How to: Salted caramel and chocolate tartlets

Salted caramel and chocolate tart is basically my favourite dessert. Like, ever. And I bloody love desserts. I’m totes a connoisseur. Anyway, this is my first attempt at this delicious treat. I decided to go for tartlets as I’m trying to avoid death by butter. These are pretty amazing, but I’m still searching for my perfect recipe. This will make one 20cm tart or ten 8cm tartlets.Image

Ingredients

For the sweet hazelnut pastry

  • 50g blanched hazelnuts
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 140g cold butter, diced
  • 1tbsp icing sugar

For the salted caramel

  • 75g caster sugar
  • 25g butter
  • 100ml double cream
  • large pinch sea salt flakes
  • 50g toasted blanched hazelnuts

For the chocolate filling

  • 100g 70% cocoa chocolate
  • 75g butter
  • 2 large eggs, plus one yolk
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder

Method

  1. For the pastry, whizz the hazels up in a food processor (or with hand blender) until finely ground.
  2. Add the flour, icing sugar and butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you don’t have a processor, rub in by hand.Pastry breadcrumbs
  3. Add your egg yolk and 1-2tbsps cold water and mix until the dough comes together. Pastry ball
  4. Flatten into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for half an hour.
  5. Butter your tin or tins.
  6. Heat oven to 180C (fan 160C/gas 4). Flour your work surface and roll the chilled pastry out. Roll it thin, this helps it to be lovely and crispy. Pastry rolled
  7. Line your tin or tins, pressing any cracks in the pastry together. Trim the edges and prick the bases to help prevent the pastry from rising. You can also pop them in the freezer for a few minutes to help further.Pastry case before baking
  8. Line with (crumpled) baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 15-20mins, until the edges of the pastry are pale golden. Remove the baking beans and parchment and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the bottom of the pastry is dry and beginning to colour.Three baked cases
  9. While the cases are baking (or afterwards if you don’t want to take a risk with multitasking), make your caramel. Put the sugar in a small pan over a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of water. Use this amount even if you halve the recipe. Don’t stir very much.Sugar water in pan
  10. Once the sugar has dissolved, crank up the heat until the sugar becomes an amber coloured caramel. Don’t worry if the sugar re-hardens into white lumps before this happens- leave it on the heat and the caramel will form. Again, avoid stirring and DO NOT be tempted to touch the mixture, it will be unholily hot.                  Caramel sugar only
  11. Reduce the heat and add the butter, cream and golden syrup, and stir until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and add the salt. You can drop a little caramel onto a cold spoon so that you can taste for your desired level of saltiness. I added 2 large pinches.Caramel finished
  12. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then spread onto the pastry. Scatter with chopped hazelnuts.Three with nuts
  13. Now for the chocolate filling. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave, checking after 30 seconds. Stir until smooth, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  14. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolk and sugar for about 6 minutes until thick and pale.Pale and fluffy eggs
  15. Fold in the chocolate and cocoa powder, then pour into your pastry case.Three with chocolate
  16. I popped a couple of these babies into the freezer at this stage as I’d made too many. I’ll let you know if they turn out to be a disaster.
  17. Bake for 15-25 minutes until the chocolate mixture has risen and set, forming a crust.Three baked
  18. Allow to cool before serving. With some double cream. Yum.
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Bloody scary tarts

As it’s Hallowe’en this week, I thought I would make some suitably terrifying tarts.Image

All you need to do to make your own is line a mini muffin tin with puff pastry and then over-fill with jam. The mess left on your pan will strike fear into the bravest of hearts.

How to: Mini Meringue Tarts

I believe that I promised a delicious and even more unhealthy use for curd. Well, I am a woman of my word, so I proudly present the following recipe. The ingredients make enough for a large 20-25cm meringue pie, but I halved the ingredients and had enough to make four 10cm tartlets, and I probably could have managed five if I’d had enough curd.

Use loose-bottomed fluted tins if possible, as otherwise you’ll smash the tarts to pieces trying to remove them.

Note: My oven is fan-assisted. Turn the oven up an additional 20degrees if yours isn’t.

Ingredients…

…for the sweetcrust pastry

  • 175g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk

…for the filling

  • About 450ml of curd, preferably home made. I used my mango-lime concoction.

…for the meringue

  • 4 egg whites at room temperature. I can confirm that frozen whites whip up very nicely!
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 level tsp cornflour

Additional equpment

  • Foil or baking parchment
  • Baking beans. Either the proper ones, or any dried beans will do but don’t eat them after you’ve used them for baking. I store mine in a jar and re-use them.

Method

  1. Start off with the pastry. Preheat the oven to 180degrees C and butter your tins.
  2. If you have a food processor, just put in all of your ingredients and whiz until it begins to come together, with a tsp of cold water if needed.
  3. If, like me, you don’t have a food processor, put the butter, sugar and flour into a bowl and rub together with your fingertips. You don’t want to overwork this stage, so just rub until the butter is mostly incorporated. Your mixture might still be quite lumpy.
  4. Add the egg yolk and rub in until the pastry comes together into a ball. Add a teaspoon of cold water if necessary.
  5. Roll out on a floured work surface until about 3-4mm thick. This pastry is very rich and tends to crack. Don’t worry when this happens, just press it back together when you line the tin with it.
  6. Line the tin or tins, pressing the pastry into the flutes.Image
  7. Prick the bottoms of the tarts with a fork. This allows heat to escape and helps to keep the pastry flat.Image
  8. Line the tarts with foil, shiny side down. If using parchment, omit this step. Pop the tarts in the freezer for fifteen minutes or so until firm. Alternatively, you can chill them in the fridge for about an hour.
  9. Fill the cases with baking beans and bake blind for about 15 mins. I also put something heavy like a glass on top of the beans to compress the pastry further.Image
  10. Bake until the edges begin to turn golden. Then remove the foil/parchment and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes until the pastry is pale gold. Don’t worry if there are cracks in the pastry. Turn the oven down to 160C.Image
  11. Now for the meringue. Put your egg whites into a spotlessly clean bowl and whisk until you get soft peaks- if you allow some of the meringue to trail off the whisk, it will leave a pattern on top of the rest of the egg white.
  12. A spoonful at a time, add half the sugar. Whisk between each addition until the sugar is incorporated but don’t overbeat. Whisk in the cornflour, then add the rest of the sugar as before until smooth and thick.
  13. Gently heat the curd through over a bain marie.
  14. Pour into the tart cases.
  15. Immediately put spoonfuls of meringue around the edge of the curd. If you start in the middle the meringue might sink. For tartlets, use a teaspoon.
  16. Spread the meringue so it just touches the pastry, which will anchor it and stop it from sliding. Pile the rest into the centre, spreading so it touches the surface of the hot (or warm) filling. This will start to cook it. Give the tart a swirl.
  17. Return to the oven for 15-20 mins until the meringue is crisp and slightly coloured. Let sit in the tin for 30 mins, then remove (place on a glass to slide off the side bit) and leave to cool for at least another 1⁄2-1 hour before attempting to slice.

Mine are a little on the dark side, but I do have an overzealous oven (don’t tell me that only a poor workman blames her tools). Here is a cross-section, detailing the fluffiness of the meringue.

I served mine with some double cream as they are just too healthy otherwise. This took them to the next level of deliciousness. My two lovely dessert-testers also agreed, though I had just bribed them with home-made curry.

How to: Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts)

I am seriously in danger of becoming addicted to these little things. Cream, buttery puff pastry… what’s not to love? Despite making three batches of these, I neglected to take a photo of the finished article. This may have been because I was ‘testing’ them rather than being a good blogger. So here’s one that I found on Google (so don’t sue me, copyright-holder).Image

Mine looked remarkably similar, I’ll upload a pic when I make these again (so probably tomorrow). These are best on the day they are baked, as the puff pastry loses crispiness. You can complete steps 2-5 up to two days in advance and store the custard in the fridge until needed, covered in clingfilm. Rolling the pastry then only takes about 15mins in the morning, plus baking time.

Ingredients:

  •  All-butter puff pastry (obviously you can use not all-butter, but why would you?). You only need half of a 500g pack. Bung the other half in the freezer.
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 2tbsp cornflour
  • 230ml cream (I used double but according to the internet, you can use any kind, or even substitute milk)
  • 170ml milk (I used whole, but apparently you can use skimmed)
  • 2tsp vanilla extract or other flavouring
  • A dusting of icing sugar (optional)
  • A sprinkling of cinnamon (optional)

Method

  1. Butter a 12-hole muffin tin.
  2. Put egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a medium saucepan and whisk together.
  3. Gradually whisk in cream and sugar until smooth.
  4. Cook over a medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. I used the back of the spoon test again. This may take some time. Bring to just below boiling point, the remove from the heat and add the vanilla.Image
  5. Put the custard in the bowl and put clingfilm over the surface to stop a skin from forming.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200degrees C.
  7. Flour your work surface and rolling pin. The following steps prevent the pastry from puffing up too much during baking and providing the tart’s characteristic crisp crust.
  8. Roll the puff pastry to about 1cm in thickness, then cut in half. Dust one half with icing sugar and cinnamon, which helps make the pastry a tiny bit less savoury.Image
  9. Put the non-dusted half on top of the dusted one and roll out again, to about 5mm thickness.
  10. Now, start at the bottom and roll the pastry up like a Swiss roll. Make it as tight as you can.
  11. Cut the roll crossways into sections about 1cm wide (I am only making 8 tarts with this pastry).Image
  12. Flatten and roll each round until about 10cm in diameter.Image
  13. Put the rounds of pastry into the buttered tin and manipulate a little until they line each hole nicely. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect, the custard covers a multitude of sins and they’re meant to look rustic.Image
  14. Fill ’em up with your custard.Image
  15. Bake for 15-25mins (check after 15. My oven seems to be monstrously hot). Don’t be afraid of baking these, they are meant to have dark spots on the surface. The pastry should be golden brown and the custard set.They’ll puff up during cooking, but sink back down once they cool.Image
  16. Leave to cool in the tin, then cool completely before packing up. Pack them in paper or cardboard rather than plastic if you can, to keep them nice and dry.

According to the internet, you can make these with non-dairy substitutes. Next time, I think I’ll try with the coconut alternative to milk that I like using. Watch this space!