Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Caramel Chocolate Cream Pie & the Avid Baker's Challenge

The "Avid Baker's Challenge?! Yes, this month I joined this fine group of bakers and will continue to bake along with them, positing on the first Tuesday of each month. We are baking from Flo Braker's "Baking for All Occasions". It is not my first experience with Flo Braker. I have been baking from her book, "Sweet Miniatures" for at least 8 years. It contains many of my favorites, so I expect "Baking for All Occasions" to be wonderful as well. Sounds like it will be great fun and my first project with them was just that.
I am not a chocolate fanatic, definitely not a big fan of pudding (the box type), or pies really. But, I am a fan of an occasional piece high quality chocolate and anything creamy and smooth and a buttery, flakey home-made crust! This project contained all of that so I did not hesitate to accept this challenge. The Caramel Chocolate Cream Pie has 5 components: a buttery flakey crust, a layer of smooth, amber caramel, topped with a deliciously creamy chocolate pudding, garnished with sweetened whipped cream and toffee pieces (definitely not your mother's pudding pie!). Mouth watering yet? As you know I don't share recipes from my challenges. I am hoping to entice you enough to purchase the book for yourself. You won't be disappointed. So let me share this experience as best I can with you now.
The first component to prepare was a flakey, buttery crust. Now I am sure you have your favorite just as I do. Since Flo's recipe contained vegetable shortening ( I have an allergy to soy) I had to resort to my favorite this time (sorry Flo). But the balance of the ingredients remained the same. Flour, sugar (just a bit), salt, butter, and ice water. I let the crust chill overnight to insure optimal flakiness. Then I rolled out the dough cut circles and fit them into 4" tartlet pans. If you know me then you know I like individual size desserts (neater and more impressive when giving some away). The instructions required the shell to be fully cooked, or blind baked.
The next component is a caramel layer. For this the ingredients are: milk, butter, and heavy cream. Like most of the projects we bake technique is important and often it is as simple as keeping watch over a pot. I don't find that caramel is difficult unless I am not keeping a close vigil. There is a very fine line between just right and burnt when it comes to caramel. When the caramel has cooled for about 45 minutes pour a layer into the cooked shells, and let cool completely.
The real star of this show is the chocolate pudding. I used a Callebaut semi-sweet here along with the milk, egg yolk, sugar, corn starch, salt, butter, and vanilla. I think the most important step here is to pour the pudding through a fine sieve to insure a very smooth pudding. Covering the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap will prevent a skin from forming (believe me you do not want that on top of this little gem). It now needs to chill for 3-4 hours.
The next 2 components are the garnishes. I have the most wonderful toffee recipe so instead of purchasing toffee bits I made some. Here is my favorite, simple recipe for toffee:
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup almonds (or other nut), optional
Foil line a 12"x7" baking sheet. Arrange almonds evenly (or not) on the bottom. In a heavy saucepan combine butter, sugar, vanilla, & salt. Cook over medium high heat stirring constantly with a clean, dry wooden spoon until butter is melted. Continue cooking about 5 minutes or until candy is the color of unblanched almonds. Immediately and quickly pour candy, without scrapping the pot, over the prepared pan &/or nuts. Cool completely. Remove from foil, break into pieces and set aside.
Now back to Flo's recipe. The next and final component is a sweetened whipped cream. I know you can do this! Use heavy cream, powdered or granulated sugar, vanilla and some cognac or other brandy. Yum! When you are ready to serve top the pie or tartlets, as in my case with some whipped cream and sprinkle with some of the toffee bits.
Phew! Sounds like alot of work but, it really isn't if you do one component at a time and build the dessert up as you go. The end result is a very tasty, grown up dessert. Thank you Haana I had fun with this one!


Virginia Taylors said...

I love the individual sized desserts!!! Did you tart pans have removable bottoms?


HanaĆ¢ said...

Yay! Great job, Lynnette. I love your mini pies. Too bad Flo's crust recipe didn't work for you. Did you know she has an all-butter crust recipe on the next page or so? Regardless, your standby recipe worked equally well. I give you kudos for making your own toffee :o) Looking forward to our yeasted sweet bread yet for next month? :o)

Btw, don't forget to leave a link to your post on the ABC blog.

Chelly said...

Nice! I like that you made your own toffee. Your tarts look beautiful!

Kendall said...

My mouth is watering!! This looks absolutely amazing!