clean cloth and let rise for one hour in a warm place. (Torte will not rise appreciably.) Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. When torte is cool, spread with icing and sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup walnut mixture. To serve, cut into 24 rectangular pieces. Freezes well.

From Saint Mark’s Church cookbook.

russian dainties

1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
Pinch salt
1/4 cup ground poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup sweet chocolate bits
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Melt butter. Pour into large bowl. Add sugar and salt. Mix well. Beat eggs with vanilla. Add, mixing well. Gradually add flour, mixing after each addition. Add poppy seeds (they can b ground in a blender or food processor) and cinnamon. Mix well and form into a ball of dough. Place in refrigerator and chill at least 3 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet at least 1 inch apart. Make a slight indentation or depression in center of each ball. Bake 15 minutes or until browned on bottom and very light browned on top. While cookies are baking, melt chocolate bits in top of double boiler. Add the heavy cream. Mix well. After cookies have cooled, put a generous amount of melted chocolate on top of each. Serve after chocolate has hardened. Makes about 40 cookies.

From St. Mark’s Church cookbook.

vanilla buttercream frosting

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, each stick cut into quarters

1. Combine eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in bowl of standing mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until it is thin and foamy and registers 160 degrees on instant read thermometer.

2. Beat egg mixture on medium-high speed with whisk attachment until light and airy, and cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter, one piece at a time. After adding half the butter, buttercream may look curdled; it will smooth out with additional butter. Once all butter is added, increase speed to high and beat 1 minute until light, fluffy and thoroughly combined. Can be covered and refrigerated up to 5 days.
From America’s Test Kitchen.

rich and tender yellow cake

Adding the butter pieces to the mixing bowl one at a time prevents the dry ingredients from flying up and out of the bowl. This yellow cake works with any frosting.

4 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/3 cups sifted plain cake flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened and each stick cut into 8 pieces

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 9 inch round cake pans with vegetable shortening and cover pan bottoms with rounds of parchment or waxed paper. Grease paper and dust cake pans with four, tap out excess.

2. Beat eggs, milk and vanilla with fork in small bowl; measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl or standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment; mix on lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running at lowest speed, add butter one piece at a time; mix until butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, 30 to 40 seconds after all the butter is added. Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture and mix at lowest speed until incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in slow, steady stream, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Beat on medium-high until thoroughly combined and batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds longer. To mix using hand mixer, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add butter pieces and cut into the flour mixture with pastry blender. Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture; beat with hand mixer at lowest speed until incorporated, 20-30 seconds. Increase speed to high, add remaining egg mixture and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Beat at high speed 15 seconds longer.

3. Divide batter equally between prepared cake pans; spread to sides of pan and smooth with rubber spatula. Bake until cake tops are light golden and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cakes may mound slightly but will level when cooled. Cool on rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around pan perimeter to loosen. Invert cake onto large plate, peel off paper and reinvert onto lightly greased rack. Cool completely before icing.

pumpkin pie

The key to this pie is timing. Start preparing the filling when you put the pie shell in the oven. The pie may be served slightly warm, chilled, or at room temperature, which is our preference. The pie is fine by itself but much improved by a dollop of the brandied whipped cream.

1 recipe American Pie Dough for Prebaked Pie Shell, prepared through step 4
2 cups (16 ounces) plain canned pumpkin puree
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
4 large eggs

Brandied Whipped Cream
1-1/3 cups heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon brandy

1. Adjust oven rack to lower and middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Partially bake pie shell on middle rack as directed in step 5 of American pie Dough for Prebaked Pie Shell recipe.

2. Meanwhile, process pumpkin puree, brown sugar, spices, and salt in food processor fitted with steel blade for 1 minute. Transfer pumpkin mixture to 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring it to a sputtering simmer over medium-high heat. Cook pumpkin, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, about 5 minutes.

3. As soon as pie shell comes out of oven, increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Whisk heavy cream and milk into pumpkin and bring to a bare simmer. Process eggs in food processor until whites and yolks are mixed, about 5 seconds. With motor running, slowly pour about half of the hot pumpkin mixture through feed tube. Stop machine and scrape in remaining pumpkin. Process 30 seconds longer.

4. Immediately pour warm filling into hot pie shell. Ladle any excess filling into pie after it has baked for 5 minutes or so, by this time filling will have settled. Bake pie on lower rack until filling is puffed and dry looking and lightly cracked around edges, and center wiggles like gelatin when pie is gently shaken, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.

5. For the whipped cream: When ready to serve the pie, beat cream and sugar in electric mixer bowl at medium speed to soft peaks; add brandy. Beat to stiff peaks. Accompany each wedge of pie with a dollop of whipped cream.

From America’s Test Kitchens.