Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Piece of my tart.

The only tart I was familiar with growing up was the shortcrust pastry filled with vanilla custard and topped with out-of-season fruits lacquered by a saccharine sweet, congealed substance that is ubiquitous at all Chinese bakeries, but seen most often at Sheng Kee establishments (I am a Norcal girl, after all). It was never that good, but my relatives somehow saw this is as a light and delicious confection (those Asians can't stomach anything too rich) featuring fresh fruit (!!) so that, along with the Mango Mousse cake, made appearances frequently. This was my first experience with tarts, and I really saw no reason to revisit this dessert as I got older. Maybe that's partly because tarts, being the more sophisticated cousin of pie, were more common on menus at nicer restaurants and bakeries than the Applebee's and Chili's that littered our suburbs, but I would still probably pass up a crumbly shortbread crust in favor of a flaky pie crust any day.

Fast forward several years and I'm at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Their banana cream pie has a reputation that precedes it, but it's really a tart and not so much of a pie. It's delicious at any rate, and that was the day I decided, "Maybe tarts aren't so bad."

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie selection of the Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart by Carla of Chocolate Moosey was much like a Snickers bar in tart form, and who doesn't love a Snickers bar. The advantage of baking a tart is the ease with which one can press the crust into the pan. There's no rolling of dough or flouring of surface necessary -- just press it in and send it in to the freezer to firm up. I had never made caramel in a skillet before, but it was actually really simple and worked out well.

The ganache was the trickiest component of the tart because it was unexpectedly liquidy even though I measured out the heavy cream as instructed. I tried to thicken it by adding more melted chocolate, but was still worried about the consistency of it even after I put it in the fridge for 40 minutes. It all came together in the end, and didn't ooze too much when I cut into it. I didn't leave the tart out at room temperature as Dorie advised, for fear of the tart melting into a puddle, but all was as it should have been at first bite. Rich, decadent, salty, sweet -- everything I look for in a dessert. And everyone else loved it too.

Tart-love may never replace pie-love, but this high-low combination of Snickers filling + highfalutin tart crust puts up a strong fight.

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