These tarts came together out of necessity. Some friends were coming to dinner and I needed to make a dessert. I had chocolate dough in the freezer, salted caramel in the fridge and someone had recently given me a large container of salted macadamias. Combining the first two was a no-brainer – I’ve often made chocolate salted caramel tarts before – but the macadamias took the dessert to another level.
Chocolate, macadamia and salted caramel tarts
These tarts are small but rich, not just because of the gooey salted caramel but also due to the macadamia nuts, which have a high fat content. I use lightly salted macadamias but the salt content varies by producer. If the ones you have are too salty, rinse them well before toasting them (or, you can use unsalted nuts). It’s essential that the nuts be toasted right before adding them to the caramel, so they are still hot; if they are cold (or even room temperature), they will cool down the caramel too much, and make it stiff, rather than gently fluid.
I use small brioche moulds for these tarts. If you use another type of mould, it’s easy to estimate how much filling you need. Fill one of the moulds with macadamias, mounding the nuts slightly, then weigh the contents. Multiply that by the number of tarts you are making and mix in 25 per cent more of the salted caramel (in other words, the ratio is three parts nuts to four parts caramel).
The recipes for the dough (which is adapted from the Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum) and caramel yield more than you need for 12 tarts, but they are good staples to have on hand. You can reheat the caramel in the microwave or over a low flame on the stove.
For the bittersweet chocolate dough:
410 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for rolling
50 grams unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
190 grams icing sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
250 grams unsalted butter, chilled
2 large eggs, chilled
For the caramel and macadamia filling:
400 grams sugar
85 grams corn syrup
120 grams salted butter, in one piece, chilled
120ml cream, chilled
Lightly salted macadamia nuts, as needed
Rough-flaked sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling
Put the flour, cocoa powder, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and combine thoroughly. Cut the cold butter into 1cm chunks, add them to the bowl and pulse until the butter is about the size of lentils. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk the eggs then drizzle them over the ingredients in the bowl. Mix with your fingertips to combine, making a dough that’s neither wet nor dry. Knead the dough briefly then divide it into two even portions. Shape each one into a disc then wrap it in cling film. Refrigerate for at least an hour before using.
If the dough has been refrigerated for longer than a couple of hours, let it sit at room temperature until it’s cool but pliable (you’ll need only one disc of dough for the 12 tarts). Roll it out on a lightly floured work surface until it’s about 2mm thick. Cut out portions of the dough so they fit into 12 small brioche moulds that hold about 40 fluid grams (or use other pans of about equivalent size). Without stretching the dough, settle it into the contours of the pan and trim off the overhang. Place the moulds on a tray and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Cut small squares of aluminium foil and press them into the contours of the dough-lined brioche moulds. Bake at 180 degrees for about 10 minutes then remove the foil. Continue to bake for about five more minutes, or until the dough is fully cooked: it will be fragrant, the surface will be matte instead of shiny and it will feel firm. If the dough puffs up while baking, use a fork to pierce it, then press gently with a wadded-up paper towel to deflate it.
Cool the tart shells completely then remove them from the moulds. Leave the oven on at 180 degrees.
Make the caramel. Put the sugar and corn syrup in a medium-sized pan and add about 60ml of hot water (the exact amount doesn’t matter; it’s used because it makes it easier to melt the sugar). Place the pan over a medium flame and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is melted.
Fill a heatproof measuring cup with boiling water. Dip a pastry brush into the water and use it to wash the sugar crystals from the sides of the pan. Continue to cook the mixture without stirring until the sugar starts to caramelise. Swirl the pan so the sugar caramelises evenly and continue to cook, watching it carefully. When the sugar turns medium-dark amber, remove the pan from the heat. Working quickly and carefully, place the chilled butter into the caramel. The mixture will bubble and send up puffs of hot steam. Stir the butter into the mixture until it’s melted then stir in the cream.
Weigh out 240 grams of macadamias (for 12 small tarts baked in brioche moulds; adjust the amount as needed if using different pans). Put the nuts on a baking tray and bake at 180 degrees for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Put the nuts in a bowl and mix in 300 grams of the caramel. Stir the hot caramel and hot nuts together, then divide them between the 12 tarts. Cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with rough-flaked sea salt then serve.
The excess dough can be kept for about three weeks in the fridge, or longer in the freezer. Pour the extra salted caramel into a sterilised jar; it keeps for at least six weeks in the fridge.