Guest Attempt: Saveur's Chocolate Caramel Tart

I am so very excited about this guest attempt by my friend, Sara. Her now unavailable photography blog was one of the first blogs I followed with true anticipation. I would go to it daily, always saddened/annoyed if there wasn't a new post. This combined with the fact that I've had so many delicious meals at her house with her and her amazing family, I knew she'd put together a fabulous guest attempt. Uhm, I was right...

I'm calling this Saveur's Chocolate Caramel Tart, but in reality just as much credit is due to Lottie and Doof, whose adaptation of the Claudia Fleming original recipe factored into my execution heavily as well. In fact, once I knew that both recipes existed there was no way I could follow just one exclusively...the desire to pick and choose the better/easier/more novice-baker-friendly steps was just too great. So instead I read through both at length, plus the reader comments attached, and only then began my foray into something that I really, really do not do: baking.

I like to think this meticulousness is part of my charm. And maybe it is, except if you're my younger sister Grace, who called me last week to report that her ex-boyfriend had "finally realized what his problem with [me] was." Go ahead, read that again. Her ex-boyfriend. Called from ex-dom because he had an epiphany about what was wrong with ME. (Ok, in reality, they talk frequently and I guess this somehow came up in the course of a normal conversation?) Anyway. The charge: I am too good at everything.

In reality, I am not good at everythingfar, far from it in fact. But what I am is driven. Detail-oriented. Willing to read the directions. Basically willing to work hard to look like I'm good at things. And I guess that, according to my sister, it often works. But one place where all those skills really don't hold up is in the kitchen, where spontaneity and intuitiveness account for more success than an alphabetized spice rack. And because of this, my sister is, and has always been, the better cook.

Maybe it's the impending holidays, or maybe it's that I just listened to this piece on NPR, or maybe it's the fact that I'm about to welcome my second child any day now...but I've been thinking a lot about siblings lately. So when Amelia asked me to write up a guest attempt on this tart, and my sister decided to copy me again make the same one on the same day, I had Grace document her process as well so we could see what happened.

* * *

It's afternoon in California, and I've organized my ingredients and done my prep work. One hour later at my Dad's house in New Mexico, Grace opens a bottle of wine and gets to work as well.

My phone rings almost immediately.

"Uh, do you have a fluted tart pan with removable bottom?"

"Yeah, I bought mine this morning." (after visiting no less than 3 different stores)

Grace mutters some expletives.

"You don't have one? Didn't you read the recipe?"

"...No?? I just read the list of ingredients."

She must hear me smirking through the phone.

"You're totally going to write about how you're a super organized jerk and I didn't read the recipe, aren't you?"

Oh little sister...how well you know me.

Saveur's version:
photo: Andre Baranowski

my version:

Grace's version:

This recipe starts off with making the crust. Having only made a pie crust once before in my life, when I was 12 and probably not alone in the kitchen (although that pie did place in the Martha's Vineyard Fair pie contestyes, seriously), I am already out of my comfort zone.

Still, judging from the substance I lick off my beaters, things are A-ok.

However, now comes the part where the recipe wants you to "press dough evenly into bottom and sides of pan." Like, with my fingers? Am I missing something?

I consult the Lottie and Doof recipe, see that they want you to chill it, roll it, chill it, and then use pie weights (pie weights??) and decide to take the finger approach. The result is slightly...lumpy.

I am a bit worried until Grace calls again and tells me she has done the same thing. Score!
She also tells me that pie weights are just dried beans. Who knew??

I stick my crust in the oven, clean the entire kitchen, and read through the caramel portion of both recipes to refresh my memory. Grace sticks her crust in the oven and starts making the caramel, still reading the recipe for the first time as she goes.

My phone rings again.

"I need a candy thermometer for this??!"

Luckily, you don't, at least according to the Lottie and Doof recipe (or the reader comments on the Saveur recipe) so she does it by eye instead.
I, on the other hand, do not.
Did I mention I'm about to have a baby ANY DAY NOW?

Did I also mention that caramel is a seriously dangerous substance? Poetically, Grace and I burn the same exact finger during this step. Her battle wound is much more impressive than mine:

I pour my caramel into the crust, put the tart in the fridge to chill overnight, and collapse on the couch to watch a movie and knit. Grace pours her caramel into the crust, puts the tart in the fridge to chill overnight, and finishes her bottle of wine while perusing Facebook.

By morning, it's ganache time.
All goes well until I start pouring mine and realize that the tart is so cold and I'm pouring with so much care and so little speed that it's hardening faster than it can spread.
I use a spatula to avert the crisis but the result is again slightly...lumpy.

Grace calls and reports that hers is smooth and perfect.
Having seen the photos, I think this was actually a case of what's called differing standards.

I put my tart in the fridge to chill again, wash the dishes, and set the table before our guests arrive. Grace puts her tart in the fridge to chill again, re-bandages her blistery finger, and opens another bottle of wine.
Yes, I'm wearing velour pants. That's what happens when you're 9 months pregnant and it's Thanksgiving, people.
And yes, my sister is totally gorgeous. And probably has never worn velour pants in her life.

In closing, I would say I was mostly happy with the outcome of all this culinary sibling rivalry. I felt like my crust was maybe a bit thick (pie weights/dried beans next time?) and that the chocolate ganache could have been a thinner and smoother layer as well. All the chocolate was a bit overwhelming for me when I wanted the caramel to be the star. However, I am not really a chocolate person.

Grace thought her tart was perfect...she decidedly is a chocolate person though.

But then, you could have guessed that by now, couldn't you?

Recipe via Saveur:
1 1⁄2 cups flour
1⁄4 cup plus 1 tbsp. dutch-process unsweetened
cocoa powder
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and softened
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tbsp. confectioners' sugar
2 egg yolks, preferably at room temperature
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1⁄2 cups sugar
3 tbsp. light corn syrup
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
6 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. crème fraîche

1⁄2 cup heavy cream
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Gray sea salt for garnish

1. Make the crust: Heat oven to 350˚. Combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until mixture is pale and fluffy; mix in yolks and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Transfer dough to a 9" fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and press dough evenly into bottom and sides of pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prick the tart shell all over with a fork and bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool.

2. Make the caramel: In a 1-qt. saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 6 tbsp. water and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 340°. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter, cream, and crème fraîche (the mixture will bubble up) until smooth. Pour caramel into cooled tart shell and let cool slightly; refrigerate until firm, 4–5 hours.

3. Make the ganache: Bring cream to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Put chocolate into a medium bowl and pour in hot cream; let sit for 1 minute, then stir slowly with a rubber spatula until smooth. Pour ganache evenly over tart and refrigerate until set, 4–5 hours. Sprinkle tart with sea salt, slice, and serve chilled.


Amelia Morris said...

sara! i LOVE this post. so many funny lines, but i think the winner just might be: "I think this was actually a case of what's called differing standards."

Having been lucky enough to taste your tart, I must say it was SUPERB. perfect combo of chocolate and caramel.

p.s. Grace: sorry about the burn.

Matthew said...

Great post Sara. These pictures are amazing, and so was the tart. Pie weights!

jeana sohn said...

LOVE this! yummy and funny.

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...

Pie weights schmi-weights! That was the best tart I have ever eaten. Too much chocolate??!! Is there such a thing? The caramel/chocolate ratio was perfection. Well done.

sara said...

i am a nitpicker, i thought we had established this...

seriously, though, i really enjoyed the whole guest attempt experience - thanks amelia!

(t-minus a few hours until grace wakes up in ny and feels the need to comment and get the last word btw. wait for it...)

Tim (Lottie + Doof) said...

Totally enjoyed reading this! I don't care much about chocolate either, but I do like this tart. Well done!

Heather Taylor said...

Always wanted to try this recipe! Btw I love that #SisterGuestAttempt is emerging as a sub plot of Bon Appetempt!!!! Cozy!

Danielle (elleinadspir) said...

How did I miss the fact that you are prego? You look adorable!! And the tarts/pies look yum too.

Amelia Morris said...

Heather: you're so right!! it is now a complete subsection!

Danielle: hahahaha! i am SOOO not pregnant. This is a "guest" attempt by my pal Sara! :)

Grace said...

(t-minus a few hours until grace wakes up in ny and feels the need to comment and get the last word btw. wait for it...)

oh big sister...how well you know me..

I started reading this on the train this morning and so many comments came to mind...I also started typing my response on my phone so as not to forget my first reaction!

There are few things in this world that I would bother "competing" with my sister on. I learned my lesson early on that there is no wining with her and conceded to being the less perfect but perhaps (definitely) more relaxed sister. However one of those things happens to be cooking so when she suggested we both make the same the same tart and do a "sisters-attempt" for Bonn Appetempt, I couldn't resist. Admittedly I relished a bit in the fact that my tart would at the very least be as good if not better.
The whole process turned out to be pretty comical and very true to our personalities as sisters. I have to say my biggest regret including the fact that I am now permanently disfigured (seriously) is that we could not have a true taste test....however, there is always Christmas...thanks for having us on the site Amelia!

Gina said...

Great post!! Entertaining, and drool-worthy. And the belly is gorgeous.

Jodi said...

Such pretty ladies! Yummy!

Rod said...

Isn't it interesting that Mom hasn't commented (yet). Such a diplomat or maybe just cautious ;-)
. . . it's wonderful to see you celebrate your differences with such love, humor and generosity . . .
very precious

Anonymous said...

Wow...can't wait for the Tart redux. No such thing as too much chocolate OR caramel in my book. The day will come when you're comparing Christmas cookies...who can roll the Sandtarts paper thin; who can knead the shortbread enough to make it light and fluffy. Looking forward to seeing the new siblings in action--hold that baby in 'til Nana arrives! Love you both the world, Mom

Grace said...

I think its worth mentioning that our photos were fairly close to identical..hilarious!

Mary Anne said...

funny, funny post! Love it! And want to make this tart.

Brother-sister attempt up next, Bioooollllll and Amerzzzz!!!

David said...

Well its a proud uncle that has two beautiful talented nieces that can both do incredible things quite differently. Your mom shared the NPR piece about siblings and had told me of the tart experiment. Wonderful outcome! Maybe you can put your thoughts around sibling differences between the two of us! Love you both. UD

Amelia Morris said...

WOW. Bon Appetempt hasn't received this much familial support since well, NEVER!


Professor Slav said...

We love your blog! You are sooo funny! Hope you keep it up after baby arrives (btw, you look amazing!)

The818 said...

Oh my. This is just...everything I love about Sara AND Grace, AND chocolate all wrapped up into a single blog post. Gracie, you get on with your bad perfectly disorganized self, lady - I'm right there with you. ;)

QueriesonFoodsandHealth said...

"But then, you could have guessed that by now, couldn't you?"

haha. You and Grace indeed have different standards, eh. Yet I love the recipe. It's actually mouth watering. Thanks for sharing. :)

Peny@littman stethoscope