Chocolate Caramel Fleur de Sel Tart

This is my go-to dessert. Everyone I know loves it. I've made it for Bravo producers (!), business lunches, boyfriends, family, friends, etc. It's the perfect dessert for chocolate fans, caramel lovers and those who love the sweet/savory combo. I must be out of it because the last two times I made the infamous Chocolate Caramel Fleur de Sel Tart, it hasn't come together correctly. I've probably become too comfortable, literally able to do it in my sleep, barely glancing at the recipe. Shame on me.

caramel
caramel

One night circa 3 AM after a night out - and no dessert after dinner! - Boyfriend Chicken and I hacked into my latest version. Not smart. Even 6 drinks deep I knew something was wrong. Instead of being mature and calm about this situation, I went balls-to-the-wall and began re-making it. Luckily I was persuaded to wait and pursue this task the next morning.

But upon my second try I only became more discouraged. This go round I dumbly substituted brown sugar for granulated sugar to make a caramel. Now, I went to culinary school, in fact I studied Classic Pastry Arts. I'm the founder of "Diary of a [God damn] Sweet Tooth" for goodness sake. I know that you can't substitute it ... especially for a caramel. Was I smoking and baking? Not this time. But seriously! Fun fact: you can substitute regular sugar for brown sugar and in some instances reverse, but NOT for a caramel. Brown sugar is granulated sugar with molasses, it won't caramelize. Duh!

My pastry teachers are kicking themselves right now - but I got it, third times the charm, or is it? I took it all the way up to my client in midtown east, unloaded it from the cab and bam, cab driver drops it.

I could have said every curse word in the book.

Instead I acted how I should have acted the first go round and calmly explained to the client that I would bring back a better version tomorrow. Then I went home and celebrated Cinco de Mayo with too many drinks. Alas, the next morning, I made the tarts to perfection.

Nothing a little tequila can't cure.

Here's the recipe. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by it, because when done right, it's worth it.

Chocolate Caramel Tart (adaptation from Kitchen Culinaire, photo credit)

1 1/4 cups of flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (use the most high-end you can find)

1 cup unsalted butter cut into pieces

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups of granulated sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream

10 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (I used Guittard), chopped

Fleur de sel for garnish

For the crust:

Sift the flour and cocoa powder together into a bowl. Using a stand mixer beat together 1/2 cup of the butter, the powdered sugar, egg yolk and vanilla until smooth and creamy.

Add the flour and cocoa mixture and beat until a dough forms. Be careful not to overwork the dough or it will be tough. Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape into a disk or a rectangle (depending on what shape of tart pan you will be using) wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Once the dough has chilled roll it out on a lightly floured surface. It can be rolled to make a 9 inch round tart or a 11 x 8 inch rectangular tart. Simply roll the dough so that it is 2 inches wider than the base of the tart pan you will be using so that the dough will come up the sides of the tart pan and be trimmed of any excess. So for the 9 inch round pan roll it out to 11 inches and for the 11x 8 roll the dough out to 13 x 10.

Transfer dough to a tart pan with a removable bottom and press the dough into the bottom and onto the sides of the tart pan. Trim the top of excess dough and prick the dough on the bottom using the tines of a fork. Chill for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover the chilled dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and continue to bake for approximately 8 minutes until the dough is dry and set. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.

For the filling:

Combine the granulated sugar and corn syrup with 1/2 cup of water over medium high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar begins to turn into a deep amber coloured caramel, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully add the 1/2 a cup plus 2 tablespoons of whipping cream. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of butter, 1 piece at a time, stirring until smooth.

Pour the caramel filling into the cooled tart base and chill for at least 30 minutes until the caramel has set.

To make the chocolate ganache top layer of the tart place the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a bowl. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 cups of cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Stir until all of the chocolate is melted and smooth. Pour over the chilled caramel and refrigerate until set, at least 30 minutes. Remove from the fridge 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fleur de sel.

* I made mine in individual tart pans. Anything with a spring form bottom.

**Recipe is difficult to half. Better to make all the dough and fillers and freeze half. Will last up to 3 months in the freezer.