Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chocolate Caramel-Almond Tart

This, my friends, is a dessert to remember. It is definitely a labor of love, but so so worth it. The bittersweet chocolate went so well with the whipped cream and sweeeeet caramel. Perfect! A big thanks to Fine Cooking magazine for the recipe. Also, chocolate and nuts are perfect for a late winter dessert, so hurry up and make it before spring! There are a few steps in the recipe that may be a bit difficult for beginning baking, but why not try it and practice some skills? Enjoy!
Cooking tip: Don't be afraid of anything when cooking and baking! Just dive right in. If it's a complete failure, chalk it up as learning something and know that you will be better next time. Also, don't EVER apologize for your cooking and baking - it makes people feel uncomfortable.
Now go to and have fun while doing.

For the Crust:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
3 Tbs granulated sugar
pinch of table salt
6 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

For the caramel-almond layer:
3/4 cup blanched whole almonds
1cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp table salt

For the chocolate layer:
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Lightly sweetened whipped cream

Make the crust: Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal with some pea-sized butter pieces. Sprinkle 2 Tbs ice-cold water over the flour mixture and process until the dough just begins to come together in small, marble-sized clumps. Don't overprocess; the dough should not form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into a thick 4-inch-diameter disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm enough to roll, about 1-2 hours.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11 inch circle, lifting and rotating often, while lightly dusting the work surface as needed. Transfer to a 9 1/2 inch fluted tart pan. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim the excess dough. Lightly prick the bottom with a fork. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350
Line the dough with foil and pie weights or beans. Put on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Lift the weights and foil out and bake the crust until golden brown, 13-17 minutes. Cool completely. Raise oven temp to 375

Make the caramel almond layer: Toast the almonds on a baking sheet in the oven for about 5-10 minutes. Let cool briefly and then chop coarsely. Make caramel by stiring the sugar, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of cool water together in a heavy-duty saucepan. Brush down the sides of the pan with water to wash away any sugar crystals (keep doing this throughout the whole process). Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture starts to color around the edges, 5-8 minutes. Gently swirl the pan once to even out the color and prevent the sugar from from burning. Continue to cook until the sugar turns med amber, about 30 seconds more. (Or use a candy therm. like i did!)
Immediately remove from heat and swirl in the cream. Add butter. Whisk in vanilla, salt, and almonds and coat the nuts completely. Pour the hot mixture into the cooled pie crust. Let cool 30 minutes and then refrigerate for about one hour.
Make the chocolate layer: Put choc and cream in saucepan over low heat and stir until choc is melted. Add the butter and stir until melted. Stir in the vanilla. Pour over the caramel layer and tilt the pan as needed to smooth the chocolate into an even layer that covers the caramel. Refrigerate until choc is set, at least one hour and up to one day. Serve with whipped cream (I piped some on and made a pretty design). Now go and eat this lovely dessert!