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2016 National Pi(e) Day

March 14th is also now known as National Pi(e) Day. So, I wanted to bring you something just a little bit different. The recipe I’m going to share is a cousin to a pie – a tart. So, what’s the difference? Well, the crust is different to start – a pie generally has a flaky crust while a tart is going to be more crumbly or more cookie like. Also, a pie is baked and served in the pie pan or plate where a tart pan has a removable bottom and is unmolded before serving. There are lots of great sources about pies, and being from the South, one of my favorite books, Southern Pies was written by my friend Nancie McDermott. Be sure and check it out, I’ll include an Amazon link to the right.

So, since I decided to cook a tart for pi(e) day, the next choice was what to make. One of the tarts I’ve taught in class is a Chocolate Caramel Tart which kind of resembles a famous candy bar with a caramel center covered in chocolate. This tart has several steps, none of which are terribly difficult.

The first step is to make the crust. We start with the butter and powdered sugar in the mixer and cream it until it is very fluffy. Next we add the liquid ingredients – egg yolks and vanilla extract. After that is combined, we add the dry ingredients – flour, cocoa powder and salt. After we mix this together, we next put it into the tart pan and press the crust out across the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Put it in the refrigerator to rest for 20 minutes before we bake it in a 350 degree oven. Poke the bottom of the tart with a fork before baking. Then bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. When it’s done, take it out and set it aside to cool.

Now it’s time for the next layer. To make the caramel for the tart we take sugar, corn syrup, salt and a little water in a saucepan and cook it over medium to medium high heat. Cook it without stirring until the color turns a very light amber. The temperature of the sugar mixture will be around 340 degrees. (Note: cooking sugar is not difficult, but with the high temperature of the sugar, you must be careful not to splash or drop any on you – it will burn you very badly…, when you start cooking sugar, you must focus and not do anything else – no multi-tasking.)

When the caramel reaches this point, take it off of the heat and add the butter and cream – it may bubble, just carefully stir it together. If the butter or cream are too cold, the caramel may harden. If that happens, just put it back over low heat and stir to combine until the caramel melts. Pour the sauce into the cooled crust and allow the caramel to cool. Refrigerate until the caramel fully hardens, usually around 4 hours.

Now comes the chocolate top. Take the chopped chocolate n a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until it comes to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let it sit for about 1 minute, then stir or whisk slowly to combine the chocolate and cream making sure all of the chocolate pieces are melted. Once it is a very smooth mixture, pour the ganache over the top of the caramel layer and let cool a few minutes before putting it in the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to set, at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, remove the tart from the tart pan and allow to warm at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. If you like a salted caramel flavor, sprinkle flake sea salt over the tart before serving. This is a very rich dessert, so cut the wedges a bit on the small side – you can always get more! I cut it into at least 12 if not 16 pieces.

So, there you have an alternative to pies – if you struggle with pie crusts, then a tart crust may be just for you. Enjoy this combination of chocolate and caramel.


10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Caramel Sauce
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

For the crust: In the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment (or handheld mixer) cream the butter and the powdered sugar until very fluffy. Add the egg yolks and the vanilla and mix until combined. In another bowl, combine the cocoa powder, the flour and the salt. Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl and mix (starting on very slow speed) until well combined. Put the dough into a 10 inch tart pan (or 9 inch if you don’t have a 10 inch) and press the dough across the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the crust (known as “docking”) and bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

For the caramel: In a saucepan at least 2 quarts in size, add the sugar, corn syrup, salt and water and cook over medium to medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Continue cooking the sugar mixture without stirring until it turns a light amber color, it should measure about 340 degrees. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cream and butter. Continue whisking until the sauce is smooth. If the butter or cream are too cold, the caramel may harden. If that happens, put the pan back over low heat until the caramel melts and is smooth. Remove from the heat. Pour the caramel sauce into the tart crust and allow to cool about 30 minutes. Move the tart to the refrigerator and cool until the caramel hardens, at least 4 hours.

Ganache: Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a 1 quart saucepan, heat the cream until it comes to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Slowly stir or whisk until the chocolate and cream are smooth. Pour the ganache over the caramel layer and smooth if necessary. Let cool 5 minutes, then transfer to a refrigerator to set, at least 4 hours.

Keep the tart in the refrigerator, but remove and let the tart sit for 20 minutes to allow it to warm slightly. If you like the taste of salted caramel, sprinkle the tart with sea salt before serving.

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