Monday, August 27, 2007

Inaugural Daring Bakers Challenge: Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart!!!

Yes, yes! I now officially belong to the The Daring Bakers community, the coolest online baking community/sorority ever! EVER! I feel like I'm one of the cool girls now! I'm so thrilled to be part of the Daring Bakers group and I was just so excited to bake my first DB creation: the Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart (and yes, the name deserves to be capitalized). When I was informed of this month's challenge, I was floored by the delicious simplicity of it and could hardly wait make it! I mean, seriously, who can resist a layered caramel and milk chocolate tart with a delicious hazelnut crust? The recipe comes from Eric Kayser's Sweet and Savory Tarts.

The tart-making process, as usual, starts with making and blind-baking of the crust. I feel that the crust is enough to make or break a tart, whether it's topped of with fruit, custard or chocolate. So it was with some excited trepidation that I started on the crust dough. It is actually a very simple shortbread crust with some extras such as ground hazelnuts and a pinch of ground cinnamon. The crust turned out nicely but it was rather difficult to handle and roll because it was so sticky (even after a rather generous sprinkling of flour).
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Next, came the ooey gooey caramel layer. I was even more nervous about this part because ... I've never made caramel sauce before! I know, I know, a baker who hasn't made caramel before? Who ever heard of that? So anyway, my virgin caramel-making experience was fraught with a few minor mishaps but it turned out ok too. Yay! Instead of using the dry method (the more difficult one), I cheated and used the beginner/wet method by caramelizing the sugar in some water and corn syrup. So, the first two times I tried, I made the fluke of turning off the fire once the solution came to a boil (which I was NOT supposed to do) and let it rest. Thanks to the miracles of Google, I finally figured out that I was supposed to let it come to a boil and then let it continue boiling (without stirring) until it turns a golden caramel color! It helps to test the caramel color by dripping some on a white napkin or paper plate. Isn't it a beaut?
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

After baking the caramel layer and letting it cool, we come to the decadent milk chocolate mousse layer. This part was pretty simple but I still managed to fudge it up, bleah! The chocolate mousse part only needs whipped cream and melted chocolate. I had a difficult time getting my cream to stiffen, only to realize that I probably shouldn't have left it at room temperature before beating it. Fortunately, this kind of mistake isn't irreparable; I just had to chill it and the bowl I beat it in before whipping it again. And voila! Whipped cream! Next, I just had to fold in the melted milk chocolate into the whipped cream to create the mousse layer before spreading it the cooled caramel tart.
IMG_2666

I think the milk chocolate mousse part looks a little bit grainy, probably because I let the melted chocolate cool for too long before folding it in the whipped cream. However, the grainy appearance didn't seem to take anything away from the taste; it was very rich and very chocolatey. I sliced a sliver of the tart for myself after minimal cooling time (hey! I was getting hungry!). The tart layers had different "fork feels" in that the mousse layer is soft and cloudy, whilst the caramel layer is ever so slightly less soft than the mousse, chewier and stickier. And carpeted beneath it all, is a layer of crisp, nutty crust. The different textures of the layers also lend some complexity to a tart that would otherwise be just pure sugar (not that pure sugar is THAT horrible). A slice of sin!

But anyway, this tart is pure sin, I tell you! As usual, I brought most of it to lab, where the always ravenous fellow grad students wolfed it down. Not only did I have a ton of fun making this tart, I had an almost "Zen" experience while doing so. Well, I always feel at peace with the world when I bake anything no matter whatever else was going on in my universe, but I felt especially fulfilled making this tart. Part of the reason is just the pure enjoyment of creating something so seemingly complex from simple everyday ingredients. The usual baked goods I make tend to be individual serving things such as cookies and cupcakes, so actually making and assembling something relatively big is a rare thing for me. So anyway, the appearance of the tart leaves a lot to be desired, what with the rather uneven layers and grainy-looking mousse, which I will definitely try to improve in the next DB challenge. Fortunately, the flavor, texture and taste of the tart is just nice. I love that the first DB challenge has already exposed me to new baking frontiers such as the art of making caramel and mousse. I'm just itching for our next project!

36 comments:

kellypea said...

Congrats on your first DB challenge! I love the fluffy, and less heavy look of your tart. This will be one challenge I'll seriously want to mess around with later..

Veron said...

Wow, what a lovely tart! I could see how the "grainy" parts of the chocolate mousse actually adds an interesting texture as you said.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Maria, thank you for being so positive about the whole challenge!!
I can tell your tart was delicious!

Deborah said...

Gorgeous! Great job with your first DB challenge!

Dagmar - A Cat in the Kitchen said...

Congratulations on your first challenge! Your tart looks great, I love the fluffyness.

creampuff said...

Love the photo essay! Congratulations on completing your first challenge. Your tart looks lovely.

Anne said...

I'm glad you liked the end result :) well done to you!

Brilynn said...

Well done on the first challenge! (And for the record, in my opinion, but don't listen to me, caramel making never gets easier...).

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Well done on your first challenge!

Belinda said...

Your tart looks delicious, and I love the fluffy mousse layer...heavenly! :-)

Dharm said...

Maria, I just met a girl called Maria...! So much for West Side Story. Great Tart! And welcome to the DBs. i love you enthusiasm and dont forget there are a few thorns among the roses. Well done Maria and look forward to seeing you around.

Sara said...

Oh look at all that mousse! Looks great.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

very very nice inaugural challenge! You should be so proud!

Inne said...

welcome to the Daring Bakers! You did a great job on your first challenge.

Andrea said...

Congratuations and welcome to The Daring Bakers! Great job on your first DB challenge, and I'm with you...I'll definitely make this again.

Jenny said...

Ha, I make treats for students a lot too! Luckily they're coming back soon so I have more people to experiment on. Welcome to the DB!

Tartelette said...

Congrats on our first challenge! And don't listen to Brilynn, caramel making gets easier!

Lis said...

Yay for you, Maria! I love your tart and that dark caramel has me craving it again! Totally droolworthy =)

I'm so happy you enjoyed yourself.. I can't wait to see what you do with next month's challenge!

xoxo

Peabody said...

Well done. I especially love the step by step photos!

Aoife said...

What success for your first time with caramel! I wish I had gotten the hang of it that quickly. Nice job!

the pastry princess said...

welcome to the daring bakers and congrats on completing your first challenge in excellent style! your tart looks lovely!

Amy said...

Great job on your first challenge! My mousse was pretty chunky but it's the taste that counts! I'm glad you liked the tart.

Amy said...

Your caramel looks great! Congrats on your first challenge! Job well done. :)

Quellia said...

Great work on your challenge! "Fork Feel" is a new one to me, but describes the tart perfectly!

Jen the Bread Freak said...

Beautiful caramel, and despite your mousse issues, it looks nice and fluffy!

Mary said...

Yes, pure sin is right! And I've found that "lab rats" (especially fresh post-docs) appreciate free food of any kind. I'm glad you could join our group. Very well done!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

And most welcome to the DB. You've earned your strip with this tart. This recipe was one you had to do some fill in the blanks on. You did a great job of it. And doesn't September look good.

Elle said...

Love your comment about the Zen of baking...it really is a wonderful way to relax and be creative. Your tart looks so delicious with the mousse in particular all soft and pillow like. Yummy! Glad you are a Daring Baker!

wmpe said...

Your mousse looks so fluffy! I love your reference to the crust as "carpet." Great write-up. I think all the flavors add up to one great tart. Wendy

Meeta said...

Congratulations on your first challenge!! Well done. The mousse looks wonderful and fluffy!

Andrea said...

Congrats and welcome to the Daring Bakers! Your caramel came out lovely.

Dolores said...

Gorgeous tart Maria; you have every right to be proud of your 'maiden flight' with caramel... it turned out great. Welcome to the group!

Andreea said...

so glad to have discovered your blog - will link soon. wonderful! (thanks for dropping by mine)
oh and schhhhhh i am a DBer too :)

breadchick said...

Great job on your first challenge!! Your mousse looks so fluffy and creamy!!!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

PASSIONATE BAKER....and beyond. said...

Hi Maria...Thanks for stopping by my blog, and the lovely comment about the pineapple cake. Am envious about all u guys on the DB challenge. Did join, but figured I wouldn't be able to live up to it due to lack of key ingredients in India. So i just by the sidelines and drool...:0)

Click to Join the Foodie Blogroll

Click here to join