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I think I am now officially a Daring Baker. I have to admit I was rather smug during my first two challenges – Bagels and Strawberry Mirror Cake, completing them with no real difficulty and having a great time while doing so…a kind of baking bliss. Before becoming a Daring Baker, as many of you know, I did not bake at all and was very intimidated to bake. So with two challenges under my belt, I was feeling pretty good about this whole baking thing – it wasn’t such a big deal. I was actually amused by the stories other Daring Bakers shared about their experiences, people who actually BAKE, about frustrating moments and culinary crisis, imagining that if it were I who were in those situations I would have kept my calm and remained cool. This baking thing wasn’t gonna get me, it was fun, and dare I say EASY. Well I was about to experience the mother load of baking karma!

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart hit my buttons big time.

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I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to going to the grocery store. I like to be in charge of the list and check everything off one by one as I cruise up and down the aisles. Before heading off to the store, I make my list, I check it twice – against what is already in the house, and I make sure to put exact amounts of things I need – especially when it comes to a Daring Baker’s challenge. I don’t want to be left in the lurch! So naturally I had on the list 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 ¼ cup of whipping cream. One little problem, it was not I who went to fetch the ingredients and when the bags arrived home with only 1 – 8 oz. container of heavy whipping cream, I was gone…out of my mind! Apparently we had 1 – 8 oz. container already in the fridge, which I of course had accounted for – but I wanted extra in case anything happened. I mean, if there had been 2 – 8 oz. containers of heavy cream in the bag, I could have managed. But at this point when I found out, right as I was about to start the project on a day where I had an afternoon engagement, I just freaked all the way out. There was yelling, and cursing and oversized, big Sicilian drama happening. I was so wound up that instead of just allowing anyone else to rectify the problem, I went to the store myself, got the ingredients and headed home to start the baking. But my problems had already just begun. Here is the tale of melted chocolate mousse and runny caramel and what finally went from a regular tart all the way to a new frozen dessert!

Here is the recipe, with pictures and all the pitfalls along the way!

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Ingredients

½ lb (250 g) chocolate shortbread pastry (see recipe below)
1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 g) heavy cream (30-40 percent butterfat) or crème fraiche
¼ cup (50 g) butter
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 ½ tablespoons (15 g) flour
1 ¼ cups (300 g) whipping cream
½ lb (250 g) milk chocolate

First you must make the Chocolate Shortbread recipe the day before.

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Ingredients for shortbread:

1 cup (250g ) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 g) confectioners’ sugar
½ cup (50 g) ground hazelnuts
2 level teaspoons (5 g) ground cinnamon
2 eggs
4 ½ cups (400 g) cake flour
2 ½ teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons (10 g) cocoa powder

Method for Shortbread:

(Note:this makes 3 tart shells. So if you only want one tart, which serves 8, I suggest saving the rest of the shortbread dough to make cookies.)

1. In a mixing bowl of a food processor, cream the butter.
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, the ground hazelnuts, and the cinnamon, and mix together
3. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing constantly

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4. Sift in the flour, the baking powder, and the cocoa powder, and mix well.
5. Form a ball with the dough, cover in plastic wrap, and chill overnight.

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(Note: The dough will be very hard the next day, so let it sit out for a while before working with it)

To make the tart :

1. Preheat oven to 325 °F (160 °C).

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2. Line the baking pan with the chocolate shortbread pastry and bake blind for 15 minutes.
(Note:when lining the tart pan, I had to take chunks of the dough and piece meal it together as the dough was quite hard)

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3. In a saucepan, caramelize 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar using the dry method until it turns a golden caramel color.

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Incorporate the heavy cream or crème fraiche and then add butter. Mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool.

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(Note: the caramel tend to want to clump up, so you may loose a bit to the whisk – but then, you can always give it to your willing loved one for snacking!)

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4. In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs with the extra egg yolk, then incorporate the flour.

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5. Pour this into the cream-caramel mixture and mix thoroughly.
(Note: my caramel mixture was swirly and did not incorporate all the way – not sure if it mattered or how to avoid that if I were to make this tart again…)

6. Spread it out in the tart shell and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

(Note: not sure what the consistency of the caramel layer was to be once it was cooked. After 15 minutes it was still totally liquid. So I actually baked it for 20 minutes and it got a bit more solid, like custard around the edges, but still pretty liquidy in the center, but I figured maybe it would set up more in the fridge, during the cooling process, but I was wrong…in the future I would probably let it cook until it was the consistency of custard all the way through.)

caramel-tart_making-mousse.jpg MOUSSE SOUP

7. Prepare the milk chocolate mousse: beat the whipping cream until stiff. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or in a bain-marie, and fold it gently into the whipped cream.

caramel-tart_ready-mousse.jpg REPAIRED MOUSSE

(Note: First problem in this step was that my milk chocolate did not get very syrupy, so I actually had to add a bit of cream to it to thin it out and turn it to a liquid form – I am not sure if it was bad chocolate or what the deal was, but it really had a weird texture. Also against my better judgment, I did this all as one step as directed and what happened was what I predicted – the melted chocolate melted my whipped cream, meaning I had a chocolate soup going on. To repair this, I cooled the now chocolate soup in the fridge, made a fresh batch of whipped cream and incorporated the cooled chocolate soup to it to create the mousse. To avoid this, I would suggest letting the milk chocolate cool before folding it into the whipped cream. However, it might get hard, so I am not sure what to do really).

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8. Pour the chocolate mousse over the cooled caramel mixture, smoothing it with a spatula. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.

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To decorate: melt ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar in a saucepan until it reaches an amber color. Pour it onto waxed paper laid out on a flat surface. Leave to cool. Break it into small fragments and stick them lightly into the top of the tart.

So after all was said and done, the mousse was wonderful, but the caramel layer was runny, which meant when I cut the tart to serve it, the layer ran out. So after the first night we put the remaining slices in the freezer and on subsequent evenings ate it as a frozen pie! Which was very nice!

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So this challenge really was a challenge in many ways, but now I feel that I am prepared for even tougher baking obstacles! So bring it on! Can’t wait to do the next one!