Chocolate Caramel Tart With Fleur De Sel

This is a little slice of heaven.  There is a thing with caramel and chocolate here on Glen Road.  Basically, we can’t get enough of them.  After I made the caramels with fleur de sel, I thought there must be a recipe that incorporates the same ingredients on a grander scale.  When I got my pies and tarts cookbook, I thought a tart would be the perfect way to put the same flavors to work.  After searching the internet, I finally found a recipe that would do the trick.  The recipe itself was one for 24 little tartlets, but I wanted to make the recipe and fit it into my 9 inch tart pan.  There was going to be some modification necessary to make enough to fit my pan.  The recipe I show below is my modification, but know that you will have about 2 cups of caramel left over and about 1 cup of chocolate.  Feel free to modify some more, but I was actually happy, because later in the week, I have some great toppings for an ice cream sundae or maybe spread on a graham cracker or two.  The recipe I found says it is from the pastry chef at the Gramercy Tavern restaurant in New York City and she actually served it at her wedding.  How could it be bad?  Give yourself some time to make this recipe.  It is not one of my easy and quick ones.  It took several chunks of one day to pull off.  The other thing worth noting is that getting the crust in the tart pan was challenging.  I literally slipped the bottom round under the chilled dough and lifted the round into the raised part of the pan.  There was some cracking, but the dough is pretty forgiving and you can mend it pretty easily with your hands.  Don’t make yourself crazy….the dough was delicious even after my mending it.  It is like a wonderful chocolate cookie.  So here is a wonderful dessert….our chocolate caramel tart with fleur de sel.

Ingredients:

For the Chocolate Tart Dough:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

For the Caramel Filling (I made mine in 2 separate batches for ease.  I didn’t have a pan big enough to do it in one shot and it really bubbles up at the end–be careful):

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • 2 pinches of coarse salt

For the Chocolate Ganache Glaze:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 7 ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Fleur de sel for sprinkling

Directions:

Make the tart dough:  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until combined, about 1 minute.  Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Sift in flour and cocoa powder and beat on low-speed until just combined.  Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a disk; wrap well.  Chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 325  degrees.  Between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper, roll the tart dough out to fit the 9 inch tart pan.  Place into the pan and trim away any excess dough.  Chill the tart shell in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Line the tart shell with a piece of parchment paper and fill with raw rice or dried lentils. Pull parchment paper together to form a small packet.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the packet and bake until the pastry looks dry and set, 5 to 10 minutes.  Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool (the tart shell can be made 8 hours ahead).

Make the filling:  Place 1 cup water in a large saucepan.  Add sugar and corn syrup and cook mixture over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until it becomes a dark-amber caramel, about 10 minutes.  Carefully whisk in butter, cream, creme fraiche and a pinch of salt (the mixture will bubble up when you do this so be careful), whisking until smooth (the caramel can be made up to 5 days ahead and refrigerated in a covered container).  Carefully transfer caramel to a glass measuring cup.

Pour caramel in the tart shell while still warm until the shell is about 3/4 full and let stand until the caramel is set, at least 45 minutes.

Make the ganache glaze:  Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 2 minutes.

Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.

Pour the glaze over the tart while still warm.

Let the glaze set at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

When dessert time rolls around, slice pieces of the tart and place on a plate.  Sprinkle some fleur de sel from the top to the bottom of the slice.  Trust me, there is something about the saltiness of the fleur de sel that plays off the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate that makes your tongue come alive with the flavor that hits it.  We hope you like our fleur de sel caramels blown out into a tart configuration.  If you have the time to work on this tart, you will be happy with the outcome.  The taste it unbelievable.  What do you think about mixing fleur de sel, caramel and chocolate altogether in a dessert?

What’s Blooming – Another Virtual Garden Tour

This is a little added bonus that we found as we were walking around looking at what was blooming in the garden.  Don’t be fooled.  This little toad was no more than a half an inch long….a baby.  When I was a little boy, my Grandma would always pull me aside when I yelled at the sight of a toad and give me the benefits of seeing them in your vicinity.  They eat bugs that devour your garden.  They save our garden.  Be happy when you see one near your garden.  So I will take her long ago given advice and be happy that our little friend is out protecting our garden.  Lot of plants are peaking in our garden right now.  Let’s enjoy a little virtual garden tour of what’s blooming.  Come with us….and Mr. Baby Toad.

We hope that you enjoyed our little virtual tour.  After a heavy rain this Friday night, things are looking pretty good and there is no need for us to haul the sprinklers out.  Let’s hope that we can continue to alternate between full sun and then some rain.  It sure makes things stay in bloom a lot longer.  What is blooming in your garden right now?

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Don’t Bark Up The Wrong Tree

This is JoJo at our July 4th party.  She didn’t take a nap all day.  She just ran from guest to guest to guest.  When she went to bed at 11:30 at night, she fell to her side and didn’t wake up until 10:00 the next morning.  Partying is really hard work.  What have your pets been up to lately?

Friday Dance Party – All Time Low But Dancin’

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for another week of living.  We give thanks for making it through and for being able to celebrate this fact.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So take a moment and be proud of the fact that you’re here and you’ve made it to another Friday.  Not only you, but your family and friends as well.  So, to that end, are you alive this Friday?  Have you given thanks for this?

Good, now let’s dance.

At our July 4th party, I used an application on my iPad for the first time called Pandora.  Basically, Pandora is a music application where you key in the name of a favorite song or artist.  The application will then play the song you requested or a song by the artist you selected and then continue to play songs that are similar to your initial request.  So if you choose Beyoncé, she starts singing and other songs that follow are similar but by artists like Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey and Brittany Spears.  We changed the theme up a few times going from pop to R&B to standards from the likes of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.  All we needed to do to keep the great music playing was hook the iPad into a speaker and an electric source and we were set for the day.  Pandora did the rest.  We highly recommend Pandora for your iPad or iPhone.  Even better is that the application itself is FREE.  The one thing we did notice is that one song kept playing for several of the songs/artists we selected and people were actually commenting about how much they liked it.  The song was from a band called ‘All Time Low’ and is called ‘I Feel Like Dancin’.  Since that is what we like to do on the Friday Dance Party, we thought it would be perfect for today’s song.  So crank those speakers up and get to groovin’.  You’ve made it through another week and you deserve to celebrate.  Don’t sprain anything!  What cool music applications can you recommend for our iPads and iPhones?

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Critters I Like

This is the kind of critters I like to see on Glen Road.  The stone kind.  The kind that doesn’t jump, hiss, run, slither or scurry.  They just sit there and do absolutely nothing.  Sort of what we did this weekend after our July 4th party.  What critter horror stories do you have to share here at Acorns On Glen?

Easy Chicken….Like Really Easy Chicken

This is our first harvest of green beans from the garden.  What should we do with them was the question?  I had an answer for that, based on a recent recipe I saw on a cooking channel.  Fresh green beans are perfect for a chicken paillard with fresh greens and beans.  We had been on such a food overload since our early July 4th party where we ate an incredible amount of food over the span of the event.  This recipe was perfect for us in the sense it wasn’t heavy, wasn’t grilled and was quick and easy.  It also called for very fresh ingredients, which is always a plus.  Even on the 4th of July, I was able to get to a fresh farmer’s market that was open for some of the other ingredients needed that I couldn’t get out of our garden.  If you are lucky enough to find a place that sells fresh, organic produce, it is well worth the price.  The fresh tastes can’t be beat.  This is the perfect Summer go-to recipe and hit the spot for our 4th of July dinner.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 pound trimmed green beans (sliced lengthwise on a sharp bias)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (8 ounces each)
  • 3+ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 32 sage leaves
  • 8 ounces pancetta (finely chopped)

  • 1 sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 6 cups lettuce (the lettuce is going to wilt a little because you will put a hot dressing/skillet gravy on top of it…..get some greens that can take that..romaine, red leaf, frisee mixed together work well)

Directions:

Steam string beans until al dente, 3 to 4 minutes.  Dump them into a bowl and set aside.  Slice chicken breast halves in half horizontally; pound lightly, to an even thickness to make 8 paillards.  Season paillards with salt and pepper.  Top each with 2 sage leaves.  Saute in a skillet with olive oil over high heat for 3 minutes.  Flip, and top each with more salt, pepper and 2 more sage leaves.   Heat until cooked through, about 3 minutes more.

Transfer to a platter.

When all 8 paillards are cooked, heat 1 tablespoon oil in skillet over high heat.  Cook pancetta for 2 minutes.  Add red onion; cook until soft, about 3 minutes minimum.  Make sure to scrape up all of the chicken bits that are attached to the bottom of the pan.  They have excellent flavor.

Add red-wine vinegar; stir in green beans.  Simmer for about two minutes to let the vinegar cook down a little and to heat up the green beans.  Toss with lettuce.  Serve over paillards.  There is a lot of greens and beans as you can see.  You can barely see the chicken under all of this salad.

Simple and quick.  We were not in the mood for crazy and difficult. Very tasty and hit the spot.  The warm dressing on the slightly wilted lettuces was a nice touch.  The pancetta, onion and vinegar had a nice mix of flavor.  Believe it or not, the chicken also kept its sage taste which surprised me given that I thought the flavor would be in the olive oil and not the chicken.

This is absolutely a new go-to Summer meal when we need something in a jiffy.  When it’s 100 degrees outside, who wants to spend all day cooking in front of a hot stove and oven?  Not us, that’s for sure.  What is your favorite go-to me meal for the Summer?

Our Happy 4th of July Picnic Celebration

This is our second day of recovery from our July 4th celebration held on Saturday.  Our party started five or six years ago and was really a small affair.  We would invite our immediate family and close friends over for a barbecue.  The kids would swim most of the day and the adults would gossip about what was going on over the beverage of their choice.  Oh yes, we also ate…and ate…and ate.  Each year after that first party, the July 4th celebration just kept getting bigger.  We weren’t really increasing our immediate family so that wasn’t the reason for the growth.  I guess we were just meeting more friends that we felt we wanted to come over.  So this year, it was our biggest party to date.  125 people big.  So big that we thought we needed a tent for people to sit under to ward off the sun.  That was a good idea as temperatures hit 85 degrees with full sun.  The tent that we got was like a circus tent.  We were joking that later that night, one of us would be performing a Cirque du Soleil performance at the top of it.  Festivities went from 1 in the afternoon until about midnight.

Believe us when we tell you that 125 people can eat.  We had food on the barbecue grill outside and lots of good old Italian food on the inside.

We will try now to the best of our ability to document all the food that we enjoyed.  I am sure we forgot a lot, but here’s a good try:

  • 20 pounds of hot dogs
  • 30 pounds of hamburgers
  • 20 pounds of skirt steaks
  • 30 pounds of baby lamb chops
  • 20 pounds of boneless chicken thighs
  • Large tray of chicken marsala
  • Large tray of eggplant parmesan
  • Large tray of sausage and peppers
  • Large tray of penne marinara
  • Large tray of rigatoni with sausage and broccoli rabe
  • Tomato brushetta with ricotta salata
  • Filet mignon on toast points with carmelized onions and balsamic reduction
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Potato croquettes
  • Antipasto (cheese and sliced meats)
  • Pigs in the blanket (because it is not a party without pigs in the blanket)
  • Italian sausage wrapped in phylo dough
  • Salad
  • Bread, buns, rolls (you can’t imagine how much starch there was)

Now the dessert.  Our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother put out the call for all Brooklyn and Staten Island bound guests to hit their best Italian pastry shops.  You can imagine the results.  We had so many pastries, cookies and cakes that we actually took many of the leftovers to the homeless shelter the next day.  There was no way we could eat all of the desserts that entered our house on Glen Road.  Here are some cupcakes (which are always a favorite):

Each year, I also ask one of my best friends to make her famous flag cake which is from Ina Garten.  She always obliges.  The flag cake sort of ties it all up here…you know, a symbol of why we are celebrating.

So Happy 4th of July to all of you from all of us here on Glen Road.  We also want to take this opportunity to thank all of our women and men in the armed services who risk their lives to protect all of us.  We appreciate your dedication.  By the way, if you are looking for us, we are still recovering from the big party.  Our beverage of choice was not lemonade, so that fact, coupled with the number of hours that we partied have made all of us Glen Road old people tired.  Thank God we have to go back to work tomorrow.  At our age, work is much easier than partying.  What are you doing today to celebrate the 4th of July?

Way Out Wicker

This is our new way out wicker.  There are a lot of second-hand stores in our area of Connecticut.  Many are pretty high-end, with beautiful antique furniture, china, crystal of all shapes and sizes and outdoor furniture.  Granted, there is a lot of junk in some of these stores but if you keep an eye out on the merchandise, you can find some good deals.  That’s the case with our new funky wicker set.  Who knew you could find real wicker in turquoise?

So when we saw the furniture we knew we had to have it.  We bought the pillows and cushions to match at a local home store shop and we were ready to go.  The set fit perfectly at the South end of the pool where it resides now.  It’s a perfect way to relax after a long day at work and enjoy a glass of wine or dinner.  We know that we will be spending a lot of hours here this Summer.  Do you know a special drink that is colored turquoise to match our wicker set that we can drink all Summer?

Friday Dance Party – Mumford & Sons ‘The Cave’

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

We’re getting ready here on Glen Road for a big 4th of July party.  125 people are coming and we just keep inviting more people.  It’s crazy.  Everything is set for a good time.  Plenty of food-the BBQ kind outside on the grill and the Italian kind inside the house.  The pool is heated to a warm temperature.  Since it is forecasted to be 90 degrees outside, it is important that the pool be kept at a constant 80 degrees, right?  Speaking of the temperature, we have had a large tent put up in our back yard so anyone not wanting the sun beating down on them can sit under it.  The tent itself could host a circus.  At night, it has lights in it so the party can go on late into the night.  Oh, and did I mention the booze?  Needless to say, there are bottles everywhere.  All the makings of a great 4th of July!  Now all we need is the music.  Music is always a tough one because at a party like we are having, you need to please people from 5 to 90 years old.  However, this song will absolutely be played because it is one of our favorites this month.  It’s Mumford & Sons ‘The Cave’.  It’s one of those songs that is a cross between several genres of music.  Great strings.  The best part of it, we have absolutely no idea what the lyrics mean.  Internet surfing says everything from a song about recovering from addiction, getting over depression to getting over a failed relationship.  Sounds great for a party, right?  Whatever it means, its our dance number for this week.  So turn the speakers up and celebrate another week of living.  Happy 4th of July and enjoy your dance.  You deserve it.  What are your plans for the 4th of July?