Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Failure is not an option, and cursing is required : Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Friends, I'm not going to lie to you. This months Daring Baker recipe was a toughie.

Veron and Patricia chose to challenge us this month with a most decadent looking Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart by Eric Kayser. The 3 components of the tart are a chocolate shortbread pastry, a caramel filling, and a milk chocolate mousse.

I was down with the mousse, interested in the pastry, but caramel?? AGAIN? If a person can have a food nemesis, caramel is mine. But if I have learned nothing else from the daring baker challenges I have taken part in, I have learned that most of the time I am a better cook than I give myself credit for.

Oh how foolish I am!

I began with the pastry. The recipe called for the dough to be made in the food processor. Since I don't really have that much faith in how strong my fp is, I used my stand mixer. I also cut the recipe for the dough in half, as the full recipe makes enough dough for 3 tarts. The dough is pretty straightforward: flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon, baking powder, cocoa powder, and ground hazelnuts, which I eliminated. I spent ages looking for my cinnamon in our spice cupboard and finally found the empty container. Oh yeah, I ran out of cinnamon about 3 months ago and haven't bought any more. Oops. I rummaged around to see what I could substitute and decided to use Mace. The dough came together fast, and I preheated my oven. I got out my new tart pan and checked the recipe to see how much dough I needed for one tart. "Blah, blah....Form a ball with the dough, cover in plastic wrap, and chill overnight." Wait, what????? Overnight? I had no time for overnight! Way to read the recipe, Sara.

So I did the next best thing and chucked the dough in the freezer for 2 hours. And kept my fingers crossed.

It seemed ok when the freezer time was up, so I weighed out the correct amount and smooshed it into my tart pan, and blind baked (cover the dough with parchment paper and dried lentils or beans) the base.

Next up I melted the chocolate for the mousse so it would not be too warm when mixed into the whipped cream. And then I turned my attention to the caramel.

I tried. I tried SO HARD. 3 TIMES I melted the sugar slowly over low heat. 3 times disaster struck. The first time the sugar got wayyyy too dark before it was even melted. Ok, my heat might have been too high. The second time it was so close to being completely liquid and I removed the pan from the heat to swirl it around to melt the last little bits. When all the sugar was melted I added the cream and...well I guess I had the caramel off the heat for too long because the second the (not cold) cream hit the caramel, it seized right back into a solid mass, floating in cream. By the time I was all cleaned up and ready to try again I was at my wits end and also almost out of sugar. If it didn't work this time, I was not trying again. It worked...almost. There were some hard bits of sugar that just would not melt. So after adding the cream and butter, I strained out the lumps and kept going. After a bit of cooling, eggs and flour were whisked together and then added to the caramel. I had lovely little bits of floury bumps floating in my caramel, but I didn't care.


I poured the caramel into the tart pan and...there wasn't enough room in the pan for all the filling. Why??? At this point I was ready to admit defeat. And then I read the instructions again. "Use a 9" square pan or a 10" round pan." I was using a 9" round pan. I threw the pan in the oven and hoped for the best. After leaving the tart in the oven for double the baking time, it seemed to be barely softly set. I set it to cool, re-melted the chocolate for the topping, and sat down in the living room with a drink.

After sufficient cooling time, I whipped the cream, folded in the melted chocolate and spread the mousse on top of the tart. Since there was no way in hell I was going to make more caramel to decorate the top of the tart, I chopped up leftover chocolate in my mini chopper and tossed the bits on top.


It was very pretty. It tasted fine. But I just couldn't get over the caramel issues and my non-ability to read. But the 10 other people who ate it all loved it. I thought the Mace in the crust was nice, although two people commented on the "different spice" in the dough, and one taster asked if there was pumpkin in the tart. I got a marriage proposal (don't worry Scott, I turned her down) and was told by one lovely girl that I should quit my job and work in a bakery.

???

All participating Daring Bakers are also posting about their tart experiences today. You can go here for links to everyone's blogs.

If you are insane and want to try this recipe yourself, go here.

42 comments:

Deborah said...

OK, I was relieved when I heard you had a hard time, because I did too, but yours turned out wonderfully!! I'm going to go bow my head in shame....

veron said...

This is a lovely tart! You did a magnificent job despite your caramel issues.

Patricia Scarpin said...

I think the tart looks amazing, even with all those problems, Sara!

Brilynn said...

What can I say? Caramel's a jerk.

I don't think I would have thought to sub mace for cinnamon, possibly because I doubt I have mace in my cupboard and can't think that I've ever actually used it in anything...

Anne said...

Your tart came out pretty good to me. well done!

kellypea said...

I love this post and can feel your frustration. Been there, done that. Funny how it seems to all come out in the end, huh? I love the comment from one of your guests about whether there's pumpkin in it. Yes, mace would make me wonder the same thing. Brains are like that, aren't they? Very pretty tart, and I'm probably one of the "insane" ones because I'm considering it again, but with a layer of dark chocolate over the caramel layer before the mousse is added...(insert deranged laughter here)

Leslie said...

I totally feel your frustration. The caramel was utterly nerve-wracking to prepare. Your final product looks great though!

Meeta said...

3 times. Boy you are determined. My caramel went solid when the cream hit it i just left it on the heat till it all melted again. Worked fine. But in the end Sara you tart looks fab!

Baking Soda said...

I hear you! Reading a recipe is highly overrated!
At the end you managed a good looking tart and had me smile throughout your post! Congrats!

Peabody said...

You just have to let caramel know who's boss!
It turned out great, even with all your struggles!

Anita said...

Oh Sara, I'm glad you perservered despite your frustrations! I thought this recipe would be easy but I found myself confused a couple times too - the recipe is written so short! I think yours turned out great!

Mary said...

I think caramel could be the DBs' #1 nemesis. I admire you for trying 3 times to get your caramel right!

Lis said...

BAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAA!!! You turned HER down! Way to go you sexy daring baker mama ;)

As usual, I loved LOVED your post. God we'd have SO MUCH FUN in a kitchen together!! I don't care how far apart we are.. we MUST plan a week or so together. MUST!

xoxo

Shaun said...

Sara, darling - Indeed, this does look lovely. I made my first pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving last year, and the Martha Stewart recipe I used required spices. It was one of the best crusts I have ever tasted. Now I couldn't imagine a crust without any spice (except perhaps a shortcrust, but even then I sometimes chuck some nutmeg, allspice or other spice in)and I'm glad that you decided to substitute the cinnamon for another spice instead of leaving that element out altogether. So, you have mace on hand and not cinnamon? What a fascinating pantry you must keep.

As for lumpy bits, well, that it is what a strainer is for. Good on you for not giving up. Caramel isn't something we make every day, so it is only natural to have a few speed wobbles. I'm sure you're next attempt will be perfect. The slice of pie that you show here presents the caramel in all its glory, so I'm sure you're just being too hard on yourself.

I wish I were one of the ten people you shared the tart with!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Oh Sara my dear this is such a wonderful write up on a really exceptional tart. I'm laughing and people are starting to know I'm really strange.
Yeh, I had those floury bumpy things in mine too, I just yelled at them "I'm a Daring Baker and I'll whip you raw, begone" and darned if they weren't. A strainer might have required less energy and been a quieter kitchen.
So glad Scott can rest easy that you turned down her proposal!
And mace! I just learned about mace at my Penzy's store. I like that sub.
Really beautiful tart with a tart write up.

Belinda said...

Bless your heart...that caramel was out to get you! But you didn't let it get the better of you, and your tart turned out fabulously in the end. :-) And everyone loved it...that equals perfection in my book!

Ivonne said...

That's a great post, Sara! I think your tart looks great!

wmpe said...

You have the perserverance of a marathon runner! Your photos look fabulous and your eating public attest to your perfectionism.

Jann said...

With all the problems, you did it! My hat is off to you and all of you that had this challenge!

Tartelette said...

Bless your DB spirit! 3 times for caramel...you rock! I am glad it turned out to be a success in the end!

Elle said...

Not so insane...your tart worked beautifully in the end...it's really pretty and I like the chopped chocolate on top. Your persistance is commendable.

The Baker & The Curry Maker said...

It looks great though! And everyone said it tasted great, so that must count for something? I don't know if this helps, but I made it at home on a gas stove and then with Liz on an electric stove and the electric stove was a whole lots harder...

Aoife said...

Oh you poor girl! You are not alone in your caramel issues. You did do a great job though, and congratulations on sticking with it!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Now I question my staying power. I'd have given up and put my head in the oven. Your end result looks great and was obviously loved by all. Rest easy Scott, she said 'no'.

KJ said...

Congrats on a great effort.

I'm impressed that you have mace hanging around in your cupboards. I don't think I've ever even seen it in shops.

Dharm said...

Nice tart! And I love the writeup too!! The marriage proposal had me rolling on the floor!! Great job there!

slush said...

Im glad with all the struggle it came together in the end for you. It looks fantastic, and I know it was tasty as can be. xo

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

You did a great job! I think you should be proud of your tart! I mean for goodness sake - a marriage proposal AND a "you should work in a bakery" comment! You hit a homerun with that one!!!

Inne said...

Wow, 3 caramel attempts! And still you didn't give up. But I guess that's why we call it the monthly 'challenge'. And you even got a marriage proposal out of it, that's such a nice bonus.

Jenny said...

Three caramel attempts here too. Surely we will be rewarded for persevering by not having to make caramel next time, hee hee.

But what I don't understand is how you could live without cinnamon for three months! What about cinnamon toast? Spice muffins? I even put it on roasted veggies, some stir fry, and some Indian food that I make. I go through cinnamon second only to going through vanilla....

SimplePleasures said...

did your caramel 3 times??? wow that's what I call dedication! Love the way your tart turns out.

pls try this once you put the sugar in the pan leave it alone. when you see little smoke comming out of the pan and the sides of the sugar are melting that's the time to stir. when you see the melting sugar bubbling up too much reduce the heat and continue stirring until all the sugars are melted. take it off the heat add the room temp cream SLOWLY! mixing as you pour. keep mixing as you pour until everything is smooth. then add the butter. hope this helps

Andrea said...

Good for you for persevering! Your tart looks great! And it sounds like your efforts were very well received!

Did she get down on one knee?

the pastry princess said...

your tart looks goregous despite your issues! i don't think you failed in the least bit...excellent job!

Anh said...

Sara, your effort is well worth in the end! Love it! :)

Amy said...

You're truly a Daring Baker! 3 times! Looks like everything worked out in the end, great job!

sher said...

Wonderful! :):) That caramel was a tough one for me!

Katie said...

Your tart looks great. I love the addition of the extra chocolate on top, it really makes it look special

Quellia said...

Such dedication to our chosen art! Great work Sara - I would never have thought of using mace instead of cinnamon.

Barbara said...

Yours turned out great. The caramel was my biggest fear but it was the part that went the most smoothly for me.

Chris said...

One would never know about the difficulties by looking at this lovely tart. Caramel? Ug! My caramel and I had words....it wasn't pretty. I was just happy no one was near enough to hear the trash talking! :)

Dolores said...

You kept going, despite your setbacks. You finished. And your audience loved the final result.

Doesn't sound like failure to me. :)

breadchick said...

Sara, you crack me up. Seriously crack me up!! I could so see you huffing at the caramel (and muttering bad words under breath)

You SHOULD quit your job and work in a bakery!!

Way to go!!!