Take a Bite Out of Halloween

Frankie Frankeny, ChronicleBooks.com

Frankie Frankeny, ChronicleBooks.com

Halloween’s just around the corner and more grown-ups than ever (71% according to a National Retail Federation survey) will be joining in the fun,  That makes All Hallow’s Eve now the third largest party day in the U.S. behind New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday. So, isn’t it time you served your guests something other than a handful of candy corn?  Leave the kiddie treats to, well, the kids, and make your party the best monster bash of them all with a chic treat like chocolate and caramel tartlets.  There are many things to love about this dessert from “The Model Bakery Cookbook:  75 Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery” by Karen Mitchell and Sarah Mitchell Hansen.  The tartlets can be made a few days ahead so there’s no rush come party day and they combine sweet with salty (yum!). This tasty treat will satisfy the palette of even the most discriminating ghoul in the room and will likely fly off the table, so make extra.

CHOCOLATE AND CARAMEL TARTLETS WITH FLEUR DE SEL 

MAKES 6 TARTLETS

Many of our customers are regular party givers, and they have discovered that a personal tartlet for each guest is an elegant way to serve dessert. While we have a reputation for serving tasty old-fashioned treats, these small chocolate and caramel tarts, finished with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt (fleur de sel), are a nod to contemporary tastes. They will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days, so you can get them done well before guests arrive. You will probably have leftover caramel, but it is difficult to make it in a smaller batch. You can refrigerate the caramel and use it to stir into hot coffee or tea.

CARAMEL

1/3 cup/65 g sugar

2 Tbsp water

½ tsp light corn syrup

3 Tbsp heavy cream

Unbleached all-purpose flour for rolling out the dough

1 recipe Tart Dough (see separate recipe- below)

GANACHE

1 cup/240 ml heavy cream

8 oz/225 g bittersweet chocolate (no more than 55% cacao), coarsely chopped

About ½ tsp flaky sea salt or fleur de sel, such as Maldon or fleur de sel de Guérande

TO MAKE THE CARAMEL:

1. Stir the sugar, water, and corn syrup together in a small heavy saucepan over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring and boil, occasionally rotating the pan by the handle to swirl the syrup, and washing down any crystals that form on the sides of the pan with a bristle brush dipped in cold water, until the syrup is smoking and the color of an old copper coin, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the cream and stir until dissolved. Transfer to a small heat-proof ramekin or bowl and let cool.

2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F/200°C/gas 6. Have ready six 5-in/12-cm tartlet pans with removable bottoms.

3. Lightly flour the work surface. Divide the dough into six equal portions. Shape each portion into a flat disk. Working with one portion at a time, roll out the dough into a 7-in/17-cm round about 1⁄8 in/3 mm thick. Fit into a tartlet pan, making sure the dough fits snugly where the base meets the sides. Trim off the excess dough so the dough is flush with the rim of the pan. Press the dough firmly against the sides. Freeze until the dough is firm, 15 to 30 minutes.

4. Place the tartlet pans on a large rimmed baking sheet. Line each shell with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the dough looks set and is beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Remove the foil and pie weights. Pierce each tartlet shell a few times with a fork. Return to the oven and bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely.

TO MAKE THE GANACHE:

1. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges. Put the chocolate in a medium heat- proof bowl. Add the hot cream and let stand until the chocolate softens, about 3 minutes. Whisk just until smooth. Set aside until slightly cooled, about 30 minutes.

2. Pour an equal amount of the ganache into each pastry shell. Refrigerate until the ganache is set, about 1 hour.

3. Check the consistency of the caramel; it should flow easily from a spoon. If necessary, warm gently in a bowl of hot water, stirring the caramel until fluid. Spoon a 1⁄4-in-/ 6-mm-wide ribbon of caramel across the top of each tartlet. Sprinkle each ribbon with a generous pinch of the salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, remove the sides of the tartlet pans.

TO MAKE THE TART DOUGH :

Makes one 9-IN/23-cm crust.

Pie dough is supposed to be flaky and tender. Tart dough is almost like a cookie and bakes up buttery, crisp, and a bit sweet. Be sure to make it at least an hour before using so the gluten in the flour has time to relax before you roll it out.

½ cup/115 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup/65 g sugar

1 large egg yolk

2 Tbsp whole milk

1¼ cups/165 g cake flour (not self-rising)

¼ tsp fine sea salt

1.  Beat the butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer set on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat until light in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk, and then dribble in the milk. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Mix the flour and salt together in a small bowl, then gradually add to the butter mixture and mix just until the dough is smooth.

2. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface. Shape into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled but not hard, about 1 hour. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. If the dough is well chilled and hard, let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before rolling out.

Recipe courtesy of “The Model Bakery Cookbook:  75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery” by Karen Mitchell and Sarah Mitchell Hansen with Rick Rodgers. ChronicleBooks.com

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