Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tartlets

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Photo: ckbk instagram

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    24

    individual tartlets, about 2½ inches 6 cm ) in diameter

Appears in

Like a rich candy bar in a tartlet crust, these are a perfect little treat with coffee after dinner, when you want a little something but don’t quite know what. I like these made with pecans, but you could omit them for a pure chocolate filling—just finish the tops of the tartlets with some chocolate shavings. The caramel emphasizes the flavor of both the chocolate and the pecans perfectly.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • ½ cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • cup milk
  • teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • l/3 cup (about 1 ounces/25 grams) toasted pecan pieces, coarsely chopped
  • 24 tartlet crusts, baked, made from Chocolate Nut Dough with pecans, unmolded, set on a jelly-roll pan
  • 24 pecan halves, toasted, for finishing

Method

  1. For the filling, combine the sugar and water in a large saucepan (to accommodate the caramel boiling up later when the liquid is added) and stir well so that the sugar resembles wet sand. Place the pan over medium heat until the sugar starts to melt.
  2. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small pan while the sugar is beginning to cook. Once the cream is hot, remove it from the heat and set aside near the stove, covered to keep warm.
  3. As the sugar begins to melt and caramelize, use a metal spoon to stir it occasionally. Decrease the heat to low and continue cooking the caramel until it is a very light golden color. Slide the pan off the burner and let the caramel continue to cook for 1 minute, utilizing the heat retained by the pan—this will prevent the caramel from darkening too much and becoming bitter.
  4. Check the color of the caramel by taking a spoonful and pouring it back into the pan. Looking at the stream of caramel coming off the spoon will give you a more accurate idea of the color—the caramel always appears darker when it is in the pan. It should be a deep amber color.
  5. If the caramel is too light, return it to the heat for $0 seconds, remove it, let it stand for 1 minute, then test the color again.
  6. When the caramel is a deep amber color, return it to the heat and carefully and gradually add the hot cream a little at a time. Do this at arm’s length, averting your face, in case some of the caramel splatters out of the pan. Bring the diluted caramel to a boil, remove from the heat, and immediately pour it into a heatproof medium bowl.
  7. Stir in the milk and salt and allow the caramel to cool to about 100°F (40°C)—the bottom of the bowl will feel warm, but you’ll be able to hold it comfortably in the palm of your hand.
  8. Scrape the cooled chocolate into the caramel and whisk it to blend. Whisk in the butter. Taste the ganache and add a pinch of salt if it needs it—salt heightens the caramel flavor.
  9. Fold the toasted pecan pieces into the ganache and spoon some of the mixture into each tartlet crust. Spread the top even with a small offset metal spatula. Top each tartlet with a pecan half.

Serving

I can’t think of a single time of day that these wouldn’t be good, but they are the perfect little after-dinner treat.

Storage

Keep the tartlets loosely covered with plastic wrap at a cool room temperature on the day they are made. Wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Variations

Almost any lightly toasted chopped nuts—almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts—pair well with this filling. Sometimes I decorate the top of each tartlet with a shred of gold leaf instead of a nut meat.

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