Saturday, June 11, 2011

Modern Baker Challenge: Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tartlets

These little tartlets were one of my biggest challenges to-date.

I was looking for a quick and easy dessert to bring to a friend's 30th birthday party this afternoon. I wasn't sure whether or not she had a birthday cake already planned, so I wanted to pick something fun that would go with another dessert. Browsing through The Modern Baker, I settled on the chocolate caramel pecan tartlets; they looked tasty and I had all of the ingredients on hand.

My first hiccup with these was that I was counting on using some of the leftover sweet tart dough that I have in my freezer. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that these tarts actually call for the chocolate nut dough. While I was willing to compromise, hubby was pretty convinced they needed the chocolate dough, and since I'd never made it before and we didn't have any plans this morning, I decided to just make a batch. The tart dough was relatively easy: slivered almonds, sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, butter, eggs, and water, all combined in the food processor. I used extra-large eggs, so I thought maybe I should omit the water because of the extra moisture. I should've listened to my instincts, since the dough ended up being quite wet.

While the dough was cooling in the fridge, I made up the ganache. I realized that I didn't have quite enough chocolate, so I scaled the recipe down (I made 3/4 of the recipe). NM says to use a large saucepan because the caramel boils did, but I think the pan I used was way too large, so it made it a little awkward to cook. And while I was cooking the sugar and water and simultanously heating the cream, I got distracted with the dishes and ended up scorching the cream and having to start over with that part. Anyway, the ganache wasn't difficult: sugar, water, cream, milk, salt, bittersweet chocolate (I used 60% and 72%), and unsalted butter. I probably should've waited to make the ganache, since it was completely hard by the time the crusts were ready.

Ah, the crusts. I rolled out the wet dough, using quite a bit of flour to prevent sticking and tearing, and used a small round cutter to cut circles. I used my mini-muffin pan, one of NM's suggestions for mini-tarts. It was only after I put the pan into the oven that I realized I'd forgotten to pierce the crusts with a fork. I pulled them from the oven, where they'd already begun to puff up, and quickly pierced them. Too late of course; they were still quite puffy. I used a plastic measuring spoon to push the still warm dough down to make a little cup. I thought I was in the clear, until I tried to remove the little delicate forms from the mini muffin pan. There's a reason tart pans have a removable bottom. I was able to salvage a few of them, and then I used the remaining 1/4 of the dough (still in the fridge) to make two 4" mini tart crusts.

After the crusts were finally ready, I rewarmed the ganache over a pot of gently simmering water on the stove, which went surprisingly well. I filled one 4" tart crust with plain chocolate, and then added the toasted pecans and filled the rest of the tart crusts.

I prefer the bittersweet chocolate tart with sweet tart crust. These were pretty dark; I would've preferred them with some sweetened whipped cream or ice cream. And I don't think I'll make this crust again. And I definitely won't use the mini-muffin pan again (unless someone has a foolproof technique for removing the tarts...?). Still, they were pretty tasty and went quickly at the birthday party, so all's well that ends well, I guess!


  1. Sorry you had such a hard time with these. They look great, though. I haven't made any of the tartlets yet; we'll see how it goes for me, as I'm going to use my mini-muffin pan, too.

  2. It's too bad you struggled with these tarts - that's no fun. The end result looks terrific though! Looking at your pictures reminds me of how delicious they were. (Although I used hazelnuts instead of almonds in mine.) The mini ones look adorable, and I'll bet nobody eating them would have ever guessed that they weren't supposed to be 'puffy'. They look great!

  3. They look decadent. Rule #13 (or wherever you want to rank it: Never wash dishes while cooking something delicate. I learned the hard way.

  4. I had puffy shells with some other recipe, too ;o). Too bad you struggled with this one. I do think, though, that chocolate dough and chocolate ganache sound perfect together. Look forward to making these.

  5. I used a mini muffin pan and learned that I used too much dough. I didn't have any cavity to put the ganache into! I thought the flavor of these was great but constructing it all was a bit difficult.

  6. These look very fussy to me...are you sure I can't just make my favorite 6" tart size? No? Hmmph...fussy is not my style at all, but since you did it, I will give it a try. Fussy and chocolate...I can see already how much fun this is going to be! I hope mine look as nice as yours.