[Enough chocolate and caramel for one daring baker – Milk chocolate and salted butter caramel tart]

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Milk chocolate and caramel au beurre salé has to be one of my favourite flavour combination ever. I know, nothing too fancy or creative, but good enough for me. Creamy, smooth and sweet – just as I like it.
When I found out that the recipe chosen – by Patricia and Veronica – for this month’s Daring Bakers‘ challenge was a milk chocolate and caramel tart from Eric Kayser, I got very excited and well, bouncy!

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Things seemed to be just perfect:
1. I was finally a daring baker, which I had been dreaming about for – literally – months.
2. My favourite flavour combination was à l’honneur for my first participation.
3. The recipe was from Les tartes d’Eric Kayser – a cookbook I’d been wanting for ages but wasn’t too sure about

By the third of August (hence, just one short day after my entrance in the fearless world of the daring bakers), my tart was ready – all pretty and yummy.

The experiment
The tart itself is made of three main components (from bottom to top):
– a chocolate and hazelnut pâte sablée
- a rich caramel flan
- a smooth milk chocolate crème chantilly

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The chocolate pâte sablée was very easy to make and a pleasure to handle – as with every pâte sucrée you should take extra-care not to overwork it (can’t wait to tell you how to produce foolproof pâte sucrée) nor manipulate it too much.
The dough is made like a traditional pâte sucrée, except it contains cocoa powder, ground hazelnuts instead of the regular ground almonds, cinnamon and baking powder.
I think it’s rather important to discuss the contribution and interests of each ‘special’ ingredients to the pâte.

The cocoa brought a pleasant colour and chocolate flavour – it always amazes me to see how little of that earthy coloured powder can produce such an amazing flavour. I definitely need to reconsider the use of cocoa powder in my baking – though, it has to be high-quality.

Just so you know right now, I omitted the cinnamon, thinking it would be the intrus, adding a very unnecessary flavour to the final tart. I strongly believe that if you call your tart milk chocolate and caramel, it should be milk chocolate and caramel, and not: milk chocolate, caramel and cinnamon.

On the same note, I found that the ground hazelnuts added an unwanted nuttiness. I do love the chocolate and hazelnut combination and I do think that ground hazelnuts help for the sable [sandy] texture, though I really didn’t like them here. I feel that using more neutral nuts, like almonds, would have had the same texture benefits minus the why-do-my-tart-tastes-like-nutella reaction.
I won’t describe how to make pâte sucrée – or more accurately in this case, pâte sablée au chocolat – as an upcoming post will explain this in details.

ps. As you can see for the pictures, my crust was way too thick in the angles); luckily my dough skills have much improved since then!

Lastly, I found the use of baking powder both a good and bad thing. Sure it prevents the dough from shrinking but it also results in disgracious ‘love-handles’. My verdict: if you know your doughs and how they react, shrking shouldn’t be an issue; hence, ditch it!

The second layer – caramel flan -, was somewhat interesting. First, because making caramel à la crème is always exciting. Second, because I found the use of eggs as solidifiers both attention-grabbing.

I began by making a caramel sec [dry caramel, ie. made without the use of water – just pure sugar]. Once the caramel got a dark amber colour, I incorporated the butter, small pieces at a time. Then I poured the boiling cream over and whisked for a couple of seconds.
This method is infallible – I’ve made it a thousand times before without having the caramel to seize.
It is imperative for the caramel to be dark-brown or the flavour will be too weak compared to the milk chocolate.

Regarding the butter, I highly recommend using French salted butter: beurre demi-sel, my favourite being Jean-Yves Bordier’s, which uses fine salt crystals for a subtle yet distinctive taste.

Once baked, this layer was firm and speckled with tiny holes, which reminded me of flan aux oeufs.

After allowing the tart to chill in the fridge overnight, I covered it with a milk chocolate crème chantilly.
Here, again, I used my own method as I know that adding warm chocolate to whipped cream will invariably results in a loss of air and thickness, and thus in a thin mousse.

I brough the cream to the boil and poured it over the chopped milk chocolate in three times, first mixing with a wisk and then a rubber spatula, until the chocolate was melted. I covered with cling film and placed in the fridge overnight. The next day, I just had to whip the ganache until fluffy. Perfect, I tell you!
I piped the mousse on top of the caramel layer and smoothed it down with a spatula.
As always, the milk chocolate chantilly, was a huge success – good enough to be eaten on its own. My favourite chocolate to use isn’t Jivara as you may have thought, but Lindt extra-fin.

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Soooo…
I’m sure I would have loved the tart if it wasn’t for the hazelnuts. I might sound picky but I really found they distracted me from the main actors.
Other than that I immensely liked the caramel flan layer – a satisfying and deep flavour, and a perfect texture.
As said above, I’m not very happy with how thick the crust is in the corners; but oh well, I know I can now do better.