Saturday, 29 October 2011

Chocolate walnut salted-caramel tart

Let’s Go Bowling, my ex-boss, no less dashing now he has given up his pinstripes and adopted a Vespa, had a birthday last Saturday that involved a brace of Peking ducks at Old Kingdom. Because I am wise, and no Old Kingdom virgin, I knew this meant no dessert beyond the traditional fried ice-cream, so I leapt into the breach. His bachelor pad with its babe graffitied on the door and bikes hung alongside his artworks would admit no round, fluffy, girly confection, so it had to be something as severe-yet-sumptuous as a version of George Calombaris’s Walnut Salty-Caramel Chocolate Tart.

I have a narrow rectangular fluted tart tin that rarely sees the light of day, so few recipes there are scaled to it. By dusting off pi and hurting my brain a lot and getting frustrated – the study of research design and analysis this semester isn’t sticking at all – I worked out that a tart recipe catering to the usual round 25mm tin would be too much for this tin by about 40%. So then I made my life even harder by adapting two recipes for a caramel tart to fit – and to allow for the addition of praline and salt. 

Adapted from George Calomabris in Your Place or Mine? p54 and Gourmet Traveller

First up, I turned to George for his sweet pastry, which didn’t have the equal measures of butter and icing sugar that the GT version did. 

300g unsalted butter, at room temperature 
150g caster sugar vanilla bean, split lengthways, seeds scraped 
450g plain flour
1 egg 
1 tbsp thickened cream

Beat butter, sugar and vanilla seeds on low until smooth and creamy – but not light and fluffy. Add flour, egg, salt and cream and mix until the dough forms a ball. George says at this point to divide the dough in half, freezing one portion for later use, but for my rectangular tin I divided it into thirds, formed oblongs to Gladwrap, and put two away in the freezer against the coming fruit season, while the dough to be used went in the fridge for an hour.

Meanwhile, I got George’s walnut praline ready by toasting 100g walnuts at 180C for about 8 minutes until lightly toasted, then rubbed in a tea towel to try to remove a bit of the skin, though it wasn’t entirely successful, and spread them over baking paper. 

Heat 110g caster sugar over a low flame, tilting pan occasionally but not stirring, for about 10 minutes, until sugar melts and dissolves into itself and a dark caramel forms – it helps to crush any lumps first, as they take longer to break down while the rest of it merrily burns. Pour over walnuts and leave to cool.

Cover a tea towel with baking paper. Fold over to enclose and pound with a rolling pin until roughly crushed. Set aside in such a place that it’s possible to refrain from eating most of it while getting back to the pastry.

Roll out the chilled dough between two sheets of baking paper until about 3mm thick, and line a greased 11x34cm rectangular loose-based tart pan with it, trimming and patching up where necessary – this is a very malleable and forgiving pastry. Stab all over with a fork and back into the fridge with it for half an hour.

Line the chilled pastry shell with baking paper and fill with pastry weights to blind bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 180C, remove paper and weights and bake for another 15 minutes, until golden, and let it cool down a bit while moving on to the caramel sauce, for which I returned to GT rather than get involved in the 180g glucose and candy thermometers George suggests, but retained his addition of salt.

140g caster sugar
85mL water
50mL pouring cream
70g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
a teaspoon Maldon sea salt (if I’d been using a regular non-flaky salt, I’d have reduced this by a third or half)

Combine sugar and water and stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes or until dark caramel; remove from heat, carefully add cream, butter and salt (be prepared for the molten mixture to spit) and stir. Return to heat and cook for 3 minutes or until smooth, then let cool slightly while scattering the walnut praline over the baked tart shell. 

Pour the salted caramel over that, and back in the fridge for an hour or two until such time as you make the chocolate ganache. 

110g dark couverture chocolate, chopped
40g cold unsalted butter, chopped
125ml thickened cream
2 tsp liquid glucose

Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Bring cream and glucose to boil over medium heat. Pour over chocolate mixture and stand for 5 minutes. Stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture becomes smooth. Pour this velvety delightfulness over the caramel, tilt to even out, and chill for at least an hour, until firm. Serve at room temperature.

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