I wasn’t exactly thrilled with my earlier attempt at making caramel, so I thought I’d try again. Tonight I’m going to my friends’ for dinner, and naturally I volunteered to bring dessert. Since the exact opposite of my childhood obsession with Samoas is my current obsession with Fran’s Dark Gray Salt Caramels, it seemed only fitting to make something out of her cookbook, Pure Chocolate. Now I must say, I adore this cookbook, but more for the reading (and the chocolate porn) than the actual recipes. Frankly, they aren’t written all that well—I consider myself a fairly experienced home cook, but they assume a level of professionalism with pastry and candy techniques that I just don’t have. Most of the things I’ve made from here have turned out ok, when I have a feeling that if the instructions were clearer they might have been spectacular. My Turtle Tart came together easily enough (and the caramel is gorgeous!), but there were instances where the instructions were vague and I had to figure things out for myself. I don’t know yet how it tastes, since I resisted the temptation to cut it JUST FOR YOU so I could present it properly to my hosts this evening, but I did run into an issue or two that has me a bit worried.
This recipe is essentially the Dark-Chocolate Caramel Nut Tart from the book, but using pecans instead of walnuts to make it more Turtle-like, and with fleur de sel sprinkled on top in homage to the Dark Gray Salt Caramels I love so much.
WW readers: I did not even bother to calculate points for this sucker, since I just don’t want to know! Sometimes you have to go with the flow, you know?
Adapted from Pure Chocolate
First, make the crust:
2 1/3 cups pecans
½ cup slivered blanched almonds
¾ stick (6 T.) unsalted butter, room temp
1 T. pure vanilla extract
Lightly butter a 9-inch round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. [I used cooking spray, and I think I may have used too much—the sides slid down a bit while baking, and the outside of the pan feels greasy.]
Pulse the pecans in a food processor until finely ground. [Mine started to clump together before they seemed “finely ground” so I stopped.] Remove and set aside. Add the almonds and sugar. Pulse, scraping down the bowl several times, until ground into a powder. [There were no instructions to do this, but later on it says to add the “nut mixture,” so I combined the almonds & sugar with the pecans.]
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and blend thoroughly. Add the nut mixture and mix on low speed until the dough begins to hold together.
Press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the tart pan. [It stuck to my fingers, so I moistened my hands with cold water and that seemed to do the trick.] Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or freeze until firm, ½ hour.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350.
Unwrap the shell and place on a baking sheet. Prick all over with the tines of a fork. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, until the crust feels dry and looks puffy. Remove from the oven and gently press the bottom down with the back of a wooden spoon. Return to the oven for 8 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Transfer to a rack and cool completely
Now, make the caramel:
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
½ cup heavy cream, warmed
In a heavy medium saucepan combine the sugar and water. [It didn’t say whether or not to stir to combine, but my last caramel said not to stir and it was a disaster, so I stirred. I’m glad I did. You should stir.] Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until the liquid is clear and the sugar dissolved, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush if crystals form. Continue boiling until the sugar turns golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. [After 9 minutes mine was such a deep amber I feared it would turn acrid if it cooked any more, so I stopped.]
Remove from the heat. Averting your face to avoid splatters, slowly and carefully pour in the warm cream. When the bubbling subsides, stir until well combined. Pour a spoonful onto a saucer to test the consistency. A spoon run through the caramel should briefly hold a channel.
If too thin, return to heat and cook a few minutes longer. Pour into the baked crust.
Finally, make the chocolate ganache:
7 ounces heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped [I used Callebaut 70%]
Fleur de sel
In a small pot, heat the cream over medium-high heat until it begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until smooth. Let cool until about 80-85 degrees. [I don’t have a candy thermometer, so I just stirred until it was a little cooler than body temp.] Slowly pour over the cooled caramel layer, spreading evenly to the edges. Let set at room temperature for about five minutes, then sprinkle the surface with the fleur de sel. Serve and store at room temperature. Can be kept for up to 4 days.