Tea Time

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My friend Val just launched a new online magazine, and I agreed to write a guest post for one of her first issues.  Read  about my short-lived love affair with coffee and find the recipe for this tea-steeped cream tart over at Bonbon Break.

I managed to get all the way through college without acquiring a coffee habit.

As a child, when I begged my coffee-chugging mom for sips of her coveted brew, she told me in a horrified tones how drinking coffee  would stunt my growth.  Clearly this made an impression on me (she barely clears 5 feet, so I figured she knew what she was talking about).  Now that I’m a mom, I realize she probably had her hands full without having one of her three kids amped up on caffeine.

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Tea Time

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I managed to get all the way through college without acquiring a coffee habit.

As a child, when I begged my coffee-chugging mom for sips of her coveted brew, she told me in a horrified tones how drinking coffee  would stunt my growth.  Clearly this made an impression on me (she barely clears 5 feet, so I figured she knew what she was talking about).  Now that I’m a mom, I realize she probably had her hands full without having one of her three kids amped up on caffeine.

My love-affair with coffee — which began and ended in my early post-college days — was brief.  Getting to work in downtown San Francisco by 9:00 a.m. exhausted me, and I started drinking coffee to make it through the day.  Around this same time, I also started suffering from what I thought were stress-induced stomach cramps.  Looking back, I can’t believe I actually thought 9:00 a.m. was early.

In any case, one morning, converging deadlines prevented me from making coffee.  After juggling several projects and finally completing all of them, I realized that I felt great.   Sure, I was pleased that I’d cleared my desk, but the best part — my stomach cramps had completely disappeared.

After a few coffee-free days, my stomach no longer troubled me, but I decided to have a cup of coffee just to see what would happen.  I did, in fact, enjoy my morning cup lightly sweetened and doused with cream, so I wasn’t going to give it up on a whim.  Like clockwork, my stomach cramped up, and I decided to give up coffee for good.

I already loved tea, so switching over didn’t exactly break my heart.  I’d spent a summer abroad in London during college and had wholeheartedly embraced the tradition of tea in the afternoon.   I simply started drinking tea all day long and never looked back.

I’m surprised it took me so long to try making a tea-infused dessert.  This one incorporates Earl Grey Tea in the tart crust as well as the filling.  It’s sweetened with brown sugar and flavored with vanilla, which complement the subtle tea flavor steeped into the cream.

The addition of fruit on top makes this decidedly unattractive tart presentable, and adds a tart contrast to the sweet, rich filling.

Even if you’re not a tea-lover, I’m guessing the creamy, sweet filling in this tart will win you over.

If you decide to share with your kids, you may want to do it early in the day or just tell them it will stunt their growth.   The last time my daughters ate it, they chattered wide-eyed in their beds until at least 11:00 p.m.

Earl Grey Tart with Fresh Berries

This recipe will fill a 9-or 10-inch fluted tart pan.  I usually steep the tea in the cream before starting on the crust.  That gives the cream plenty of time to cool before proceeding with the filling recipe.

1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon loose-leaf Earl Grey Tea
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick), plus 2 tablespoons butter, cut in slices
2 tablespoons ice water, strained, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whirl the first four ingredients in the bowl of a food processor until the tea leaves are coarsely ground.   Add about 2 tablespoons butter and process until you no longer see chunks.  Add remaining butter and process briefly, leaving chunks the size of peanuts.

Working quickly, turn on the food processor and pour the ice water and vanilla through the feed tube, stopping before the dough comes together.  Pinch a bit of the dough between your fingers.  If it does not stick together, add a couple of teaspoons more water and whirl briefly.

Turn out the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap.  Use the plastic wrap to help you create a large, flat disk:  fold the edges of the dough toward the center and press down to smooth out the roughness.   Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out dough into a circle to fit a 9-or 10-inch tart pan with about an inch of overhang all the way around the pan.  Transfer dough carefully into the tart pan, and then fold overhanging edge down inside the tart pan, pressing gently to help it adhere.  Prick the bottom of the crust all over with the tines of a fork.

1 3/4 cups heavy cream, milk or a combination of both, as desired
1 tablespoon loose-leaf Early Grey Tea
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 /2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 to 4 cups fresh berries

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Bring cream to a boil over medium heat.  Remove pan from burner and stir in tea leaves.  Steep for 10 to 15 minutes and then strain.  Set aside and allow to cool.

In a small bowl, combine sugars, flour, and salt.  Mix well, breaking up brown sugar lumps as much as possible.

In a mixing bowl, combine cooled, tea-steeped cream with eggs and vanilla;  beat until combined.  Add sugar mixture and mix well.

Pour the filling into prepared tart crust through a strainer.

Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350° F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the filling is set 2 inches from the edge (don’t worry about the wobbly center; it will set up as it cools).  Remove pie from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

Once cool, top tart with mixed berries.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Corn Meal

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My husband’s job as a marine biologist comes with certain geographical requirements.  Fortunately, we love living by the ocean, and we’ve bounced from beach town to beach town.

We’ve grown close to amazing friends in each spot.   Happily, scientist friends we’ve met along the way have similar geographical requirements, and so, not so coincidentally, we often find ourselves together again in a different beach town.

When we lived in Santa Barbara, CA, our friend Carrie and her husband moved there from Pacific Grove, CA, — our former home — after she finished her Ph.D program.   Carrie headed south before her husband and stayed with us while she looked for a place for to live.  The first day she arrived, she offered to make us dinner.

Carrie’s an incredible cook, so while I probably should have offered to make her dinner  — she had, after all, hauled herself down the coast alone — I couldn’t bring myself to to argue.

I’d never made polenta from scratch before, but as I watched her transform cornmeal into a smooth, golden porridge, I knew I would try soon.  She scraped the mixture it into my cast iron skillet, topped it with cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil, Gorgonzola, mozzarella, and pine nuts, and then popped it in the oven.

The smell of roasting tomatoes and garlic took the edge off a long day’s work wrangling coherent prose out of  high school students.   I remember feeling so happy that our friends had ended up on the same stretch of coast as us again.

Years have passed since then, and we’ve long since left Santa Barbara for our next adventure in Friday Harbor, WA.  I’ve made Carrie’s Skillet Polenta many times, and I always think of her when I do.

The other day, when I had a hankering for it, I found myself short on basil and Gorgonzola.  Not to be deterred, I subbed in sage and goat cheese, giving this old favorite a new twist.

I like it just as much as Carrie’s version.  Really, how can you go wrong topping freshly-made polenta with sun-ripened tomatoes, garlic, herbs, pine nuts, and lots of cheese.  Now that I’ve broken the mold, you can bet I’ll try out new combinations.

Carrie had some research to do at Friday Harbor Labs two years ago.  She brought her family to stay for the summer, and we had the chance to play on the beach again and share many meals together.

Visits with good friends always pass too quickly.

Until the marine biologist shuffle lands us — once again — on the same stretch of coast, I’m depending on Carrie’s recipes to help us feel close to her family.

Skillet Polenta with Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Inspired by Carrie’s recipe (adapted from Epicurious).

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped and divided
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
4 cups water
1 1/3 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese ( about 1 cup)
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese ( about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush a 12-inch-diameter ovenproof skillet generously with olive oil.

Toss tomatoes, garlic, 1/4 cup sage, pine nuts, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Combine water, cornmeal, and 1 teaspoon salt in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until polenta is very thick and pulls away from sides of pan, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes.  Whisk in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 cup sage.  Transfer polenta to prepared skillet, spreading it evenly in the pan.

Top polenta with tomato mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with goat cheese and mozzarella.  Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 20-25 minutes.  Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving. Cut polenta into wedges and serve from skillet.

For Skillet Polenta with Tomatoes and Gorgonzola:  Replace sage with fresh basil and goat cheese with Gorgonzola cheese.

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Cherries on Top

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The day before our last camping trip, I found a bag of cherries in the back of my fridge.   Since they were almost past their prime, I decided I to bake with them rather than throw them in the cooler with the rest of the food for our trip.

I asked Eliza if she felt like helping with a project as I waved our cherry pitter like a magic wand.  In seconds, she hopped into the kitchen asking, “Cherry Pie?”

I actually had my heart set on making a Cherry Upside-Down Cake, but this two-word question from my pie-obsessed daughter nearly changed my mind.   While I waffled, I remembered that we needed to transport our dessert–and everything else– to the campsite in our prodigiously packed Prius.

On a previous trip, I discovered an easy way to transport cake;  I simply slipped plastic-wrapped cooled layers into clean baking pans and squeezed them into the car with the rest of our gear.

Fortunately, Eliza agreed that cake seemed a better idea;  besides, she knows the mere suggestion of pie-baking quickly turns to reality in our house.   Almost certainly, a cherry pie will emerge from our oven in the near future.

This cake involves several steps, which makes it a perfect project for two.  Pitting cherries kept Eliza busy while I melted sugar on the stove for the caramel topping.  After the caramel cooled slightly in our baking pan, Eliza arranged the cherries in perfect rows as I mixed the rich lemon cake batter.  We managed to get the cake in the oven before Tessa woke up from her nap.

As the juicy, moist cake emerged emerged from pan, I wondered if I’d made a tactical error. Rich, caramel-infused cherry juice drizzled enticingly down the cake’s sides;  it looked like a dessert best enjoyed warm from pan.  It smelled delicious, and as I tasted the thick juices lingering in the pan, I worried the cake might not last the night, especially since I feared that wrapping and transporting this syrupy, cherry-topped treat would transform it into a soggy mess.

cherry upside down cake  (1 of 5)

Only sheer will power allowed the cake to remain intact.   Once cool, I wrapped it tightly in plastic and then slipped it cherry-side-up in the baking pan.

At the campsite, I unpeeled the wrappings to reveal still-perfect parallel lines of cherries.   As friends dug in, I warned them to watch out for pits.  Eliza felt sure she’d pitted each cherry, but sometimes it’s hard –even for me– to know for sure if I’ve gotten all of them.  Nearly everyone who had a piece tossed a few pits aside and went back for a second or third slice.  The fruit’s thick juices had soaked into the cake, making it super-moist and providing a sweet contrast to the tangy lemon flavor in the cake.

Meanwhile, around the fire, other campers made S’mores.  Chocolate squares melted into golden-toasted marshmallows at a rapid pace.  When my husband offered Eliza a piece of cake, she looked longingly at the marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers.

“Has Mommy written about this for her blog yet?” she wanted to know.

When he said, “No,” she replied, “Oh, good.  That means we”ll make it again soon.  Can I have another S’more?”

upside-down cherry cake  (1 of 1)

Cherry Upside-Down Cake

Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts.  Serves 10 to 12

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
2 lemons, zested and juiced, divided
4 cups sweet cherries, pitted
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Generously butter a 9-inch-square baking pan.

To prepare the caramel topping, melt 1/4 cup butter in a small pan over medium heat.  Stir in 3/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice with a silicone spatula.   Increase heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.  Resist the temptation to stir once it starts to boil;  swirl the pan gently if it seems to be cooking unevenly.  As it boils, the mixture will become foamy and change color from beige to amber brown.  Remove it from the heat once it turns amber.  Immediately pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Set aside to cool for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Place the cherries in a single layer on top of the caramel with the pitted sides facing up.

For the cake, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl.   In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Transfer the egg whites to a clean bowl and set aside.  Into the now empty mixer bowl, add 3/4 cup butter, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and lemon zest.   Beat on medium-high with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, and then mix in the remaining lemon juice and the vanilla.

Stir in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream, and beginning and ending with the flour.  The batter will be thick.  Gently fold half of the whites into the batter, incorporating them fully before adding the second half.

Scrape the batter into the pan and gently spread  it in an even layer over the cherries.  Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm and the center springs back when lightly touched.  The cake will be very brown.  Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 45 minutes.

To flip the cake out of its pan, run a knife around the edges, place a flat plate or serving platter face down over the top of the pan, and then quickly invert the cake onto the platter in one fell swoop.

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Peachy | Peach Pie with Blackberries & Ginger

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It’s hard to go wrong with sweet peaches, handpicked blackberries, brown sugar, and lots of love. This Peach Pie with Blackberries and Ginger hits the spot.

Peach Pie with Blackberries and Ginger

While devouring Sarah Weeks’ mystery novel Pie, Eliza decided she wanted to bake her way through the recipes that appear at the beginning of each chapter.   For me, this seemed like a great challenge to embark on with my budding reader/baker.

Eliza set her heart on trying out the peach pie recipe first.   In addition to the sheer deliciousness of this ephemeral summer fruit, the fact that Alice –the book’s young sleuth-protagonist– loves peach pie best certainly helped sway Eliza in its favor.

Unfortunately, we started reading this book in January, about as far from peach season as you can get.  I have nothing against frozen fruit, but it just seemed wrong for Eliza to bake her first pie from a bag of  pre-sliced fruit pulled from the grocery store freezer.  Especially fruit as gorgeous and succulent as ripe, blushing peaches.

Peach Pie with Blackberries and Ginger

Fortunately for me, Alice’s Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, only ever made peach pie with ripe, in-season peaches.  This nuance was not lost on Eliza, and it eased her disappointment somewhat.  I also reminded Eliza of  Aunt Polly’s pie philosophy — “The most important ingredient in a pie is the love that goes into making it” — and promised we’d make peach pie just as soon as summer arrived.

So we started our pie quest elsewhere, and really, even if you don’t end up with peach pie for your efforts, you still end up with pie.

Peach Pie with Blackberries and Ginger

Near the novel’s end, Alice’s best friend Charlie shows up at her door with a bag of ripe peaches:  “The same kind your auntie always used.  I saw them at the A&P this morning and it came to me in a flash <…>.  We ought to make a pie.”

Alice, who desperately misses her deceased Aunt Polly, makes a pie in her memory.  As Alice works from her aunt’s filling recipe, Charlie’s instinct proves spot on:   “It was almost as if Aunt Polly was there inside Alice’s head telling her what to do.  ‘Like this, Alice.  Remember?'”  As Alice remembers her aunt, she also taps into a treasure trove of pie-making tricks that impress her friend Charlie.

One of those tricks includes using hot and cold water baths to peel peaches.  “‘Good gravy,’ said Charlie as Alice slipped the loosened skin off with her fingers, revealing the glistening yellow flesh beneath it. ‘It’s like magic.'”

I’m with Charlie.  I’ve made more than a few pies, but I’ve always shied away from peach pie because peeling peaches freaks me out.  Ripe peaches seem so delicate, and I always have this feeling that I’m hurting them when I peel them.  But after submerging peaches in boiling, then ice water, the skin gently slips away leaving nary a bruise on the smooth, tender flesh.

Peach Pie with Blackberries and Ginger

I love baking pies with my daughter, and I love that she led me to bake a pie outside of my comfort zone.  In addition to the new ease with which I peel peaches, I’m now a lattice crust maker.  Before we made this pie the first time in early June, I can only remember making a lattice crust once in my life;  it just always felt like too much trouble.   Now it seems like no big thing to weave crust atop a mound of juicy fruit, especially after watching my seven-year-old do it beautifully.

Peach Pie with Blackberries and Ginger

As Eliza and I put that first pie together, we decided to throw in a few of last summer’s frozen blackberries to make it look prettier.  Purple is, after all, Eliza’s favorite color.

The combination of golden peach and deep purple peeking through the flaky lattice crust makes for a pretty pie all right.

Peach Pie with Blackberries and Ginger

But it tastes even better than it looks.  It’s hard to go wrong with ripe peaches, handpicked blackberries, brown sugar, and lots of love.

Peach Pie with Blackberries and Ginger

Inspired by the novel Pie. Makes one 10-inch pie.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger chips
2 1/2 sticks butter, cut in 1/4-inch slices
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water

6 ripe peaches
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup instant tapioca
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup blackberries, fresh or frozen

Whirl flour, powdered sugar, salt, and ginger chips in food processor with the blade attachment until the ginger pieces are finely chopped.  Add slices from one stick of butter and whirl until no chunks remain.  Add remaining slices and whirl briefly to chop them up slightly.  Turn food processor on again and quickly begin drizzling ice water through the feed tube, stopping before the dough comes together.  Pinch some crumbs together between your fingers;  if they don’t stick together, add a bit more water and whirl briefly.  Turn the mixture out onto a large piece of plastic wrap.  Use the plastic wrap to help you bring the dough together;  fold the edges of the dough toward the center and press down until it holds together, taking care not to overwork the dough.  Divide it in half and shape into two flat disks wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.

While the dough chills, preheat oven to 450° F.  Bring a large pot of water to boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water.  Using a small paring knife, slice an X into the bottom of each peach.  Submerge peaches completely in boiling water for about 40 seconds (you may need up to 60 seconds depending on the ripeness of the peaches).  Transfer peaches to the bowl of ice water and until cool enough to handle.  Remove peaches one at a time and peel skin away gently with your fingers.  Halve peaches, remove pits, and trim into 1/4-inch slices.  Combine peaches with sugars, tapioca, salt, crystallized ginger, and cinnamon.   If using fresh blackberries, toss them in and mix.  If using frozen berries, add them at the last minute.

Roll out one of the dough rounds into a 13- to 14-inch circle.  Transfer carefully to a 10-inch pie dish and fill bottom crust with fruit mixture.  Roll out remaining round into a 13- to 14-inch circle and cut it into 1/2-to 3/4-inch strips.  Lay 4 to 5 strips evenly spaced across the pie in one direction.  Fold back every other strip and lay another strip crosswise right next to the folded edges.  Unfold the strips to create a woven pattern, and repeat with additional strips, alternating the ones that you fold, until you make it to the opposite edge of the pie dish (this sounds way more complicated than it actually is;  it’s easy once you have the strips to work with).   Brush beneath each strip with cold water and seal gently by pressing down on the edge with the bottom of a fork.  Trim overhanging dough with a knife and flute the edge with your fingers, if desired.

Place pie on a baking sheet to catch overflowing juices. Bake for 10 minutes, and then reduce heat to 350° F. Continue baking for 45-60 minutes, until juices bubble thickly and the fruit feels just tender when poked with a sharp knife.  Allow to cool for several hours before serving.

Peach Pie with Blackberries and Ginger
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Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart

A couple of years ago, when Eliza asked how people made salt, my husband grabbed a pot from our kitchen, walked down the hill to his lab, and filled the pot with filtered seawater.   He returned in minutes and started heating the water on our stove.

Moments like these remind me–despite the small living quarters–how cool it is to live at a marine research lab.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart

Our pot of seawater boiled, burbled, and then sputtered saline explosions in dangerous arcs through the air.  Long after our windows had fogged, long after heavy water droplets streaked down the windowpanes through thick condensation, long after we’d lost interest in monitoring the pot’s contents, a thick salty paste coated its bottom.  We transferred this sludge to a baking pan and heated it at low temperature in the oven until the salt felt dry to the touch.

Our salt, with its coarse, irregular texture, tasted different, not surprisingly, from ordinary table salt you can buy at the grocery store. Eliza, who would eat salt by the spoonful if we let her, entreated us to make more.  And so,  inspired by her curiosity and our success, we started making salt full tilt.   We even came up with a goal for ourselves:   we hoped to produce little jars of handmade salt as Christmas gifts for friends and family members.

Sea Salt for Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart

Grasping the serious limitations of salt production in a 900-square-foot cottage didn’t take long.   About three to four gallons of saltwater yields maybe 150 grams of salt — enough to fill one small jar.   Imagine all of that water evaporated into our tiny living space.  Even with all the windows open, boiling water for hours on end made our tiny Pacific Northwest cottage seem almost tropical in humidity.

Fortunately, we roped some friends into the project;  they usually keep a pot of water on their wood stove in fall and winter, and they loved the idea of handcrafted salt.  Soon we were hauling a five-gallon container of filtered saltwater to their house every few days.

Our collective efforts produced enough salt for both of our families to give jars of salt as gifts and leave us with a supply for our own kitchens.

But that was two years ago.

Now that I’m down to the last jar, I use our salt sparingly.  Until fall arrives, and I can get our salt factory in production again, I’ve hidden the jar and only bring it out when a recipe really calls out for it, a recipe, say, like this Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart

It tastes even better than I imagined, this tart.    A thick, sweet caramel layer hides between a smooth, glossy chocolate ganache and a tender, chocolate-pecan, cinnamon-spiced crust.  A light sprinkling of salt on top looks stunning and imparts amazing bursts of flavor that set off the tart’s rich sweetness.

The process of transforming one set of crystals — sugar — into caramel on my stove, juxtaposed with the final addition of another set of crystals atop the tart — salt — that emerged from a boiling pot of water on that same stove, gives me a certain satisfaction.

To bring this salt’s journey full circle, we took our dessert down to the beach.  Eliza fashioned herself a kelp cup and washed her tart down with seawater.  No kidding.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart

Of course you can use any good salt to sprinkle on top of this tart, but if you have the chance, I recommend making your own.

Whatever you do, go eat your dessert on the beach.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart

Inspired by Saveur and The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.  Makes one 9-inch tart.

1 cup pecan halves, toasted
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon crème fraîche
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons water

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup crème fraîche
sea salt for garnish

For the crust, preheat oven to 400°F.  Whirl toasted pecans in a food processor until the pecans are finely ground and the mixture begins to look oily.   Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat 1 stick butter until fluffy.  Add the salt, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, and cocoa, and blend until smooth.  Add the flour and stir to blend.  Finally, add the nuts.  The mixture will be dry.

Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until it the crust is set (the dark color makes it hard to tell, but it’s done when you can just begin to smell the chocolate.). Remove the crust from the oven and set it aside to cool.

To make the caramel, combine cream and crème fraîche in a 2-cup measuring glass.  Whisk gently to combine, and then add butter pieces;  set aside.

Whisk sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water together in a 1-quart saucepan.  Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil–without stirring–until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 340°F.  Remove pan from heat and add the cream-butter mixture (the mixture will bubble up like mad); whisk until smooth.  Pour caramel into the tart shell and allow it to cool slightly;  cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.

For the ganache, place chocolate pieces in a 2-cup measuring glass;  set aside.  Gently whisk cream and crème fraîche together in a 1-quart saucepan;  bring to a boil over medium heat.  Pour hot cream into prepared measuring glass; without stirring, let the cream-chocolate mixture sit for 1 minute.  After 1 minute elapses, stir slowly with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and glossy.  Acting quickly, pour ganache over the caramel, and then carefully pick up the tart pan, tilting and rotating to spread the ganache to the tart’s edges.   Refrigerate uncovered until set, about 4–5 hours.  Sprinkle tart with sea salt, slice, and serve chilled.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart
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