Caramel and Chocolate Tart

by Anne Maxfield on January 15, 2015

Accidental Locavore Caramel TartWhile the Accidental Locavore isn’t usually much of a baker (no patience for following directions), occasionally one needs to come up with a dessert, especially around the holidays. I saw this from Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Baking Chez Moi and thought it looked like something I could do. This isn’t difficult, you just have to be careful with the caramel and pull it off the heat when it starts to get golden. Makes a 9” tart.

 

For the pastry:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 large egg yolk

For the filling:

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large egg yolks

Accidental Locavore Chocolate for TartFor the pastry: In a food processor, pulse together the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until it’s the size of small peas. Add the egg yolk and pulse in 10-second increments until incorporated (about 4 long pulses). Transfer the pastry to a sheet of parchment paper, pat it into a disk and cover with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll out the pastry to a 12” round. Slide the whole thing onto a baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Remove from the refrigerator and let the pastry stand at room temperature for 5 minutes to soften. Discard the top sheet of parchment paper and invert the pastry into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom; fit the pastry into the pan and trim the overhang. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Line the tart shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the pastry is set and lightly browned at the edge. Remove the parchment paper and weights and bake the pastry for 5 minutes more, until lightly browned on the bottom. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°.

For the filling: In a microwave-safe small bowl, microwave the chocolate in 30-second bursts, just until melted. Let cool slightly. Pour the melted chocolate into the baked tart shell, spreading it evenly over the bottom and set aside.

In a small skillet, stir 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar with the lemon juice and ¼ cup of water over moderately high heat until the sugar dissolves. Cook, without stirring, until the mixture starts to color, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until a lightly golden caramel forms, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Stir in the cream and salt then let the caramel cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/3 cup of granulated sugar until smooth. Slowly stir the caramel into the egg yolk mixture then pour the custard evenly over the chocolate in the tart shell. Transfer the tart to a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the crust is browned and the filling is still slightly wobbly in the middle. Transfer the tart to a rack and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until set and thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours. Unmold, serve and enjoy!

My verdict: Cream, chocolate, caramel, butter, what’s not to like? Although this takes a bit of time, it’s definitely worth it! Be sure to have the cream at room temperature (or even a little warm) as it will harden the caramel if it’s too cold. That’s really the only tricky part. The crust is a good one and would go well with other fillings. If you don’t have pie weights or beans, small dried pasta (like macaroni) works well. I garnished my tart with a little shaved chocolate, but if you needed to be trendy, you could sprinkle a little Maldon salt on top.

 

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Chocolate and Salt-A Purist’s View

by Anne Maxfield on January 12, 2015

cioccolato fuso in tegame di rameIt might have been the Tasting Table article with chef Michael Anthony and the Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies (really?) that finally pushed the Accidental Locavore over the edge. Chocolate is a wonderful thing on its own. Ditto salt. And while they both play well with others, there are times when letting them be a solo act is so much more appealing.

Accidental Locavore Caramel Tart

These days it’s rare to find anything caramel that doesn’t have the word salted preceding it, but Dorie Greenspan dared to have a caramel tart in her new book Baking Chez Moi which I made (to great acclaim) for Thanksgiving. While anything Dorie bakes is usually great, this recipe was especially appealing because the caramel wasn’t salted (nor was there a garnish of some expensive hand-picked and tweezer-placed sea salt). The chocolate that coated the crust was simply chocolate. It made a fabulous tart, and as much as I don’t usually bake, this may make it into my dessert rotation.

Accidental Locavore Ultimate Chocolate CookiesSpeaking of chocolate, why can’t it be left alone? My mother has always had the unfortunate habit of adding coffee to her otherwise fabulous chocolate sauce*. And she’s not the only one. Try browsing through a selection of chocolate bars, from bacon to chipotle and beyond, and each has a flavor usually associated with savory foods. Sorry, but I don’t want my chocolate to taste like breakfast, lunch or dinner! That’s why when I made Nancy’s cookies I left the coffee out and they were amazing!

There are times when a little chocolate adds an interesting layer of flavor to savory foods. Mole comes immediately to mind (as does the unforgettable odor of roasting chocolate, custom blended at the market in Oaxaca). I’ve added it to coq au vin and when I remember, to short ribs or beef stews.

Accidental Locavore SaltsA small bit of salt does bring out the flavor of sweet foods, but the idea that salt now needs to be a major player in every dessert has long ago jumped the shark. While an occasional chocolate, salted caramel ________ is a treat, how about if we save the sea salt for what it’s best for, garnishing that perfect tomato in August?

 

*Sorry Mom, but you know the coffee thing makes me crazy

 

 

 

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Better Broccoli Soup

by Anne Maxfield on January 8, 2015

Accidental Locavore Better Broccoli SoupAfter the disappointing batch of roasted broccoli soup, the Accidental Locavore was on a quest to find a better recipe. This one from the New York Times definitely fit the bill with broccoli and potatoes. And you think you’re being healthy, no milk or cream, but there is a good bit of butter and oil. Serves 4-6.

  • ½ cup olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 heads broccoli (about 2 pounds), separated into small florets
  • 2 ½ teaspoons salt, more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoons black pepper, more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ pound potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, more to taste
  • Grated Parmesan, to finish

Accidental Locavore Seared BroccoliIn a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat. Add about a third of the broccoli, just enough so that it covers the bottom of the pan in a single layer without overcrowding. Cook broccoli without moving it for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until dark brown on 1 side only (leave the other side bright green). Transfer to a big bowl and repeat with more oil and the remaining broccoli. When all the broccoli has been browned, season with 1 teaspoon salt and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add butter and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to pan. Add onions and garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add potato to the pot with 1 quart water and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, cover pot and cook until potato is just tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add broccoli, cover again and cook until tender, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Add lemon zest and purée soup with an immersion or regular blender, to your desired texture. Stir in lemon juice. Finish with grated Parmesan, serve and enjoy!

My verdict: Oh so much better than the roasted broccoli soup, that I couldn’t stop tasting it! I ended up running it through a blender because I was afraid the stick blender would leave soup all over the kitchen. I wish I’d kept a few small pieces of broccoli aside to give it a little more texture, but that’s a small thing. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you might want to taste it before you (cautiously) add the red pepper flakes. Mine were pretty fresh and gave it a nice kick, but I probably added more that ¼ teaspoon to the pot. I’ve made it a couple of times and it’s definitely a keeper!

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Raclette (Yes, Again. Can’t Get Enough)

by Anne Maxfield on January 5, 2015

Accidental Locavore French Cheese PlatterComing on the heels of a recent Wall Street Journal piece about the lack of RSVP’s, the Accidental Locavore was only a little surprised to see so few people at a recent gathering. It was a raclette dinner for journalists at the French Cheese Board. The minute I finished reading the invitation my RSVP was sent!

As it turned out, it was a fun, intimate dinner with a bunch of raclette-crazed people along with a couple of newbies (to raclette) who quickly got into the spirit.

Accidental Locavore AppetizersWe were greeted with glasses of Crémant d’Alsace Prestige Brut, a lovely sparkling wine, and Fromager d’Affinois, a soft, creamy cheese, similar to brie. When we sat down at the table, there was a trio of appetizers. The simplest was a skewer of orange and red grape tomatoes sandwiching a morsel of the garlic and herb Fromager d’Affinois. Next to that was a small serving of butternut squash soup with the truffled version melting into it. The third was a slice of baguette with le Fromage Fouetté, a mild whipped cheese, used as a base for a tuna mousse. All three were delicious and easily duplicated at home (which is what the French Cheese Board is hoping you will do).

Accidental Locavore Making RacletteRaclette is traditionally made by holding half a wheel of cheese over a fire and scraping the melted part onto a plate with potatoes, charcuterie and cornichons. Since that’s not always practical (or legal starting January 1st– no more log fires in a fireplace in Paris!), restaurants will have an electric melter, designed to hold a quarter or half-wheel of cheese. What you usually find here are small trays that fit over a few votive candles, but they lack the drama of the big apparatus. I was happy to see the long table set with raclette machines strategically placed along with the smaller trays.

Accidental Locavore Raclette and CharcuterieAs is traditional, bowls of steamed (Yukon Gold) potatoes and plates of charcuterie were passed around as we waited for the cheese to melt. We let the newbies have the first go and they were quickly hooked! The rest of us didn’t have long to wait as the cheese on the big holders not only melted faster, but was tastier, as it started to bubble and brown. The Riesling (a 2012 Réserve from Willm) we had to go along with it was a great pairing.

Accidental Locavore French CheesecakeDessert (yes, we made it to dessert), was the time for the whipped cheese to shine. It was used in a lovely cheesecake with a surprise layer of apple and “frosted” with yogurt. Delicious and surprisingly light – a nice finish.

To prove that all of the recipes were easily prepared (remember, they want Americans to start cooking with their cheeses), all the food was made in the FCB kitchen by the reps from Interval. Email me for copies of the recipes or you can pick them up at the French Cheese Board. The Fromager d’Affinois is pretty easy to find (Murray’s, Zabar’s, Amazon), the Fromage Fouetté is exclusive to Whole Foods and the Raclette in pre-cut slices is at Trader Joes. Don’t worry that you don’t have the big melter, I’ve done raclette successfully at home with ramekins under the broiler (and plan on doing just that with the slices they sent me home with).

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