You know, a dessert that you make that gets all the "oohs" and "aahs" the minute people take a bite. And, while I have nothing against a gorgeous fruit tart, as a self-professed chocolate fiend, I'll choose a chocolate tart every day of the week.
Because a perfectly-executed chocolate tart—with creamy, silky, decadent ganache—gets all the love every time. Here we raised the bar by adding in an almond butter caramel.
If you're wondering, yes, that did indeed come about one night when we had leftover caramel, saw a jar of almond butter, and had a dessert epiphany. Essentially, we took our favorite chocolate caramel dessert recipe and gave it a welcome twist.
We love chocolate with caramel and nut butter, so we decided to combine it all. This chocolate caramel tart would taste like if a Rolo candy and Reese's peanut butter cup went to finishing school.
Every element from the graham cracker crust to the caramel and the ganache are balanced to be not too sweet and just decadent enough because, yes, there can be too much of a good thing. Ideally, you'll cut the tart into about 12 slices, and everyone will finish their whole piece because it won't be too over-the-top in terms of decadence and sweetness.
Also, it's a perfect dessert to bring out for a dinner party or the holidays because it accommodates various diets. It's vegetarian and, if you use gluten-free graham crackers, it's gluten-free; or, if you use plant-based butter and cream, it's vegan; or, if you use nut-free butter, it can even be nut-free.
Also, because it's a press-in crust, there is no tart dough, so no stand mixer is needed. Of course, if you wanted to skip making the crust, you could get a store-bought tart shell and make the fillings.
Yes, this is a bit more of an intermediate recipe because you do have to make caramel. However, we can attest that once you've made it a few times, it quickly becomes a habit.
or pretzel crumbs
or granulated sugar, divided
or peanut butter
or dark chocolate discs (or a bar cut into large chunks)
Make The Crust: Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place a round of parchment paper in the bottom of a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable base and grease the pan with extra butter or cooking spray. Melt six tablespoons of the butter.
If you haven't yet done so, put the graham crackers or pretzel in a food processor and pulse until you have even crumbs. Alternatively, place them in a resealable bag and use a rolling pin to crush them.
Combine the 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker or pretzel crumbs with six tablespoons of melted butter, four tablespoons of light brown or granulated sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium mixing bowl and stir until the crumbs are thoroughly coated with butter and moistened.
Turn the mixture into the prepared tart pan and, using the back of a cup or measuring cup, press the mixture firmly into the pan. Evenly coat the bottom and sides of the pan and then set it in the freezer until set, at least 5 minutes.
Place the crust in the oven and bake until it's fragrant and just toasted for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool briefly before proceeding.
The crust can be made up to four days ahead of time and stored covered in the refrigerator until ready to use. Alternatively, you can wrap the crust well and place it (baked or unbaked) in the freezer for up to 1 month.
For The Almond Butter Salted Caramel Filling: As the crust cools, make the caramel. Stir together 1 cup of sugar with three tablespoons of water in a medium or large saucepan until the sugar is thoroughly moistened.
Brush the insides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar granules (this is key to avoid having the sugar seize), then place the pan over medium-high heat to bring to a boil.
Without stirring, but swirling the pan occasionally, let the sugar boil until it turns amber in color, about 5 to 10 minutes. Give the pan a few good swirls to ensure it's evenly cooking.
Remove from heat and carefully add the whiskey. The caramel will seize but just keep swirling the pan until the alcohol smells are cooked off. Immediately add two tablespoons of the butter and 1/3 cup of the cream and swirl until the caramel is smooth and uniform in color. Set aside to cool for just a few minutes, then stir in the 1/4 cup of peanut or almond butter, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and the one tablespoon of pure vanilla extract.
Pour all of the caramel into the tart pan and set it aside to cool while you make the ganache.
The caramel can be made up to four days ahead of time. Store refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use then heat up in the microwave or over low heat on the stove to make it pourable.
Make The Chocolate Ganache: If you're using a chocolate bar, chop it up, then place the 8 ounces of chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and set aside.
Place the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove the cream from the heat and add the chocolate to the cream in the saucepan. Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter and let it sit for a minute or two to let the chocolate and butter melt.
Stir until all the butter and most chocolate is melted, then transfer back to the mixing bowl. Stir well until the ganache is thick and smooth. Make sure to get the chocolate from every corner of the bowl to be evenly combined.
If the ganache shows signs of breaking (as in it looks curdled), just add a few drops of warm cream to help it re-emulsify. An adequately emulsified ganache will look like homemade chocolate pudding as in it will be thick, smooth, and glossy.
Pour the ganache into the prepared tart on top of the caramel layer and tap the tart pan against the counter to smooth it out.
Refrigerate and let chill until the filling is set, at least 1 1/2 hours. Remove the tart from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes before serving to make it easier to slice and finish the tart by sprinkling a pinch of flaky sea salt on top.
The tart can be made in its entirety up to three days ahead of time. Store refrigerated until ready to serve (cover it loosely once the ganache has set but make sure you don't put anything directly on the chocolate surface as it could mark the surface.. Use a sharp knife dipped in hot water to slice the tart.
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