Among my backlog of posts to finish are a bunch of cookbook reviews (I swear, the only thing that seems to multiply faster in my place than dust bunnies and kitchen equipment is cookbooks). One I’ve been particularly eager to share is Bill Yosses’s The Perfect Finish, which came out about a month ago.
Yosse, whose illustrious career includes stints under Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller, is currently the executive pastry chef for the White House. So if you ever wonder what might be showing up for dessert on our President’s dinner table, I’d suggest a look at this book!
The admirably wide-ranging set of recipes in The Perfect Finish are categorized into some intriguing-sounding chapters: Come For Brunch, I’ll Bring Dessert, Straight From the Oven. I like that: the titles suggest all manner of sweet situations (although I can imagine few situations that couldn’t be improved by something sweet). A glance at through the offerings is like a quick survey of all the places Yosses must have worked at during his career: everything from a Gingery Pumpkin Breakfast Bundt to Candied Bacon Peach Cobbler (which I am dying to make!) to Chocolate Halvah Marjolaine. There are selections from virtually every category of baked goods, from simple to complex, so whether you feel like tackling a complex project like sachertorte, or just have a cookie craving, there will be something to entice you.
I was looking for an opportunity to try out something from the cookbook, and the occasion turned out to be the Fourth of July weekend. Mike and I had my sister and her husband over for a little barbecue action, and it’s probably not too hard to guess which course I volunteered to oversee, hmm?
I already had a vanilla- ollalieberry swirl made with leftover ollalieberries (yes, I haven’t blogged about that yet!!) but knowing my sister has a preference for things chocolate-y, I flipped through the pages of the book until I hit on the Chocolate Caramel Tart with Sea Salt. That pretty much hits the decadence trifecta for me: perfectly smooth and creamy ganache, wickedly liquid caramel, and sea salt crunch-bombs.
The crust is a crisp pâte sablée which corrals a puddle of golden caramel. A bittersweet chocolate ganache fills out the top, along with a final stardusting of sea salt. All such simple components, but combined together alchemize into pleasure sublime.
A rare shot of chocolate metamorphosing into ganache (rare because I’m seldom prepared enough to take in-process shots!)
I actually nicknamed it the Twix Tart, because the textures and flavors reminded me of that classic candy bar: the cookie-like crust, the gooey caramel filling, the chocolate covering. Only, believe me, this is several magnitudes better!
I also loved the ease of execution: The only component that requires real planning ahead is the tart dough – if you can bake off the tart shell in advance, you can virtually assemble the entire tart an hour or so before dinner, and then forget all about it. It will happily cool and set on its own and be ready to devour at the end of the evening.
The recipes in The Perfect Finish are clearly laid out and a cinch to follow; I also really enjoyed the extensive headnotes, which often include anecdotes from his pastry career. There are several sidebars that include step-by-step tutorials for such processes as frosting a cake or making pie crust, a welcome addition for many bakers, I’m sure.
The Perfect Finish is perfectly accessible to home bakers, and an elegant inspiration for more experienced ones as well. That Candied Bacon Peach Cobbler is certainly next on my list of things to make!
Disclosure: I was sent a review copy of The Perfect Finish by the publisher.
Chocolate Caramel Tart with Sea Salt
adapted from The Perfect Finish
makes (1) 9-in tart or (6) 3 1/2-in tartlets
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) heavy cream
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
pinch of Maldon sea salt (I used Camargue as that’s what I had on hand)
12 ounces bittersweet (60%-66%) chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups (16 1/4 ounces) heavy cream
For the pâte sablée: Cream butter and sugar together in a stand mixer.
Add eggs and mix just until incorporated.
Add flour and salt and mix on low just until incorporated.
Scrape out dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a disk. Wrap fully and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Flour work surface and roll out dough to 1/4″ thick. Lay into a 9″ tart pan or tart rings of your choosing and trim excess dough with a knife. Refrigerate for an hour before baking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line tart shell with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes (check earlier if you are baking individual tarts), turning halfway through.
Remove foil and weight and bake for 10 more minutes (individual tarts may not need additional baking time). Tart shells should be lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool fully on wire rack before filling.
For the caramel: Place cream in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Set aside while you cook the sugar.
Combine sugar with 5 tablespoons of water in a heavy saucepan. Cook over high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves.
Bring mixture to boil and cook withou t stirring for about 4 minutes until it turns dark amber. Swirl to ensure it cooks evenly.
Take mixture off stove and pour cream slowly into the sugar (it will boil up so don’t pour in all at once.)Stir until incorporated and smooth.
Add in salt. If caramel has cooled too much and become thick, place over heat and warm until it is liquid enough to pour.
Pour the caramel into the tart shell, covering the bottom evenly. Let cool until it firms and is no longer shiny. You can place the tart shell in the refrigerator to speed up the process.
For the ganache: Place chocolate and salt in a heatproof bowl.
Place cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat on the stove.
Pour cream over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes. Then whisk slowly and gently to combine. Do not stir too vigorously as this incorporates air into the ganache and gives it a less smooth and velvety texture.
Pour the ganache into the tart shell over the caramel. Let set at room temperature for at least 3 hours or up to 12 hours. (If you place the tart with warm ganache into the refrigerator, the ganache can cool too fast and end up cracking – unsightly but still edible, of course).
Sprinkle with sea salt before serving.
I love Twix! Oozy caramel is almost seductive. Do you think this would be the caramel would still ooze like this in winter?
I have caramel in the fridge. I am going to have to make this!! Looks delicious.
Yum! I can’t think of anything else to say but that. And you’ve convinced me to buy this book. Thanks for sharing.
The Blue-Eyed Bakers says
Ok now we must go buy this book – all the things you mentioned sound delish! And this tart looks superb! Sea salt, chocolate and caramel? Yes please! Anything that evokes the flavor of a Twix bar…hello yummy.
Awesome! I have a friend who is Twix obsessed. Now I know what to make for him next time I see him 🙂
This tart is so decadent! Here is too warm to bake, but I have bookmarked it for colder weather. I am quite curious about the candied bacon peach cobbler, definitely something I’ll never dare to bake myself 🙂
oozy caramel…so luscious!
That last picture makes me want to lick the screen!
Wow–you had some lucky dinner guests! Looks sinful.
Oh my, yum. This looks absolutely heavenly. Oozing caramel is deliciously tempting…
WOW. How stunning is this?? Love it!!
Nads' Bakery says
I LOVE TWIX! I was actually picturing it made with Twix bars when I read the title. Looks divine! Chocolate, Caramel, and Salt.. AMAZING combo that never goes wrong!
Oh my gosh… I have to stop looking at blogs while eating a healthy breakfast: now I just want a piece of that tart!!!
I love that the caramel is so oozy – hard/chewy caramel is a bit of a letdown in tarts like this, so the consistency you have looks perfect!
Ruth Ann says
Wow, that tart looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!
The Wind Attack says
Twix is the one junk food industrial candy bar that seems to be able to seduce me. That tart looks 4000 times better than a twix, though.
Oh my..the oozy caramel looks amazing!
This looks divine! Fancified but those familiar flavors that we all love. Thank you!
Also, I wanted to thank you for your candid and detailed information about pastry school. Extremely helpful to someone who dreams of it once my kiddos are bigger. 🙂
I love twix bars so this is a no brainer for me. By the way…what is an ollalieberry? Never heard of them. Thanks!
yum! I love the picture with the caramel oozing out! it looks sooooooo good!
Mmmmmmmmm… yes, please!
This looks absolutely incredible. I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work at high altitude, so I’m going to have to give it a go. Thanks for sharing!
Oooooh this looks SO delicious. I love Twix bars and as soon as I saw this in your post heading I knew I would love this recipe.
Yumm, I am drooling now.
My husband’s favorite candy is a Twix bar – I have to try this recipe soon!
Médaille Gourmande says
Ohhh, my GOD!!!! no comment maybe?!!! 😉
Tess @ Moody Food Reviews says
Oh my! I am going to make this for my food blog!
J.D. Baker says
Wow…what a great idea. Looks amazing. Twix was my favorite candy bar until I found out I was allergic to chocolate….go figure.
Nia Bassett says
Thanks for pointing this book out. I overlooked it previously because I hate baking and cooking books with a red cover. (All authors who are persuaded that the color red makes people hungry: please take note!) Anyway, I flipped through the many pages that Amazon shows of the inside and I am intrigued! I’ll have to see if my library can get a copy for me to skim. I have so many cookbooks now that new purchases are preciously selected. =)
Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets says
This looks very tempting, and I love that you gave it a nickname. I’m behind on a few cookbook reviews myself.
Jane Heller says
Yummy! This looks delicious. I think I’m going to try it with a layer of Swiss Maid milk chocolate fudge on top instead of that layer of chocolate.
This looks mouth-watering. Anyway to make the caramel a bit firmer, more Twix-ish?
Paris Patisseries says
Awesome! What’s crazy is that there’s this pastry by Sadaharu Aoki here in Paris that I always call “The Twix Tart” – and his is salted, too! I don’t have any photos of it up yet, but when I do, I’ll shoot them to you. I only wish I could eat yours 🙁
Dessert Darling says
OHmyGosh Anita, This looks completely AMAZING!!! I haven’t had a Twix in so long as I think I’ve graduated from candy bars, but this looks right up my alley. I wish I could eat and review it!
Yes, the firmness of the caramel depends on how long you cook it – if it solidifies after cooking, try cooking it for slightly less time next time and take it off when it’s a little less dark!
I was amazed too, as usually I add butter to my caramel if I want to ensure it remains soft. This was just water and sugar and came out beautiful!
Thank you so much Carrie! I’m always glad to hear I can help people along with their pastry dreams! Good luck to you and let me know if you have other questions!
The firmness of the caramel depends on how long you cook it – the recipe actually called for taking the temperature of the caramel to around 374 degrees – I just eyeballed it since I’ve cooked a lot of caramel and know how dark I like it. The darker you take it, the harder it will be when it cools. I would be careful not to take it past 400 degrees F or let it turn black though, as then you’ll have burnt caramel!
I LOVE Sadaharu Aoki! You’re so lucky!!! Definitely put up pics when you take them!
Thanks all for the comments! I am a tart fiend and I have to say this was a keeper!
Evan @swEEts says
My boyfriend LOVES twix.. this would make the perfect dessert after a nice summer meal 🙂
This looks so wonderful. I wish it wasn’t so late at night. /sigh
I have NEVER had such a nightmare with pastry as I did with this one. It was so sticky and impossible to roll out. And I’m a dab hand with pastry normally! Are there any tips you can share to make it more handleable?
Sorry for the late response but olallieberries are a cross between a blackberry, raspberry, and dewberry. I have a post about there here:
I’ll be honest, this was a tricky dough for me to handle as well! I had to keep it well chilled and the counter well floured. I found that rolling it between silicone baking mats and then chilling it again before trying to lay it over the tart pan helped. Or, you could substitute your favorite tart crust recipe (this is mine:
oooh. truly loving this ooey gooeyness! beauuutiful!
Paul D says
Thanks. Loved the recipe. Did you really make that caramel as-per the recipe though? With cream in it I don’t understand how it wouldn’t be opaque and fudgey, like mine was…