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Bittersweet Chocolate and Dark Caramel Tartlets

In these individual tartlets, the double dose of dark chocolate, in the cocoa crusts and rich ganache filling, is complemented by an especially toasty and pleasantly bitter dark caramel. A sprinkle of briny sea salt intensifies the flavors and adds a welcome crunch.

Ingredients:

For the dough: 

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour  
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for dusting  
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes 
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar 
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten  
  •   

For the caramel and the filling:  

  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 3 Tbs. water
  • 2/3 cup plus 3/4 cup heavy cream 
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped 
  • 1/2 tsp. flaky sea salt, such as Maldon 

Directions:

To make the dough, in a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. In a food processor, combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar and process until blended. Add the flour mixture and process until almost combined, about 8 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg and process until the dough comes together. Transfer the dough to a work surface dusted with cocoa powder and knead 2 or 3 times to bring the dough together; it will be very soft. Press the dough into a disk and use immediately or wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days (be sure to bring the dough to room temperature before using).

To make the caramel, in a heavy saucepan, combine the granulated sugar and water. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, checking often. Once the sugar starts to melt, uncover and swirl the pan occasionally until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sugar turns into a very deep amber-brown caramel and has a faint burnt smell, 4 to 6 minutes more. Remove from the heat, carefully add the 2/3 cup cream (the caramel will hiss and bubble vigorously) and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the butter and salt and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Pat the dough into a 6-by-9-inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into thirds; you should have six 3-inch squares. Place each square in a 3-inch tartlet pan, then dip your fingertips in cocoa powder and press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pans. Press off any excess dough from around the edges of the pans, and use any scraps to fill cracks or holes. Place the tartlet shells on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until set, about 10 minutes. Let the shells cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, add the chocolate to a small heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the 3/4 cup cream to a simmer and pour over the chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth.

Fill each tartlet shell with about 1 Tbs. of the caramel, spreading it evenly with the back of a spoon. Pour the chocolate filling into the shells, dividing it evenly and smoothing the tops. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days, covering with plastic wrap once the chocolate is set.

When ready to serve, let the tartlets stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes to soften slightly. Remove the tartlets from their pans, sprinkle each with a little flaky sea salt and serve. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Desserts, by Raquel Pelzel (Oxmoor House, 2008).