Can I tell you about my month from you-know-where? It wasn’t all bad. In fact, a lot of my month was quite good. Just insane. And really, really busy.
For starters, I went to a writer’s conference where I got to hang out with some of my best pals and meet a few new people besides. Then I went to Colorado to finish off a very sad chapter in my life. After that, my mom came to stay with me, and while she was here, the basement apartment where I live flooded, making my mom’s stay more of a rescue mission and exercise in moving all my junk to various corners of my place, than an actual vacation of any kind. After she left, I have been reveling in the new carpet and playing catch up. Does being a single mom mean I will always feel like I am incurring a twelve hour deficit every day of my life? I swear, I am never caught up.
One of these days . . . Hm . . . One of these days, I’ll hire a maid—(I was going to say “hire a raft and float away endlessly on a calm ocean,” but I’d probably miss my kids if I were to do that)—someone like Alice on the Brady Bunch. Someone who doesn’t just come and clean once a week, but someone who lives with us, and is basically hired to do all the non-fun things of being a mom. I wouldn’t even mind if she did some of the fun things of being a mom—just so that I felt there was enough of me.
Anyway, in the weeks I have been gone (yet mysteriously able to write for Babble.com), I missed you all.
Does anyone remember that gorgeous Chocolate Caramel Tart that was once on the cover of Saveur magazine? It was a big winner, apparently, because I think almost every food blogger has attempted it. I was wanting something gooey and chocolaty, so I made mini versions of it this week. My kids and I were fighting over them at our after school herbal teatime. They were delicious.
chocolate caramel tartelettes
(Inspired by, and adapted from Claudia Fleming, Marlow & Sons, and Saveur Magazine)
6 mini tart shells (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups organic evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
3 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons water
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons, plus 1/2 cup heavy cream (plain whipping cream doesn’t work)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips
fleur de sel (or some other sort of flaky, fancy sea salt)
1. Place tart shells on a baking sheet that will easily fit in your fridge. In a heavy bottomed saucepan with high sides, combine evaporated cane juice, honey, water, and salt. Whisk until combined, and set over medium-low heat. Swirl the pan every now and then to help distribute the heat. Watch for the sugar to dissolve completely. When it does, raise the heat to medium, and let it come to a boil. Have a small glass of water and a spoon at the ready to test the candy temperature. When the sugar mixture comes to a boil, watch very carefully for the bubbles to become more viscous (this means that the water has evaporated and that it is ready to go through the candy stages). As it is bubbling away, you want it to turn a deep amber color. When it does, remove the heat and, working quickly, use the spoon to scoop up a small amount of the candy and drop it into the small glass of water. If the blob turns hard like lollipop, then it is ready. If the blob is still soft, put the pan back on the heat. Keep testing until the candy is hard. Remove from heat.
2. Whisk in butter, 6 tablespoons of cream, sour cream, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla (Careful here, as the mixture should bubble violently for about 10 seconds). If the caramel isn’t smooth right away, return the pan to low heat and whisk until smooth. Pour caramel into tart shells. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
3. When the caramel is firm, microwave cream in a glass bowl until almost boiling, about 30 seconds. Pour in chocolate chips and a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Let sit for about 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Pour ganache on the top of each tart, sprinkle with a small amount of sea salt, and refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold butter, cut in pieces
4-5 tablespoons ice cold water (all ice removed)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Toss the butter pieces in the flour mixture to coat. Using the pulse option on a food processor, or using a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut the butter into small pieces, and continue cutting it until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Distribute the water over the mixture and pulse (or mix by hand), until the water is well-distributed and the mixture holds together like dry clay. Dump mixture onto a floured board, knead a time or two, form into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 40 minutes.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and 6 English muffin rings, Try to handle the dough as little as possible. Cut into 6 equal portions. Roll each into 6 inch circles on a well-floured board. Place dough rounds in English muffin rings so the bottom of the dough is pressed firmly on the parchment paper, and the rest of the dough comes up around the sides. Press firmly into the sides to smooth out the dough, and remove the excess dough with a knife or by rolling a rolling a pin along the top. Prick the bottom of each crust with a fork several times. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Place a piece of plastic wrap in the center of each chilled crust, fill with beans or rice, and pull up the sides of the plastic wrap and twist to secure beans or rice inside (you can reuse them for this purpose again and again–just save them in a ziploc bag after they cool). Bake for 15 minutes with the little rice packets inside. Remove from the oven, take out the rice and plastic wrap, and bake again for about 5 minutes, or until the center turns slightly golden brown.