Monday, December 28, 2009
The Sweetness of Christmas
I love the soft exhalation of stress that follows Christmas. All of the to-do's are either done or are no longer relevant. The family playing with toys, reading books or instruction manuals amid drifts of torn wrapping paper, illuminated by twinkling Christmas tree lights, are a lovely tableau of peace and contentment.
Normally on Christmas Day I choose to stay out of the kitchen, preparing only the easiest of heat and eat meals. I don't want to lose that easy, comfy feeling of having nothing that needs doing. This year, though, I choose to do one thing, just for fun. This recipe was featured in December's Bon Appetite and I thought it would be a lovely way to round out our Christmas dinner.
Because I didn't have the right size pan, I chose to make 6 individual tarts and see how that worked. No biggie if it didn't work, because I was just playing. I won't say it was a Christmas miracle, but it was certainly a gift, that everything about this tart worked out. Dividing the dough into 6 pans - just great. Dividing the filling - perfect. Making the caramel (not my forte) - easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. The only downside was that the tarts are sooooo rich that unless you have superhuman capacity, you can only eat a half of one. So if you have 6 couples eating, or 12 close friends, make the 6 tarts and have them share. Or make it per the Bon Appetite specs and cut slices. Either way, you'll wow the crowd.
Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart
- adapted from Bon Appetit
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon (or more) ice water
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
1 1/2 cups unsalted macadamia nuts (about 7 1/2 ounces), toasted, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1- Blend flour, powdered sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1 tablespoon ice water and blend just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry.
2- Divide dough into 6 equal lumps and gently press a lump into each of six 4-1/2-inch tart pans, patting it with your fingers up the sides of the pan and evenly across the bottom. Chill the dough in the pans for 1 hour.
3- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F.
4- Line each crust with foil; fill with dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake crust until pale golden around edges and sides are set, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans; bake until crust is golden and cooked through, about 11 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool crust completely in pan.
5- Bring cream for the ganache to simmer in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; stir until smooth.
6- Spoon 3 tablespoons ganache into 1 corner of small resealable plastic bag and seal; set aside at room temperature for piping. Spread remaining ganache evenly over bottom of the crusts. Sprinkle chopped macadamia nuts evenly over ganache layer in crust. Freeze crust while preparing caramel filling.
7- Combine sugar and 1/3 cup water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is golden amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 8 minutes. (I was concerned at this point because it appeared that sugar crystals were forming on top of the boiling mixture, but it wasn't a problem. I kept brushing and swirling and the sugar crystals went away.)
8- Remove pan from heat. Add cream and butter; stir until any caramel bits dissolve and mixture is smooth. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan and bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Boil without stirring until thermometer registers 240°F, about 2 1/2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and salt.
9- Remove crusts from freezer. (It's helpful if you can have someone else fetch them for you while you're whisking in the vanilla.) Working quickly, pour caramel filling into crusts. Gently shake tart pans to allow filling to settle evenly in crusts. Cool completely at room temperature, about 3 hours.
10- Place reserved resealable plastic bag with chocolate ganache in microwave and heat in 5-second intervals just until smooth and pourable. Using scissors, cut off very small tip from corner of bag with ganache. Pipe ganache decoratively over caramel filling in crosshatch pattern. Chill until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes. The tarts can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled. Bring tarts to room temperature before serving.
11- To serve, remove the sides from the tart pans and place on pretty plates. If you feel you haven't reached your holiday quota of fats, you can garnish with a blop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.