It seems to me that every year before I have to got back to school I manage to get sick. (Mind you, this isn't the extra yucky stomach flu or anything like that, just a cold, but really? Who likes a cold?) And if it's not before the beginning, it's that crucial first or second week of class. Honestly, it's not the worst time to be sick, but it's no fun, either. I certainly prefer it to getting sick at the middle (way to go, Comps), or the end (ditto, first year of grad school), when you kind of really need to get those papers done/grades in.
For me, getting sick usually entails moping around in my apartment checking my email and Facebook incessantly in the event that someone has sent me a message or an email (HA!), reading, and eating chicken soup. Eating wise, I have a few requirements for the foods that I eat while I'm sick. The first thing is that all foods need to be hot, temperature-wise. Soup falls nicely into this category, as does tea. The second thing is that it needs to be soft, somehow. Vegetables and other sundries found in soup are usually nice and soft (not mushy!). So does soft tofu, especially if it's, Soon Dubu, which is, as far as I can tell, a Korean dish basically comprised of silken tofu, some broth, and hot sauce. The third requirement is that my sick food be salty. I never want sweets, or sweet-tasting things. There is also a NO DAIRY rule.
But, this being my last week before I have to get back to school, I couldn't resist taking care of a few things, this mainly being indulging my craving for baking. (I am also craving winter and fall foods, but I'm not ready to indulge that yet. Tomatoes, don't think that I'm done with you!) So when I was flipping through my copy of Chocolate and Zucchini, Clotilde Dusoulier's charming book based on her blog of the same name, came across a recipe for a salted caramel chocolate tart. This of course, made me think of that movie Waitress, when Keri Russell's character makes her "I hate my husband and I don't want to have no baby" pie, which was a pie with a base of caramel covered with chocolate pudding. (You know, I've only seen that movie once. Once. What does that say about me?) I've been wanting to make a pie like that ever since (sans title), but honestly, I've been wimpy/lazy/frightened by all that sugar to actually make it. So when I came across this tart recipe, I was thrilled.
Maybe it was the sore throat going to my head, but, I also decided to be unbearably cute about all of this and make tartlets (really, they are probably the cutest dessert ever invented. SO! CUTE!). I'm going to give you the recipe for a full ten-inch tart, but you should know that if you decide to go my route, that half the caramel recipe makes about 4-5 tartlets. Maybe even six.
Tarte Chocolat Caramel, adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini
Pâte Sablée (instructions follow)
For the caramel:
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon quality honey
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (or kosher salt)
1/3 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
For the ganache filling:
10 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
1 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
7 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced (plus more for the pan)
1-2 tablespoons chilled milk
Clotilde's recipe, given to her by her mother, is brilliant. It's a little dry at the outset, but there's no fuss about chilling and rolling it out. And it's perfect. Here, I'm going to give the method to make it by hand; she gives that one as well as a method for a food processor. If you want it, look it up.
1. Grease a 10-inch tart pan with butter.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Add the butter and rub it into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add a tablespoon of milk and blend it in, handling the dough as lightly as you can. The dough should still be crumbly, but it shoud clump if you gently squeez a handful in your hand. If it doesn't, add a little more milk, teaspoon by teaspoon (there are THREE teaspoons in ONE tablespoon), and blend again, still working lightly, until it reaches the desired consistency.
3. Pour the mixture into the prepared tart pan and use the back of a tablespoon to spread it evenly over the bottom. Using the heels of your hands and your fingers, press down on the dough to form a thin layer, covering the surface of the pan and creating a rim all around. Don't worry if the dough feels a little dry--this is normal. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the tart is properly chilled, bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden, keeping an eye on it. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Make sure you have all the ingredients measured out before you start, because you won't have time to do it once you begin.
Combine the brown sugar and one tablespoon water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt the sugar slowly over medium-low heat. Swish the pan around from time to time to ensure even melting, but don't stir. As soon as bubbles form on the surface (avoid overcooking the caramel, or it will become bitter), add the honey and stir to combine. Add the salt and cream and stir until blended. Remove from heat, add the butter, and stir to combine. Pour the caramel into the tart shell and tilt the pan slowly in a circular motion to coat the bottom of the shell evenly. Let set in the fridge for 40 minutes.
Put the chocolate in a medium mixing bowl, preferably stainless steel. Bring the cream to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Pour half of the cream on the chocolate (cover the saucepan to keep the remaining cream warm), let stand for 20 seconds, and stir gently in the center with a whisk, gradually blending the cream with the chocolate until smooth. Add half of the remaining cream, and stir again until combined. Repeat with the remaining cream. Remove the tart pan from the fridge, pour the chocolate filling ingot the shell, and level the surface with a spatula. Return to the fridge to set for at least an hour.