This has to be one of my favourite desserts ever. Light, crisp shorcrust pastry encasing a smooth chocolate ganache, which upon the first bite reveals a melting centre of salted caramel. What's not to like? True, they require a little effort to make, and I can assure you they will be gone pretty quickly, but that's the case with all the beautiful things in life :-)
INGREDIENTS (for 8 mini tarts)
- Shortcrust pastry: use the quantities and the process outlined in the recipe for the quiche lorraine
- Chocolate ganache: 100 gr of dark chocolate; 100 gr milk chocolate; 200 ml of double cream
- Salted caramel: 400 gr caster sugar, 160 gr butter, 250 ml double cream, maldon sea salt to taste
Start by making your shortcrust pastry following the recipe here. When you are ready to roll it out after it has rested in the fridge, use it to line eight mini-tartlet cases, that you will have buttered and floured first. With a fork, make some holes at the bottom of the pastry case (this stops it from puffing up too much when it's in the oven) and return to the fridge to chill some more, while you are pre-heating the oven at 180°C. You will probably have some pastry left; it freezes well and keeps for up to three months, so you can use the leftovers to make a quiche for your mid-week dinner or a week-end leisurely lunch.
Fill your tartlet cases with baking beans, then bake them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden. Take them out of the oven and leave them to cool completely.
In the meantime, prepare your salted caramel by heating the sugar in a cast iron, high sided pan: do this gently, at low heat, and avoid as much as possible to stir it otherwise the sugar will cristallise. Be very careful about touching or tasting the hot sugar as you can easily burn yourself. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat and incorporate the butter, whisking until the mixture starts to acquire the colour and consistency of caramel. When all the butter has been incorporated, return the pan to a gentle heat and whisk in the cream. Switch the heat off, add a sprinkle of salt and then leave it to cool completely before tasting it and adding a little more salt, if needed. Be mindful of the fact that as the flavours mature, the taste of salt will become more prominent, so go easy on the Maldon to start with! You can always add more if needed, but too much will ruin your caramel.
When the caramel has cooled, pour a little at the bottom of each tartlet pastry case, so that it covers the bottom completely. Return to the fridge once more to allow the caramel to harden, making it thus easier for you to spread the chocolate ganache on top.
Now it's time for the last step, i.e. the chocolate ganache. Melt the chocolate at bain marie (see here) or in your microwave (in this case, careful not to burn it!) and let it cool a little, then whisk in the double cream. Done! Leave it to stand for about 15 minutes, then spread it on top of the caramel layer in your tarts.
These tartlets should be kept in the fridge, however I recommend you take them out 30 minutes or so before you are due to serve them, as the caramel and chocolate ganache will soften and their texture and flavour will improve. They are very rich as they are, so I don't think they need anything else on the side, although I do enjoy eating them while sipping a cup of strong, aromatic espresso.