I daresay, there are relatively few problems that cannot be solved by the ever-pleasing combination of chocolate and caramel. (In the first world, anyway.) Whether celebrating a joyous occasion, lamenting heartbreak, seeking an afternoon pick-me-up, or simply craving that timeless sugary duo, it generally seems to serve the desired purpose. As a kid, I liked candy bars just fine, though I preferred small doses; I used to horde and ration my Halloween candy such that I had those mini candy bars all year long until the next autumnal reaping. My brother, on the other hand, was not at all familiar with the concept of self-control, finishing the entirety of his candy within days… and then begging me to share. I’m sure that this permitted me a reasonable amount of leverage over him, maybe a little bribery now and then…. Anywho, in adulthood we’ve more or less reversed our positions; nowadays, it is I with the rampant sweet tooth, while he tends to be somewhat ambivalent towards desserts.
This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings recipe is a rather grownup version of the classic candy bar, all dressed up in a cookie crust. This Easy Candy Bar Tart from the Caramel chapter of Baked Elements is the dessert for you when you’re in the mood for a diabetic coma. It is, in fact, quite easy to make and assemble, consisting of a chocolate cookie crust filled with toasty walnuts, gooey caramel, and a dark chocolate finish. Surprisingly, it doesn’t taste overly sweet, just rich and decadent. The walnuts and wafer cookies are not sweet, the caramel is salted, and the chocolate is dark, so although this tart contains the necessary ingredients for a candy bar, it has a decidedly sophisticated appeal– the sugar is just disguised better. 😉
The recipe calls for “chocolate wafer cookies” for the crust, which I presumed was different than Oreos. These were surprisingly difficult to track down—I thought that Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods would surely have their own versions, but alas, I only found them when I went to the more mainstream supermarket, Safeway. The lone item that I located called chocolate “wafers” were Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, which are very thin and very dark in color, with a flavor similar to Oreos, though less sweet. (I’m guessing that they’re made with black cocoa powder, which is over-roasted for that particular Oreo-y flavor, and they’re often used for icebox cakes.) While they appear to be a pretty specific ingredient, I imagine that you could use a chocolate shortbread-type cookie (or Oreos) if you can’t find them in your local market.
I made this recipe several weeks before our scheduled baking week, and I realized that there is an error in the book. The recipe says to preheat the oven to 300°F, but there is no further instruction involving an oven. I wasn’t sure if it meant that I should bake the crust, or if this temperature was meant for toasting the walnuts (though the ingredient list includes nuts already toasted). I did a little research to see if other BAKED recipes had a similar crust, and in fact the Mississippi Mud Pie (A) from Baked Explorations that BSM made last summer used an identical crust, which was not baked. I decided to ignore the preheating instruction and move on, though I was concerned that my crust would be a bit crumbly. Despite being a tad delicate, it turned out fine, and we now have the recipe correction: Bake the crust until set (about 10 minutes) or just fragrant. This helps to firm up the crust by cooking the butter and adhering the crumbs together.
As recommended in the book, I toasted the walnuts very dark for a smoky flavor. I’m not a huge fan of walnuts, but they take on a completely different dimension when you heat them up—I felt the same hesitation when I made Chocolate Velvet Walnut Fudge and when I’ve made their Brewer’s Blondies on several occasions, and each time I was pleasantly surprised. I thought there were WAY too many walnuts (a whopping 2 cups!) when I poured the caramel-walnut mixture into the crust and initially wished that I had cut the quantity in half. But when I sliced it open, I saw that it was just right, so don’t worry if it seems like you have too many walnuts.
Now, about that caramel. I had to make it twice, because the first time I wasn’t paying attention—I was prepping ingredients for two recipes at once and used the wrong pot of sugar! Even the second batch looked a little iffy to me, as though the butter was slightly separated, but it was perfectly fine once I stirred in the walnuts. Make sure to use a high-sided pan because a) your mixture will bubble up when you add the cream, and b) you need space to stir in those 2 cups of walnuts that we talked about.
Pour the hot walnut-caramel into the chocolate crust and spread it into an even layer. Chill your tart in the fridge to set the caramel for at least an hour before proceeding with the chocolate topping.
The chocolate glaze is easy-peasy—simply combine the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a bowl over a pot of simmering water until the mixture is melted and homogenous. Let it cool a touch, then pour it over the beautiful, walnut-y nooks and crannies of your tart and smooth the top.
You’ll want to spread it all the way to the edges so that every little bit of caramel is slathered with chocolate. Let the finished tart set up in the fridge for an hour before cutting into it (difficult as this will be).
So, I made this tart for a co-worker’s birthday, and I have to confess that I seriously considered keeping it for myself and substituting a store-bought cake at the last minute—it looked that divine. But alas, I went ahead and… shared. I was exceedingly proud of myself. *sigh*
I served the tart slightly chilled. (Incidentally, it holds candles perfectly.) The slices were smooth and easy to cut, and the cross-section of chocolate-walnuts-caramel-chocolate was gorgeous!
All tasters loved it, and pretty much everyone was satisfied with a small slice because it’s so rich. Oh—and the fleur de sel in the caramel makes it even tastier! The only thing I would likely add next time is a light sprinkling of sea salt flakes on top, because I’ve grown to believe (thanks to BAKED‘s salted caramel and their multitude of other salted treats) that anything covered in chocolate will be even better with salt!
To make your own grownup candy bar, visit Baked Sunday Mornings, where you will find the recipe for this Easy Candy Bar Tart, as well as my fellow bakers’ tarts to drool over. Reminiscing about this glorious dessert helps me cope with the deep, spiraling depression that is washing over me as I return home from an amazing 3-week honeymoon in Italy (blogs to come). I should probably make another one to make myself feel better, yes? 😉
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2014.