A month or so ago I had an irrational and intense craving for dolce de leche, the sweet, thick, Spanish caramel. My googling informed me that dolce de leche can be made by heating a can of sweetened condensed milk in boiling water. The instructions seemed to vary – prick the can, don’t prick the can, cover with water, fill water to half-way up the side, put a lid on the saucepan or no lid or bake in the oven. The timing for the cooking also seemed to vary wildly (anywhere from about 2-5 hours). There was much earnest talk about making sure that the can didn’t overheat and explode, sending hot caramel all over kitchen walls and the ceiling. My ‘research’ also mentioned that there was a cheat’s way – buy pre-caramelised sweetened condensed milk (called ‘Top and fill” from Nestle, and recommended due to the DANGER of boiling the cans). While my general clumsiness would ordinarily deter me from undertaking ‘dangerous’ kitchen activities, I had already bought the sweetened condensed milk and had two cans of it waiting to be turned into delicious caramelly goodness.
I ended up using my pressure cooker to make the caramel. The pressure cooker was a wedding present and while it is something I would not have bought for myself I URGE YOU TO GET ONE IMMEDIATELY (wow – I am going quite the hard sell today, first Nestle, now pressure cookers). I won’t go into all the benefits of the pressure cooker, suffice to say it cooks ‘slow’ food fast and it turns out it also cooks caramel fast. I covered the two tins with cold water, all the way to the top of the cooker, whacked the lid on, brought it to pressure and cooked it for 30 mins. There were no explosions and I ended up with a fairly light coloured caramel (probably could have had a little longer). I was very pleased that my dolce de leche craving could be sated without 3 hours of cook time and I admit, I ate some of it straight from the can with some sea salt sprinkled on top (yep I am most definitely on the salted caramel bandwagon). The rest of the first can was eaten intermittently, occasionally with ice-cream, although it is seriously sweet. The other can sat in the cupboard waiting for a purpose.
I ‘researched’ some tart recipes that could use the dolce de leche, but the main thing I came across was Banoffee tart – this mixture of caramel and banana topped with copious amounts of cream did not appeal whatsoever (check out a standard recipe here although I note that Ben O’Donoghue’s version from ‘the best’ looks pretty good). Anyway, one night I was watching Jamie Oliver’s American Roadtrip and he made a great looking Mexican inspired chocolate tart, comprising caramel, hazelnuts and a spicy cocoa dusting. I decided that my dolce de leche could definitely be used in this application but was disappointed to see that Jamie had failed to include the recipe on his website and that many fellow bloggers were wanting the recipe (without having to buy his book). So here we are… my version of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Mexican’ chocolate tart.
Making the tart crust
First step was to make the pie crust. I am fairly sure I have already mentioned this but for some reason making pastry is something I fear in the kitchen. I have had some disasters in the past, mainly I think because I didn’t adjust my recipe for the fact that I am using spelt flour and also because I didn’t have my ingredients chilled enough. I found a recipe for a spelt pie crust from Seasonal Ontario Food that looked pretty reliable (and didn’t use ‘shortening’, which I hate). The spelt, sugar, salt and very very cold butter were put into my food processor:
And blitzed until the butter was pea sized.
I then got my ice-cold water (seriously very icy):
And added a couple of tablespoons (about 7) of water and pulsed until it started to clump. Then tipped it onto the bench and brought it together:
I then covered it and put it in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Once it was chilled, I rolled it out (fearful the whole time that it would crack/break etc), but all worked well. I took some excess pastry, formed it into a ball and used that ball to push the pastry into the corners of the pie dish. This kinda worked.
Here is the tart making process:
I followed Stephanie Alexander’s instructions from the Cook’s Companion (love that book!) to ‘bake blind’. Stephanie suggested leaving about 1cm of pastry overhanging the edges as very short pastry can shrink (as you can see, I left more than 1cm – which ended up looking pretty messy). She also suggested chilling the pastry in the tin before baking – I put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes. I then filled the tart with some dried black beans and baked it for about 15 minutes in a 200 degree oven:
Then removed the beans and baked for another 5 minutes. I have read elsewhere that any tart that will have a liquid filling should also be ‘lacquered’ so that it is water proof. I brushed some eggwhite on the shell (a little too much in parts) and put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes:
Making the tart filling
Stephanie mentioned that if the pie filling is hot, the pie crust should be filled when it has just come out of the oven, so in the meantime I was putting together the filling for the tart. Here are some hazelnuts and my delicious dolce de leche:
I also needed to make the chocolate filling. Simultaneously I made a sugar syrup, melted some chocolate, salt and butter over a double boiler:
…and whisked eggs with some sugar until frothy:
Once the tart had finished cooking I quickly spread it with caramel (note it would have been easier to spread if I had heated the caramel) and scattered hazelnuts on top:
I then quickly added the sugar syrup to the frothy egg mixture, then stirred in the melted chocolate. This mixture was then poured into the tart tin:
I reduced the heat of the oven to 150 degrees and baked the tart for about 45 minutes:
While waiting for the tart to cool I made the spicy dusting – this involved grinding the cloves, chilli, cinnamon and coriander seeds then mixing this with a little salt and dutch cocoa. Once the tart was cool I dusted the mixture over the top:
I was very happy with this tart (particularly as one of my first forays into pastry making). The spiced dusting adds some interest and makes the whole thing not too sweet. You can taste the caramelly dolce de leche but it doesn’t overwhelm everything and the crunch from the hazelnuts was great. I served this with sour cream which seems weird but actually worked really well (better than ice-cream or cream). You should definitely give this a try, even if you just buy a pre-made tart and make the filling.
Spelt pie crust
Note: I was a bit concerned about the lack of exact measurements with this recipe, but it all ended up working out okay. Also, this recipe is supposed to be for a base and top layer of pastry. I only needed the bottom of the tart and this made plenty of dough for that. If you need a base and a top layer perhaps consider increasing the quantities as you may not have enough dough. Also, if you are making a savoury pastry, simply omit the sugar.
2 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tbs caster sugar (note: some recipes say you should add more sugar than this but I thought the tart would already be pretty sweet, so I made a less sweet crust)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
6 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water
- Put the flour, sugar and salt into a food processor, and whizz briefly.
- Cut the butter into chunks and add them to the food processor – note I did this very quickly so that the butter was as cold as possible.
- Process until the butter is the size of peas, then start adding ice cold water in tablespoons.
- Once you have added enough that the mixture begins to hold together, turn the contents of the food processor out onto a sheet of baking paper.
- Press everything together to form a disc of dough, and wrap it up in the paper loosely.
- Set it aside to rest in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
- Roll out the dough into a circle a little larger than your pie plate, sprinkling it with a little flour to keep the rolling pin from sticking.
- Wrap the dough around your rolling pin and place on top of the tin.
- Press the pastry into the bottom and sides of the pan, using a bit of excess dough rolled into a ball.
- Cut the edges of the tart 1cm higher than the edge of the tin for short-crust pastry as it shrinks.
- Chill or freeze the dough in the tin for 20 minutes.
- Line the pastry with foil and add in weights – bake for 15 minutes in 200 degree oven.
- Take the weights out and bake for another 5 minutes.
- If the tart is to be filled with liquid, brush it with an eggwhite (not too much!) and bake for 5 more minutes.
- Have the filling warm or hot and pour it into the crust while the tart is hot.
1 pie crust, baked blind as above (you could simply buy a pre-prepared pie crust)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (or you could buy pre-made dolce de leche or Nestle ‘Top and Fill’)
50g hazelnuts (I bought them pre-roasted)
pinch of salt
200 caster sugar (50g to be added to the eggs, 150g to make a sugar syrup)
- Peel the label from the can, put it in a saucepan (or pressure cooker!), cover completely with water and put the lid on. Boil for 30-40 minutes if using a pressure cooker or about 3 hours if using a regular saucepan. Leave to cool completely before opening.
- Chop the hazelnuts into pieces, set aside.
- Chop the chocolate and butter, add salt, place over a double boiler and stir occasionally until melted.
- Heat 150g of sugar and 75g of water to make a syrup.
- Whisk 3 eggs with 50g caster sugar until frothy.
- Add the syrup to the eggs, then stir in the chocolate mixture.
- Assemble – spread the bottom of the tart with caramalised sweetened condensed milk, scatter with hazelnuts and pour in the hot chocolate mixture.
- Bake for about 45 minutes at 150 degrees. Allow to cool.
- Grind the cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds and dried chilli in a mortar and pestle.
- Stir through the salt and cocoa and set aside.
- Dust the cooled tart with the cocoa mixture.
- Serve with sour cream or creme fraiche on the side (I know that serving with sour cream seems weird but we tried it with ice-cream and it didn’t work (too sweet), the tartness of the sour cream worked really, really well, so just give it a try!)