Friday, September 07, 2007

A Candy Bar Disguised as a Tart: Daring Baker Style

First, I'm going to start by saying there will be no pictures for this post. So, if you require a bit of "food porn" with your sugar then "Look away!" because as Kramer once told Jerry, "I'm hideous".

Why no pictures you ask? is a long story...but as I'm late with this post as it is, I will try and keep it pretty short(um...yea right).

It seems fitting that I wrap up my baking escapades from Cambridge, MA with a story about a Daring Baker Challenge. As you probably already know, partly from the sugar rush in the food blogosphere at the end of last month, the August Challenge for the intrepid Daring Bakers was Eric Kayser's decadent Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart as presented by the August hostess, Veronica from Veronica's Test Kitchen and Patricia of the Technicolor Kitchen.

Knowing that I only had about two weekends to bake the challenge as I was packing up my kitchen for my move to Connecticut, I decided to make the tart in two steps. I would make the chocolate shortbread crust and freeze it on a Friday before I left for a business trip and then complete the caramel and milk chocolate mousse on the Wednesday I got back and take into work that afternoon for a meeting.

Everything went according to my carefully timed plan. The chocolate shortbread crust was easy to make and baked up quite lovely. I cut the recipe for the crust in half as the recipe would make enough for THREE(!!) crusts. The recipe also calls for the dough to rest in the fridge overnight as the dough is very soft. As I didn't have enough time for the crust to rest overnight, I made the crust as soon as I got up in the morning, put it in the coldest part of the fridge, and went into Boston for the morning to run errands. When I returned about four hours later, it was firm enough to work with. I rolled out the crust quite easily and placed the crust into my tart pan, trimming off the edges that I made into little "accents" for my tart's top. Into the oven it went and off to pack up a few things I went. The crust was a bit puffy but when it came out of the oven to cool, but it settled right down. The only modification, besides cutting the recipe in half, was I did cut the cinnamon called for in the recipe in half as other fellow DBers had reported that the cinnamon as called for in the recipe was overwhelming. After the crust cooled, I wrapped it tightly, popped it into the freezer and then flew off to Sun Valley, Idaho for a business trip.

On Wednesday early morning, I got up and made the caramel. Now, as you know from previous DBer challenges I have a hate-hate-love relationship with hot sugar. I hate to make it because I can never get it right the first time (I always crystalize it and have to scrape the mess from my pan). I always burn myself (my poor Aloe plant is almost denuded). I love the results when I finally get it right (about the third time I try it during a recipe, it works). So, as most everyone who tried the "dry" method of making the caramel had reported disastrous results, including Veronica, I opted to go straight for the "wet" method Veronica had worked out for an acceptable substitution. GUESS WHAT!!! I burned myself...AND seized the caramel (oh surprise, surprise). But, I persevered, and after reheating the seized mass of caramel on low heat and stirring, stirring, stirring (you should see my biceps!!) I had caramel. I plopped it on the crust, put it in the oven to bake, and packed some more boxes. While the caramel was cooling after it came out of the oven, I put the milk chocolate mousse together. I love making mousse. I love working with heavy cream and chocolate (any chocolate). I used the Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate baking bar as my milk chocolate. I have to admit, I'm not a huge milk chocolate fan, except for Cadbury Dairy Milk bars from the UK (not the North American ones as they are too sweet). But, as I didn't have time to run into Cardullos in Harvard Square to pick up a few, I used the Ghiradelli. It was a pretty good substitution (come on know I had to taste the chocolate), not too sweet and kinda creamy. It melted like a dream and before I knew it, Viola!! Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart!

About this time, I also realized that in my haste to make the darn thing, I had not taken one solitary picture even though my digital camera was sitting right there on the counter. Oh well, I thought. I'll just take a picture of the finished product and that will be good enough.

The tart traveled pretty well. It only had one little tiny mishap on the way to Connecticut and my office. I had to slam on my brakes in Hartford because some "bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep" idiot in a RV (large mobile home vehicle driven by old people who want to live on the road like vagabonds...sorry if I offended anyone but in the US that is who mostly drives these gas guzzling behemoths...or at least THIS particular one) decided at the last minute he DID want to go to NYC instead and tried to cross three lanes of traffic on I-84 about 700 yards from the NYC I-91 exit during the early afternoon rush hour. Well, my poor tart in it's cake carrier went sliding off the front seat and landed on the floor...right side up, thank goodness...but I knew that couldn't be good. (The crust was bit broken up when I cut it later, but otherwise, the tart was perfectly fine)

When I got to my office around 4pm, I walked into the conference room and unveiled the tart. Now, since I don't have pictures, I'm going to do my very best describe what happened next....

I undid the cover of the tart and was greeted with a large collective "OH MY!!" from my assembled colleagues. Then the "What is that" chorus started. After trying to describe what it was, I settled on this, "A Milky Way candy bar on steroids". More "oohing" and "awing" with one "I don't like Milky Ways" (idiot guy from West Coast office who doesn't like anything. I've knicknamed him "Mikey" after that annoying kid from the LIFE cereal commercials who according to urban legends died from eating Pop Rocks and Coke. He didn't but you got to love the story).

I cut the tart and passed around pieces to everyone, leaving a teeny tiny piece for me. I sat my piece on a nice side table in the conference room (burnished mahogany, nice contrast to the chocolate and caramel) to take a picture for the post and realized the tragic truth, I had forgotten my digital camera in Boston. DOH!!! Oh well...

Have you ever seen a documentary about piranas or hyenas and seen the part about them in a feeding frenzy? You know, mass chaos with each fighting over a choice morsel of prey?? Well if you have then you know what trapped office workers late in the afternoon right prior to a really long and boring conference call presented with a Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart look like.

I even think Mikey licked his plate...

Now, in case you haven't already, got check out all the other Daring Baker creations (Founders through Iota Class)! They are all spectacular and I guarantee a sugar high and a three pound weight gain!!

(If you want to try this at home, Veronica and Patrica have the recipe on their sites here and here)