What is it?: A sweet tart swirled with a combination of malted chocolate and Dulce de Leche.
Occasion: Supper with Huw.
Of my many food obsessions, I can safely say that my love of Dulce de Leche is among the most dangerous. I can literally empty a jar with a spoon. I have, in the past, horrified my friends by telling them that, on a regular basis, I will liberally spread it on toast and eat it for breakfast. Those with a more savoury palate find this incredibly disgusting, my boyfriend included, which is why I only indulge in this particular treat when in the house on my own, hiding in the dark like a strange addict. Although few are as fanatical as I, most people love caramel, which means that it is the savour of the dessert-maker: it tastes good, few are allergic to it and, if you’re too scared or lazy to start boiling sugar in a pan, you can open a jar of Dulce de Leche and whip up something utterly delicious. I first discovered it when making banoffee pie for my youngest brother (we ate the whole thing in one sitting) and have used it many times since. On Saturday night, Ollie’s brother Huw was coming to stay with us for the night and, knowing his love of sweet things, I decided to whip up the Malted Chocolate and Caramel tart from Short and Sweet – what else?
The recipe begins with a sweet shortcrust pastry, which can be a very cruel mistress, and ends with two fillings being swirled together: one containing the malted chocolate, one containing the caramel. The tart is then baked in the oven, where it puffs up like a marbled cloud, before sinking and solidifying when left to cool on the side. I find the process of tarts cooling incredibly stressful, because it is often difficult to ascertain what the texture will be like when they come out of the tin. I always look for the ‘slight wobble’ in the middle of the tart – a sure-fire indicator that it is pretty-much baked and will firm up fully during cooling, but this can be deceiving. Sometimes a tart with a ‘slight wobble’ can be cool to be tough and inedible, sometimes it can turn to liquid when sliced with a knife. Because of these bad experiences, I often spend the cooling time stood over the tart, wobbling the tin and unnecessarily poking it. I have issues. One thing that worried me about this particular tart was that the Dulce de Leche/cream cheese mixture seemed to form a topping for the tart, rather than being swirled through, which I thought might have prevented the centre from baking, but actually it was fine.
The caramel mixture was far crisper than the chocolate, which had the consistency of a loose cheesecake. I found it hard to pick up the flavour of either the Dulce de Leche or the malt against the strong dark chocolate, but it gave a nice effect. Perhaps somebody with better swirling skills than I might have made more of a success of it. For all my whingeing, this tart was actually a chocoholic’s dream – if you can get the pastry nice and think and find the right cooking point, this has the potential to be something rather spectacular. I think had it not been touted to me as a ‘caramel’ tart I would have enjoyed it more, instead of mourning the Dulce de Leche.
In other news:
The tart actually came at the end of a rather delicious meal by Ollie. He made duck and noodle lettuce parcels from Jamie Oliver’s new 15 Minute Meals series. I think this is some of the best work that Jamie has ever done, but can honestly say that I cannot see how any of these recipes can be done in 15 minutes. Even with my help in chopping chillies and herbs, all of the ingredients out and Neneh Cherry’s ‘Buffalo Stance’ on in the background for inspiration, the whole meal took a little over 35 minutes. Just needed that rant. If anybody does make this in 15 minutes or less, please let us in on your secret. After we destroyed the kitchen, we popped over to The Great Exhibition with some friends for a bit of a Saturday night drink.
The Great Exhibition, 193 Crystal Palace Road, East Dulwich, London SE22 9EP.