It feels like an absolute age since I last posted! I don’t think I have ever actually gone this long without posting since I first started the blog… I have to admit that I quite enjoyed being lazy and having a bit of a break from blogging and although I am eager to get back into it I am finding it a little difficult to get back into the swing of things! I do have a cracker of a recipe for you today to start me off and ease me back into it though. I made these chocolate, salted caramel and hazelnut tarts for dessert at the weekend, but they were so good that I couldn’t resist scoffing another one at lunch the following day; they certainly didn’t last long! My timing turned out to be perfect for this one as I just found out today that it is apparently National Chocolate Week this week! It wasn’t planned at all (I didn’t know that national chocolate week was even a thing…), but it is nice to coincidentally be posting a chocolate recipe. I adapted these tarts from a combination of both Patisserie Made Simple by Edd Kimber and Patisserie by William and Suzue Curley, both of which are absolutely fantastic books which I highly recommend. The tarts consist of a sweet shortcrust pastry base, topped with a layer of toasted hazelnut salted caramel, then a chocolate crunch layer and finally a layer of chocolate crémeux, finished with a dusting of cocoa powder and a drizzle of salted caramel. It may seem like a lot of components and I wont lie, it did take me a while (not helped by the fact that I also made my own feuilletine), but each individual component isn’t overly difficult and you can make the tart cases and salted caramel sauce a day in advance if you prefer, and the tarts can be finished and assembled early on in the day before serving, or even the evening before; just store them in an airtight container, room temperature is fine unless it is very warm. The chocolate crunch layer is very simple but really delicious, like a grown-up version of chocolate cornflake treats. You can use crushed waffle cones (or even cornflakes), though I do recommend trying feuilletine, which are brittle, crispy flakes with a buttery, caramelised flavour; they are very addictive and all to easy to eat by the handful… You can buy them, or make them yourself using this recipe, though I recommend making just a half batch as it does make quite a lot! They do keep well in an airtight container though and are brilliant to have to hand for sprinkling over ice cream, adding some crunch to desserts or merely munching by the handful… The chocolate crémeux is basically a ganache made with crème anglaise (custard), it is incredibly smooth and silky, but a little less rich than ganache (so you can eat more of it); using a good quality dark chocolate makes all the difference here, I used Lindt 70%. The smooth crémeux contrasts really well against the crisp pastry and crunchy hazelnuts and chocolate crunch; all of these flavours and textures combine to make a truly delectable and indulgent dessert that is most definitely worth the effort! (and calories…)
Chocolate, Salted Caramel And Hazelnut Tarts
- 200 g (1 + 2/3 cup) plain flour
- 20 g (3 tbsp) ground hazelnuts or almonds
- 40 g (1/3 cup) icing (powdered) sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 125 g (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 large egg yolk
- approx 1 tsp ice water
Hazelnut Salted Caramel
- 125 g (4.5 oz) hazelnuts
- 225 g (1 cup + 2tbsp) caster sugar
- 25 ml (1.5 tbsp) water
- 180 ml (3/4 cup) whipping cream
- 15 g (1 tbsp) butter
- 1/3 tsp flaky sea salt
Chocolate Crunch Layer
- 80 g (3 oz) waffle cones, crushed into small pieces or feuilletine
- 100 g (3.5 oz) milk chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt)
- 125 g (4.5 oz) dark chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt 70%)
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) full fat milk
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) whipping cream
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 45 g egg yolks (about 2 large/3 small)
- 25 g (2 tbsp) caster sugar
- 15 g (1 tbsp) butter
- cocoa powder for dusting
To make the pastry, place the flour, ground nuts, icing sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and vanilla bean paste and blitz until it forms fine crumbs. Add the egg yolk and pulse until the pastry comes together, adding the tsp of ice water if needed; do not overmix. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly just until it is smooth; form into a thick log, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Slice the chilled log into 6 even pieces, roll each one out on a lightly floured surface until it is large enough to line an 8-10cm deep tart tin. Line the tins, pressing the pastry right into the corners and leaving any excess pastry overhanging. Place the tins on a baking tray then chill in the fridge for 30 mins or so.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Line each tart case with a piece of baking parchment and fill with baking beans or dried rice, making sure that it goes right into the corners. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the baking beans and parchment and return the tarts to the oven for a further 10 minutes or until the pastry is golden and baked through.
Leave the tarts to cool a little in the tins then carefully trim off the excess pastry with a very sharp serrated knife. Remove the tarts from the tins and set aside.
For the hazelnut salted caramel layer, place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes until the skins have darkened and the nuts are golden. Tip them out onto a clean teatowel and rub them vigorously with the towel, the skins should flake off but don't worry if you can't get rid of all of the skin. Roughly chop the nuts and set aside.
Place the sugar and water in a deep, wide, heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat, swirling the pan (don't stir it), until the sugar has melted and turned a rich golden brown; meanwhile, heat the cream, butter and salt together in a small pan until hot but not boiling. As soon as the sugar has turned golden, quickly remove it from the heat and pour in the cream, it will bubble up violently so be careful.
Once the bubbling has subsided, stir until smooth; you may need to return the pan to a low heat for a couple of minutes if there are any lumps of caramel. Set aside one third of the caramel for drizzling over the finished tarts and stir the chopped nuts into the rest. Allow to cool a little then divide it between the tart cases and place them in the fridge until the caramel has set.
For the chocolate crunch layer, melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (don't let the base of the bowl touch the water), or in short bursts in the microwave. Stir in the crushed waffle cones or feuilletine until they are fully coated in chocolate. Divide the mixture between the tarts, spreading it out into an even layer, return to the fridge until set.
To make the chocolate cremeux, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Put the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale. Gradually pour the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the yolks don't curdle.
Return the pan to a low heat and stir constantly until it coats the back of a spoon (82-84C/180-183F). Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve onto the chocolate, mix until smooth then add the butter and stir until melted.
At this point you can either allow the cremeux to cool then pour some onto each tart while it is still fairly runny and spread until it is smooth, or you can do as I did and place it in the fridge until it has become firm enough to pipe (keep an eye on it, you don't want it to become too firm) then transfer it to a piping bag fitted with a large, plain nozzle and pipe dollops of it on top of each tart.
Allow the tarts to come up to room temperature before serving, then dust with a little cocoa powder and drizzle with the remaining salted caramel sauce.
1. You will need six 8-10cm deep round tart tins.
Adapted from Patisserie Made Simple by Edd Kimber