My love affair with tarts began when I went to culinary school. Part of the first term — here was spent perfecting tart bases and then, eventually, the fillings and toppings that went into them. I was immediately hooked by the craft and the sheer versatility that tart-making offers. There are endless options for the base: sweet, savoury, shortcrust, sable Breton, you name it. And when it comes to the fillings and toppings, the sky is the limit! Here, I offer a recipe for a chocolate, caramel and nut tart, flavours that complement each other wonderfully well. It requires some effort and preparation, but turns up an excellent result that is sure to impress at any celebration or event.
The hot weather can make it challenging to prepare and roll out the butter-rich tart base. The trick is to ensure that all the ingredients are cold throughout the process. I like to plan ahead and measure out the dry ingredients and the butter in a bowl, and then stick them in the freezer for a good 30 minutes to an hour before starting.
Some people also find caramel-making challenging. Again, it is important to prepare and measure out all the ingredients before you start. Choose a good, heavy bottomed stainless-steel pan to make your caramel. However, if you are a beginner, a non-stick pan will work equally well and make it slightly easier for you. Remember, once the sugar is dissolved, do not stir the caramel, only swirl the mixture in the pan. This helps to prevent crystallisation and gives you a smooth caramel. You can also use a wet pastry brush to bathe the sides of your saucepan every now and then, to wash down any sugar crystals that cling there.
The chocolate ganache recipe I give here is simple and easy, and practically foolproof. However, sometimes when you add hot cream to chocolate, the mixture can look like it has split. If this happens, don’t worry! Simply whisk it thoroughly and cool the ganache and it will come back to its smooth and shiny consistency.
Whether it is a birthday or a special event, a tart makes a great centrepiece for any celebration
Chocolate, caramel and nut tart
Chocolate tart base
20g cocoa powder
150g butter (cold, cut in cubes)
100g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg (beaten)
Salted caramel with nuts
330g caster sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
210g dark chocolate (finely chopped)
Make the chocolate tart base: Combine the flour, cocoa powder, cold butter, icing sugar and salt in a food processor or in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium until the mixture looks like dry sand. Add the egg and mix just until the dough comes together (do not over mix). Gather the dough together with your hands, wrap in cling film and chill for about 30 minutes before using.
Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C and grease a nine-inch tart pan. Roll out the chilled dough to 4mm and settle it into the tart pan, cutting off the excess from the sides with a sharp knife. Pierce the base of the dough with a fork and then chill for another 10 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes and set aside to cool.
Make the salted caramel with nuts: Toast nuts, roughly chop them and set aside. Put the butter and cream in a small saucepan and boil and then set aside. Put caster sugar and water in a larger saucepan and keep stirring over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Then turn up the heat to medium high, swirling the pan occasionally until the sugar is caramelised. Remove from the heat and quickly and carefully stir in the butter and cream mixture. Be careful, the caramel will boil and bubble up. Return the pan back to the stove and cook on a low heat for three to four minutes until the mixture boils and thickens a bit. Remove from the heat and stir in the sea salt and nuts. Cool the caramel at room temperature or in the fridge
Make the chocolate ganache: Heat butter and cream in a saucepan. Pour over the chocolate and leave to melt. Mix until combined and then chill for about 20-30 minutes.
Assemble the tart: Fill the cooled tart base with the salted caramel and nut mixture in a thick layer. Pipe the ganache on top with a round or star tip. Garnish with extra-toasted nuts if desired.
The writer is a professional chef and holds a diploma in pastry from Le Cordon Bleu.
Published in Dawn, EOS, May 31st, 2020