salted caramel chocolate tart

When it comes to desserts my feet are both firmly planted in the chocolate category. Fruit pies, ice cream, souffles and flans don't stand a chance when there is something deep, rich and satisfying like chocolate on the menu. Autumn is naturally the time when apples, pears and other harvest fruits take centre stage but I'd much rather show up to a party with a chocolate  caramel tart than a pumpkin pie which is exactly what I did last Thanksgiving weekend. salted caramel chocolate tart-5

I tracked down the recipe for this tart on Saveur and made a few adjustments. The majority of ingredients you can probably find in your pantry with the exception of the light corn syrup which you need for the caramel. A note on the caramel: if you haven't made it before the thought can be a little terrifying however it is really quite easy. A few pointers...

  • Be careful! Boiling sugar is hot and sticky and you don't want to get any on you.
  • Don't step away from the stove. Use all of your senses and be aware of what the boiling sugar and water is doing. You will both see with your eyes and smell with your nose when the sugar is starting to caramelize.
  • The moment you start to see the sugar turn a warm amber colour pay close attention. You might even want to pull your saucepan off the stove and swirl the sugar around (very carefully). The sugar will continue cook off the stove.
  • Once the sugar is a medium amber colour add your cream and butter. It will bubble up so make sure you have a big enough saucepan.
  • If you caramel is too light you will know next time to leave it a bit longer. If it is too dark then it might be a bit bitter. You can always start again!

salted caramel chocolate tart-1 Serves 8

INGREDEINTS

FOR THE CRUST: 1 ½ cups all purpose flour ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp. dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder ¼ tsp. kosher salt 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and softened ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. icing sugar 2 egg yolks, preferably at room temperature ½ tsp. vanilla extract

FOR THE CARAMEL: 1 ½ cups sugar 3 tbsp. light corn syrup ¼ tsp. kosher salt 6 tbsp. unsalted butter 6 tbsp. heavy cream

FOR THE GANACHE: ½ cup heavy cream 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped Fleur de Sel  for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

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 and cream (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.

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This tart does take some time to make primarily because it has to set between each layer. However, I found a couple of hours was all that was needed unlike the suggested 4-5 hours. Regardless we were rushing to get this made before we headed out the door to our Thanksgiving party. Of course, I had to take some photos (we literally had our coats on when I was like WAIT we need to take photos NOW!) Henry has become quite interested in my "photoshoots" and was a big help in getting these pictures taken.

1382356_10151929809861203_233117306_nAs my husband said, "The secret to The Marion House Book's photos has been revealed!"

 

the best - chocolate coconut pie

Four ingredients - that's it! In essence that's what I love about this pie. I don't know many desserts that can get away with that few ingredients. Add to the fact that it is easy to make and looks amazing and in my books it's a winner!

chocolate coconut pie-1-2The four magical ingredients are: chocolate, coconut, butter and cream. That's it - nothing else. It goes without saying that you want to use the best chocolate and coconut you can find as they are front and centre in this dessert.

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The recipe comes from Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts cookbook.

Ingredients:

for the crust

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

6 cups sweetened shredded coconut

for the filling

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 61 percent cacao), finely chopped

Preparation:

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. In a food processor, process butter and one-third of coconut until mixture forms a ball, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Sprinkle remaining two-thirds coconut over mixture, and combine with your fingers.

Place a 9-inch pie plate on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Press coconut mixture into bottom and up sides of pan to form crust, leaving top edges loose and fluffy. Bake until center begins to brown, 10 to 15 minutes and edges are browned. Transfer crust to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the filling: Bring cream just to a boil in a small saucepan; pour over chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Let sit 10 minutes, then stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is combined. Pour into coconut crust. Refrigerate until filling is set, 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Note: I used a 9 inch pie dish with removable base and it worked perfectly.

chocolate coconut pie-3This pie tastes better than a Bounty chocolate bar with its rich, silky chocolate and sweet chewy coconut base. It's perfect for the summer when you tire of fruit pies and crave a little chocolate something. And it's also gluten-free which somehow makes me feel like I can have a second piece!

Do you have a favourite coconut pie recipe?

year of the snake

Over the weekend, the Chinese marked the start of a new Lunar Year - the Year of the Snake. If you want to be specific it is actually the Year of the Water Snake as each year is accompanied by a rotating ancient element.  Apparently this year is all about waiting for the right moment to strike - a question of timing and being patient. Capture0039-3

I decided to celebrate the Chinese New Year with a group of friends. Our first consideration was the menu. We wanted to cook authentic Chinese food that was appropriate for a New Year feast. After weeks of going back and forth we finally settled on this menu:

Pork Dumplings
Dan Dan Noodles
Sichuan Steamed Whole Fish
Dry Fried Green Beans
Tea Eggs
Wrapped Sticky Rice
Fresh Fruit
Fortune Cookies

 

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The Chinese New Year is a time for family and friends to get together so the meal is normally shared family-style. Noodles are an important component of the meal - the longer the better as they symbolize longevity. A whole fish is often served as it is a symbol of prosperity and it is believed that eating it will make your wishes come true for the new year.

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Around the home in the days preceding the Chinese New Year it is customary to give your home a thorough cleaning.The idea is to sweep away the bad luck of the previous year and make room for the good luck.

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Brooms and dust pans are hidden away on New Year's Day so that the newly entered good luck cannot be swept away. Purchasing new clothing, shoes and getting a fresh haircut is also customary during this period and symbolizes a new start. Also any dead plants or chipped plates or dishes need to be replaced.

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Did any of you celebrate Chinese New Year? What did you have to eat?

A big thank you to Megan Richards who made and styled all the food and to Sian Richards (yes, they're sisters!) who took all the photographs.

 

winter pizza party

Have you ever tried making your own pizza dough? It's really quite easy. It's a great introduction to more complicated bread recipes like baguettes and ciabattas and takes half the time. It's also a great crowd pleaser after a snowy day outside especially if you have little ones to please! sianrichards_winterfarm1

 

Basic Pizza Dough (Adapted from Chatelaine Magazine)

Standing time:30 minutes Baking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 mL) warm water
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) granulated sugar
  • 8-g packet quick-rise or regular dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
  • 3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 11/2 tsp (7 mL) salt or 1 tbsp (15 mL) kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour (if needed)

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Method

  • Pour water into a large bowl. Water should be between 100F (38C) and 110F (45C), slightly higher than body temperature. Stir in sugar, then yeast. Let stand until mixture is foamy on top, from 5 to 10 min, then stir in oil.
  • Meanwhile, mix 3 cups (750 mL) flour and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Then with the food processor still on, slowly pour in yeast-oil mixture until it begins to form a ball. If dough doesn’t come together, pulse in another 2 tbsp (15 mL) flour.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, then dust your hands with flour. Using the base of your palm, knead several times, rotating the dough a quarter turn after each knead, until it forms a smooth ball.
  • Place dough in an oiled bowl. Turn to coat evenly. Spray a piece of waxed paper with oil and place on top of bowl. Cover with a damp cloth. Leave dough in a warm place until it doubles in size, 30 to 60 min. Remove it to a floured surface. Punch down. Use right away, refrigerate in a sealed plastic bag up to 2 days, or freeze up to 1 month.
  • To bake, place rack in bottom third of oven. Preheat to 500F (260C). Sprinkle a large baking sheet or pizza stone with cornmeal. Stretch, press or roll out dough on counter or piece of parchment. Slide dough or parchment onto pan. Pull out paper. Add toppings. Bake until bottom of dough is golden, 10 to 15 min.

_DSC5295For toppings the only limit is your imagination. In my mind, some of the best pizzas are also the simplest. A classic Margherita pizza with homemade tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, basil and olive oil is delicious.

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Another favourite of mine is Wild Mushroom and Taleggio pizza finished off with a drizzle of truffle oil. So fragrant and earthy - my mouth waters just thinking about it!

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If you can get your hands on a pizza stone or a large piece of natural tile (like untreated slate) you will end up with a pizza much closer in taste and texture to a wood oven fired pizza. If you're feeding a crowd a couple of stones would make the job easier. Of course having an assortment of toppings on hand for your guests to choose from is ideal.

Photos: Sian Richards