Three minutes to 8 this morning and, surprisingly, the moon still graced the sky, hanging rather low westwards. Twenty minutes later it had slid out of view behind the thicket beyond the garden. Meanwhile eastwards, the sun had yet to rise, though already sending subtle hints – the palest of pinks and yellows – that today it had every intention to do so. It is now a cheeringly bright sunny day, btw. I managed a few photos of the moon, though without a tripod. Thank you, dear morning moon, for such a rare start to my Saturday!
Yesterday I finally did what I’d been putting off for some days now – I made another batch of chocolate-caramel tartlets. (And I’m rather glad I did because although I wasn’t feeling okay when I began, I felt better once I’d finished. There must be something to the German cookbook title, Backen macht Freude — baking brings happiness, and of course happiness brings well-being and health.)
There are recipes – and more tellingly, their photos – that are totally beguiling, and these tartlets from David Lebovitz most definitely are. They’re truly addictive. Deconstructed, it’s really rather simple: a chocolate crust, a caramel filling, and a chocolate topping. Nothing extraordinary, right? Ah… but, as they say, the devil is in the details. This is an adult’s chocolate fix; it is most likely not to appeal to a child, no matter how much he or she likes chocolate. It delivers such a wallop of chocolate, it is quite overpowering, and perhaps it is a blessing that it comes in small servings. Two at a time is my absolute limit. The strangest thing is that M, who does not really like chocolate, adores these!
So what is it that makes this tartlet my temptation of the montht? Its crust is deeply chocolatey, with a grainy crunchiness from the rice flour, tempered by a gooey fudge filling, and smoothed to a silky finish by creamy chocolate ganache. (Sounds almost like one of those Marks & Spencer commercials, doesn’t it?) The great thing about this is that it only needs 10 minutes of baking. You could make these within an hour. Nearly instant home-made chocolate fix!
I’ve made these now twice since New Year’s Day. Yesterday, I thought of substituting the wheat flour with buckwheat (Buchweizen in German or soba in Japanese). Buckwheat is not related to wheat nor is it a cereal grain, which is why it is often suggested as a gluten-free substitute for flour. It grows well in cold, damp soils where wheat would not, and thus is a common staple in Russia, Brittany, and Japan. I’ve even had a buckwheat “porridge,” once a common dish in the snow-bound mountain villages of the Japanese Alps (Nagano Prefecture). An artist-neighbour in Mejiro, Tokyo once invited M and I to share with her this now forgotten traditional delicacy: raw soba flour mixed with water and salt.
I’ve been experimenting with buckwheat since reading the Perfect Health Diet. Gluten seems to affect many who have hypothyroid problems, and this experiment is part of my continuing quest towards well-being. I must say that buckwheat has worked rather well in this recipe. I have adapted David Lebovitz’s recipe by reducing the sugar to half (I don’t like my sweets too sweet) and the salt as well, increased the butter and cream just a tad, and used a different mixing method for the crust. I tried sprinkling a few tartlets with salt crystals or fleur de sel, as David Lebovitz does, but even without, they are divine. I also used butter fudge candies, as they were the closest to caramels that M could find in our nearest supermarket (Netto) in Bonn. If you wish to make David Lebovitz’s Chocolate-Caramel Tartlets, please click here. To make this adhere to the Perfect Health Diet, you’d have to use palm or other non-refined sugar. (I might experiment with that next time.) Chocolate above 70% and no more than 20g a day is okay in the Perfect Health Diet. (The only hitch is the refined sugar in the caramel candies.)
Chocolate-Butter Fudge Tartlets (Gluten-free )
Adapted from David Lebovitz, makes 24 tartlets
Butter a mini-muffin tin with 24 holes and dust thinly with 1 tsp cocoa powder. Or, better still, fill with mini-muffin liners.
Prepare the cocoa crust.
In a large bowl, mix well:
115g buckwheat/soba flour (or wheat flour if you’re not bothered about gluten)
35g rice flour (I used Indian puttu podhi flour; if you can’t find rice flour, use in all 150g buckwheat or wheat flour)
¼ tsp salt
50g (1/4 cup less 1 tablespoon) sugar
40g cocoa powder (unsweetened).
125g cold diced butter.
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 large egg, beaten,
and mix with the butter-and-flour mixture to make a dough.
The dough will be slightly sticky. Cover the bowl with cling film or put the dough in a plastic bag and let rest 20 minutes in the refrigerator, or until firmed up.
The above steps can be done in a food processor, pulsing briefly, or just until the ingredients come together.
Shape the dough into small balls of about 18g each (about ¾ inch) and place in the prepared muffin tin.
Press the balls with your thumb to fit into the holes.
Don’t worry about smoothing the tops of the crusts – the charm of these tartlets for me lies in their slight ungainliness.
Bake in a preheated oven at 160ºC (325ºF, with convection; 180ºC or 350ºF without convection) for 8 – 10 minutes, or until firm. (I turned the pan around halfway for more even baking.)
Turn off the oven, remove the pan, and use the handle of a wooden spoon to press down gently on the puffed-up crusts.
Return the pan to the still warm oven with the door slightly ajar for 15 – 20 minutes. (I found that buckwheat needs this to firm up properly.)
Remove pan from the oven. Gently pry off the crusts and let them cool on a grid.
Caramel or Butter Fudge Cream
Meanwhile, prepare the cream filling by warming over very low heat in a small pan:
120g caramels or butter fudge candies
45 ml (3 tablespoons) whipping or double cream.
When the candies start to melt, stir to prevent them burning.
Continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.
If the mixture is too dense (i.e., to drop from a spoon), stir in a tablespoon more cream. I like the filling to be gooey and thus the added cream, but there’s no harm done if the filling turns out to be solid. It will still taste divine.)
Remove from the heat at once and spoon the cream into the crusts.
Prepare the topping by warming over low heat in a small pan (I used the same pan as for the cream filling, unwashed but scraped up):
95 ml whipping or double cream.
When the cream is heated through, but before it starts to boil, turn off the heat and stir in until smooth:
150g bitter chocolate (at least 70% chocolate content, I used 81%), broken into pieces.
Spoon the ganache over the cream filling in the crusts.
Let cool completely at room temperature.
You may wish to sprinkle each tartlet with 3 – 4 crystals of fleur de sel, as the original recipe calls for.
For culinary experiments that turn out well, I am thankful! And as well for my lovely amaryllis, whose slow, slow unfolding keeps me in a state of blissful anticipation.