A Sweet Heart
Remember that homemade dulce de leche from back in December? It’s definitely been one of the most popular posts to date on this blog and for good reason. I believe my exact description of it was “sweet-but-not-sugary-creamy-like-the-best-fudge-you’ve-ever-had-deep-richness-of-caramel-with-a-hint-of-vanilla-goodness.” I’ve since truncated that to just two words: disturbingly delicious. There was only one thing that could make it better. C.h.o.c.o.l.a.t.e.
The other week I was in Cake, a local bakery in Chestnut Hill well known for their creative confections that has recently expanded to a beautiful atrium space and a breakfast/lunch menu, and couldn’t help but notice the Dulce de Leche Tarts in their display case. I was so torn. I wanted to try it, but I’d been salivating over the memory of the coconut cream tart I’d had the last time I was there and couldn’t quite bring myself to give up what I’d been anticipating. The sight of those creamy caramel chocolate treats did get the wheels in my head turning though. A recreation of those tarts, when made in the little heart pans I had at home, would be perfect for Valentine’s Day dessert. A sweet heart for my sweetheart! I’m such a cheesy romantic sometimes…
As happens so many times when I have a culinary inspiration, I had trouble finding an existing recipe that matched my specifications. I wanted to chocolate crust for sure. That wasn’t so hard to find other than I needed to decide if I was baking the tarts or not. And since I already had the homemade dulce de leche prepared, I didn’t want a recipe that started with “1 can sweetened condensed milk” and went on from there with directions for boiling all the ingredients together to make what I consider to be an inferior dulce de leche tart filling. I’ll spare you all the details of the hunt and skip to the end: I flew by the seat of my pants.
Those must have been some very lucky pants! The tarts are luscious, bordering on obscenely rich in the best of ways. Mini tarts are the ticket to enjoyment here as any more than one would be too much. Well, at least at the first sitting. After an hour, it’s quite possible you’ll be having another.
The final list of ingredients, as you’ll see after the jump, was really rather short, assuming you already have dulce de leche on hand. I realize the special day is less than 24 hours away so making your own dulce de leche from scratch could be tricky. Here’s my two cents about dulce de leche shortcuts (you can feel at liberty to disagree with me). It can be made by boiling the contents of a can of sweetened condense milk in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in the oven. All of these methods are much less labor intensive and somewhat less time consuming (the microwave is shockingly fast) than getting fresh whole milk, sugar and vanilla beans to cook down into a thick, rich, gooey caramel. Shoot me for saying this if you will, but I contend that you shouldn’t even bother with these boiled-can methods.
Instead, when in a pinch, head to a specialty food or kitchen store and buy a jar of it. It pains me to say that since it goes against every fiber in my “make it yourself” body, but the stuff you buy will be of better quality than the boiled can since it started with fresh whole cow’s milk, the right proportion of sugar, and vanilla beans. If you can’t find a jar of good quality dulce de leche for sale on short notice, use the condensed milk method, but promise me you’ll give the from-scratch method a try next time to see what you’re missing. Pretty please??
Time to get off the soapbox; the pictures alone should be more than enough to convey how divine this tart is. If you don’t have a sweetheart to share it with, make it as a treat for yourself. I spent many a year avoiding cupid cut-outs and the onslaught of rose deliveries that seemed to go to every door but mine. Making the day sweet for myself was extremely gratifying once I realized I didn’t have to wait for somebody else to give me chocolate and flowers. Livin’ la vida dulce!
Dulce de Leche Chocolate Tart
An Straight from the Farm Original
1 c. dulce de leche
1 oz. dark chocolate
2 egg yolks, room temperature and lightly beaten
2 T. softened unsalted butter
1 ½ c. finely crushed chocolate wafer cookies
5 T. unsalted butter, melted
1/3 c. sugar
Pinch of salt
To make crust, combine melted butter, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the crushed chocolate wafers and mix together until all the wafer crumbs are evenly moist. Lightly spray four mini tart pans (ones with removable bottoms are preferable) with non-stick spray and press crust into the bottom and up the sides of each. Chill the tart shells while you prepare the filling.
In a medium heavy saucepan, heat dulce de leche over low heat for about five minutes, stirring regularly, until it begins to bubble gently. Chip chocolate into fine pieces and add to dulce de leche, stirring to melt the chocolate and incorporate it evenly into the dulce de leche. Add the beaten egg yolks slowly while stirring constantly. Promptly remove pan from heat and stir in the softened butter. Continue briskly stirring the filling for a minute or two to make sure everything is combined and smooth.
Retrieve tart shells from the refrigerator and fill with dulce de leche mixture. Return tarts to the refrigerator to chill, covered, for at least two hours or overnight if desired. Just before serving, remove tarts from pans, using a sharp knife to loosen the edges if they are sticking. Grate dark chocolate on top of the tart if desired.