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Flour Girl: 3 Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

My softer take on the Saveur tart. Read on to get the recipe. (Julia Ewan -- The Washington Post)

Do you remember those kids’ books that split pictures of animals into three pieces so you could mix and match their body parts?

This Chocolate Caramel Tart recipe, from Marlow & Sons restaurant in Brooklyn and printed in Saveur magazine's April 2009 issue, reminds me of that approach. The tart has a trio of elements that work well together, yet are equally valuable solo for their mix-and-match qualities.

The no-rolling-pin crust is easy; simply form it in the tart pan with your fingers. It would be a great base for all manner of fillings: chocolate mousse, pastry cream topped with berries, cappuccino-flavored whipped cream with a dusting of cinnamon.

The caramel is a little tricky, but well worth mastering. Keep it on hand to drizzle over ice cream, or use it to build parfaits layered with whipped cream and berries. I usually get a little nervous when a recipe calls for sugar to be brought to a specific temperature, as the original one does. Though you can use a thermometer, don't rely on it. Thermometers are notoriously inconsistent and can also be temperamental depending on where they are placed in the pot.

My thermometer reading was 100 degrees below the 365 recommended, but my caramel was bubbling, golden brown and starting to smell of nutty sugar. It was perfect; never mind that the dial read well shy of the recommendation.

One of the great joys of my job -- one I never get over -- is the chance to interact with people I admire in the food world. My questions about the caramel temperature led me to a phone interview with Hunter Lewis, the director of the test kitchen at Saveur; for me, it was sort of like pulling back the curtain to discover the Great and Powerful Oz.

Hunter's job is to obsess over, worry about and test every nuance of a recipe before it goes to print. He takes great pride in the analysis and rigorous scrutiny each recipe goes through. When it came to this tart recipe, though, he conceded that the magazine might have made the wrong choice in listing an exact temperature for cooking the caramel filling.

I guess it's always a question of whether to give cooks guidelines for their intuition or something more concrete. When publishing recipes, as we know here at The Post, one can't assume the experience level of the home cook, so there's always an effort to be as inclusive as possible.

Bottom line on this recipe (at least the caramel part): Trust your eyes and nose.

The third element, a ganache, is basic; every cook should know how to make this chocolate sauce with the fancy French name. It’s a wonderful little magic trick where hot cream meets chocolate.

So, once you've made this tart (and there’s really not that much to it), you will have added three classics to your repertoire.

-- Leigh Lambert

Chocolate Caramel Tart

10 servings (original recipe said 8 servings)

MAKE AHEAD: The dough needs 30 minutes’ refrigeration; the caramel and ganache each need 4 or 5 hours’ refrigeration.

Adapted from the April 2009 issue of Saveur magazine.

For the crust
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process or natural)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the caramel
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon creme fraiche

For the ganache
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (best quality available), finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
Coarse sea salt, for garnish

For the crust: Have ready a 13- by 4-inch rectangular tart pan (or a 9-inch-round tart pan) with a removable bottom.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low; add the egg yolks one at a time and the vanilla extract, beating until well incorporated.

Add the flour mixture gradually; beat until just incorporated. The dough will be moist and sticking to the sides of the bowl. Transfer to the tart pan and press it evenly into the bottom and sides; wet your fingers as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

When the tart shell is almost chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Use a fork to prick holes in the bottom of the tart shell. (This dough acts more like a cookie dough so it does not require pie weights to keep it from rising.) Bake for 20 minutes; the tart shell should be thoroughly done. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool while you make the caramel and ganache.

For the caramel: Whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, salt and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook without stirring for 10 to 15 minutes, until the caramel is a golden brown color and starts to give off a nutty, sugary smell. It is important for the caramel to have a distinct color and flavor; otherwise, it will lose a subtle and necessary bitterness. The addition of fat (butter, cream and creme fraiche) will soften the flavor.

Remove from the heat, then gradually whisk in the butter, cream and creme fraiche; the mixture will bubble up briefly; whisk until smooth. Pour into the cooled crust. If you are using the rectangular tart pan, there will be about 2/3 cup of caramel left over (reserve and refrigerate for another use). Cover loosely with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 4 or 5 hours, until the caramel is firm. The caramel will soften a bit when brought back to room temperature.

While the caramel is setting up, make the ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.

Heat the cream to just below a boil, over medium heat. Pour it over the chocolate and let it sit for 1 minute, then stir until smooth and well incorporated.

Pour the ganache evenly over the chilled tart; let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to set and cool slightly. Refrigerate for 4 or 5 hours, until the ganache is set.

When ready to serve, sprinkle the top of the tart with the sea salt. Serve chilled.

NUTRITION | Per serving: 534 calories, 4g protein, 63 g carbohydrates, 32 g fat, 21 g saturated fat, 119 mg cholesterol, 474 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 43 g sugar

By Leigh Lambert  |  June 18, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Flour Girl , Recipes  | Tags: Leigh Lambert, Saveur magazine, caramel, chocolate  
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