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Deep, rich, delicious!

Deep, rich, delicious!

One of the most popular desserts I’ve made was this decadent chocolate tart with salted caramel topping. This was inspired by several different recipes and desserts. Probably the most similar is the famous salted caramel tart served by Frenchtown, NJ restaurant, Lovin’ Oven. However, the starting point for this recipe was the “Perfectly Simple Dark Chocolate Tart” in Lori Longbotham’s book, Luscious Chocolate Desserts which is well worth the investment if you’re into chocolate (and who isn’t?)

In this version of the chocolate tart, I changed a few things to adapt it to my tastes.

  • Used hazelnuts in the crust
  • Added vanilla, because all desserts need an extra splash of vanilla
  • Used some Mexican chocolate to gain some of the floral cinnamony flavors and sweetness
  • Used Mexican cinnamon for a little more cinnamon flavor without being overpowering
  • Added very finely ground coffee. Just because chocolate desserts are better with coffee.
  • And of course, the salted caramel topping

Be forewarned – this is a *very* potent dessert! For maximal enjoyment I suggest slender slices. You should be able to get 12-16 (correction) 24-32 slices from this tart! You may also wish to eliminate the caramel. I keep going back and forth between desiring its added flavor and being overwhelmed by the extra sweetness.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1/3 cup roasted hazelnuts. Learn how to roast them here.
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick of cold unsalted butter (8 tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. My favorite is Pernigotti.
  • A big pinch of salt (~1/4 tsp)

Chocolate Pie Filling:

  • Two disks Mexican chocolate (~6oz). I used this Ibarra but you can use any chocolate you like. Or you can make it yourself, like this recipe.
  • 8 oz. sweetened dark chocolate (60%-70%)
  • 3/4 stick (6 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar. Use brown sugar if you prefer that flavor
  • 1 tbsp very finely ground coffee/espresso
  • 1 Mexican cinnamon stick or 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (or less if you don’t like vanilla)

Caramel sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy Cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Making the pie:

Make the crust:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
  • Roast the hazelnuts using whatever method you like. See this link. Do this first so you can let them cool. I wrap mine in paper towel after roasting and toss them in the freezer for about 10 minutes while getting the rest of the ingredients together.
  • Put the sugar, flour, cocoa powder and salt into a food processor or bowl and mix to combine uniformly. It’s not really critical because it will all mix later.
  • Toss the cool hazelnuts into the food processor and pulse until the entire mix is a sandy consistency. This shouldn’t take more than 5-10 seconds or you’ll make Nutella!
  • Cut the stick of cold butter into chunks. I cut it the long way, then cut each of these in half so you have four long pieces. Then lay these next to one another and chop them into little pieces, maybe 1/4″ thick. It doesn’t have to be precise since you’re just tossing it in the food processor.
  • Add in the chopped butter to the food processor and pulse a few more times to mix and break the butter into smaller pieces. Again, not too much or you’ll cream it.
  • Pour the crust mixture into a pie or tart pan and press it into shape in a relatively even layer. Don’t worry about buttering the pan. There’s enough butter and oils in the mix to keep things from sticking.
  • Put the completed crust on a pizza pan or cookie sheet (for easy handling) and bake for about 15 minutes so it sets up. You can use pie weights or just let it puff up.

Make the pie filling:

  • Use your favorite chocolate melting method to melt the chocolate and butter. Here are some techniques. I usually just nestle a metal mixing bowl over a pot with a couple cups of lightly boiling water.
  • Whisk the melted mixture together so it’s nice and creamy. You don’t have to go crazy but since the Mexican chocolate is grainy, it takes a little work.
  • Remove the mixing bowl from the heat. It’s convenient to put it on a kitchen towel. Avoid getting water in the chocolate mixture or bad things might happen.
  • Grind the Mexican cinnamon stick to a fine powder with mortar and pestle. Or just use a tsp of ground cinnamon. Or leave it out if you don’t like cinnamon.
  • Beat the eggs, sugar, coffee, vanilla and cinnamon so it’s well mixed.
  • Add the mixture to the chocolate and whisk it all together

Bake the pie:

  • Pour the filling into the cooked crust.
  • Bake the pie for 10-15 minutes. The center should still be goopy while the edge will look more cooked.
  • Cool pie on a wire rack so it sets a bit before adding caramel sauce.

Make the caramel topping:

There are any number of recipes for making caramel sauce. Pick your favorite. Or, you can use the super-easy method I was taught by Shelley Wiseman of The Farm Cooking School:

    • Mix the cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a small, light colored saucepan
    • Heat at medium until the sugar dissolves. You can swirl the pan around to mix it but don’t mess with it too much or it may crystallize! If it does, just add more water and reheat. All the water evaporates during the process so the exact amount of water isn’t important.

      Early on, just boiling off the water

      Early on, just boiling off the water

    • Make sure you have the 1/2 cup of cream standing by. You’ll need it later.
    • Once the sugar is all dissolved, you can brush the sides of the pan with water so all the sugar crystals are dissolved and the pot just has the melty goodness.
    • Keep heating, resisting the urge to mess with it, until it turns amber. Again, you can swirl the pan to even out the heating if you see some parts browning before others.
    • When you’re close, it will look like this:
Getting close - starting to brown

Getting close – starting to brown

  • Suddenly, the bubbles will change and the caramel will turn that characteristic amber color. Keep going just a little longer then remove from heat before it burns and immediately add the cream. Be careful because it will bubble and steam a lot! This halts the browning process, allowing you to get it just the way you want the caramel.
  • Add the butter and a healthy pinch of coarse salt and whisk it all together.
The beautiful, almost finished caramel sauce

The beautiful, almost finished caramel sauce

Do not, I repeat, do not, stick your finger in the mix to taste it. This stuff is hot, hot, hot! Just set it aside for a few minutes to cool, then pour however much you want on your completed tart that has been cooling for the last 10-15 minutes.

Sprinkle with more coarse salt to your taste.

You probably won’t use all your caramel sauce, so bottle the rest and store it in the fridge for later use.

Chill the tart in the fridge for an hour or two until completely set. When chilled, it will have a fudge-like consistency. If you like it a little gooey, you can chill it less but it will get ugly when you cut it.

A small slice of decadence

A small slice of decadence

Enjoy!