From the moment I read the recipe Veronica and Patricia chose for this month’s DB challenge, I knew that this tart and I would make very good friends. Because, what’s not to like: chocolate hazelnut crust! Caramel! Chocolate cream! Not a drop of food colouring or a grain of gelatine in sight, just the bare minimum of no-nonsense instructions, and a recipe which didn’t generate leftovers enough to feed a small army. Apart from the crust that is, which made enough for three tarts, but the recipe duly mentions that and anyways it would be so easy to halve quantities for the crust recipe so it doesn’t count. Not that I halved the quantities, I just froze the leftovers so I can use them again in a few weeks or so. I originally planned to bake this tart when my family came to visit, but I was so frantically cleaning prior to their arrival I didn’t have enough time left to bake something as well. My parents, aunt and cousin didn’t get to sample this heavenly tart, but S’s and my work colleagues did. And they liked it. A lot.
Now, I may have purposefully ‘forgotten’ (ahem) to put cinnamon in the crust, but only because other Daring Bakers found it overwhelming and distracting from the chocolate. Which, in my book, is never a good thing. Nothing should ever distract from chocolate. Ever. I do like cinnamon, but I wasn’t convinced it would work in this tart and I was determined to love this tart (pease don’t take away my DB badge, pretty please!). I also had to substitute the ground hazelnuts with almonds, as I couldn’t find hazelnuts of the ground variety anywhere - I even went to the new ginormous Wholefoods in Kensington High Street. Also I don’t own any snazzy devices that could grind hazelnuts for me and I didn’t think my little hand held mixer would be up to this job. So almonds it was. I made the crust entirely without the aid of any electric appliances, partly because the butter was very soft anyway and partly because I made it at 11pm at night and didn’t want to wake the neighbours. The next day I rolled it quite thinly, as other DBs had experienced the crust rising exponentially. Just to make sure I stabbed it furiously with a fork and poured all my baking beans on top of it as well. I used a square, loose-bottomed tin and had no problems whatsoever rolling the dough over the square, unlike some other DBs who ended up with a brittle greasy dough, that needed to be patched onto the baking tin.
Making the caramel turned out to be really easy as well. I have heard quite a few horror stories involving caramel (massive splashing and horrible burns on forearms), so I was perhaps a bit too careful, but it all worked out nicely. Melting sugar I had done before, so I wasn’t afraid of that, but I made sure the heat was very low nonetheless. Of course the sugar seized up when I added the cream, but I continued to stir it over a low heat and it all came together nicely. I found it needed a bit longer in the oven than the suggested 15 minutes – after 15 minutes the edges had set but the centre was still liquid. Oh, and because I didn’t sculpt any edges on my crust and the crust shrank ever so slightly away from the edges of the tin during baking, the caramel of course dripped through the tin and onto the bottom of my oven, causing a terrible burnt smell which made me panic I had completely messed it up. But luckily I hadn’t, the caramel set beautifully and all I had left to do was whip up a chocolate mousse.
For the chocolate mousse, which was incredibly easy to make (and which I actually prefer to the one made with egg whites), I used a brand of fairtrade chocolate I only recently discovered: Divine milk chocolate with coffee. Since it was milk chocolate, and also since in my world chocolate, nuts and coffee are like a holy trinity, I figured I would not be breaking any DB rules. Plus I just knew this chocolate would be perfect for my tart.
Once the entire tart was finished, set and refrigerated, I cut it into rectangular individual servings and decorated the top with a single hazelnut and a shard of vanilla salt. Originally I had wanted to cover the hazelnuts in edible gold leaf, but I couldn’t find any in the shops and didn’t have enough time to order it online. But I was determined to have an elegant pastry, and even though the hazelnut was pretty enough by itself, the vanilla salt added a little extra oomph to the tart. Nut and salt got along wonderfully with each other and they lived happily ever after. No, not really, because the tart was a huge hit with everyone who tasted it and it didn’t survive very long at all. But it made all the people who ate it happy. And of course that’s the sole purpose of tarts in life.
Check out all the other Daring Bakers’ efforts here and the recipe here.