Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart at Pizza East

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Rich. And I mean really rich. This is your traditional basically-truffles-smeared-on-pastry. But it’s far from your ordinary take on that. The salt sharpens the richness whilst contradictorily taking the edge off it. And the milky caramel adds a sweetness that punches into the richness in a so-sweet-its-almost-bitter way. I like this dish. I particularly like that the salt is sprinkled on top, adding visual contrast and shouting about its ingredients. Though I couldn’t swear there wasn’t salt in the ganache itself. A sprinkling of nuts also added an earthen flavour and gave a hint of natural goodness (wishful thinking perhaps!), and was a good addition to the plate in a way that the cream (which I mistook for ice-cream, which definitely wouldn’t be necessary) probably wasn’t.

“This struck me as as close to an objective fault with a dish as you could get”

But this dish has a problem. I don’t know if you can see from the picture, but the caramel is sandwiched on top of the pastry and below the chocolate. This meant that

  1. it oozes out the sides, and uselessly spread onto the plate from where even the most dedicated plate-clearer (and yes, that does mean me) isn’t going to rescue it and
  2. the chocolate slides about on the caramel slick, and the dessert’s integrity is compromised.

This struck me as as close to an objective fault with a dish as you could get. It was simply a mistake to stack the dish in this way. Okay, so it might take an architectural feat to avoid the problem, such as sandwiching the caramel between two, thinner layers of chocolate, but, frankly, I think it needed it. It’s like making lasagna where you decide that for effect you’ll have the pasta super-al-dente, but which has the side-effect of making the dish impossible to eat.

Perhaps I was unlucky. Maybe the chocolate was too cold, and therefore rigid. Maybe the caramel was too warm and therefore liquid. Maybe the pastry was too fresh and therefore difficult to cut through. But even so, you need to make sure that everyone who orders a dish can eat it as intended, and I’m pretty sure you weren’t supposed to eat this in the train-wreck form mine ended up in.

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I can forgive this. It was delicious. There was also too much of it – a slice half the angle would have done – but I guess you have to offer a large enough portion that diners won’t feel hard done by, even if for a second before they taste how rich it is. If Chris’ cheese plate was anything to go by, they like to be generous.

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Yes, that really is five people’s worth of cheese – at least judging by the, to be frank, slightly miserly portions you frequently get elsewhere.

I’d eat this again, especially if I’m in the joint for a pizza. Or maybe I’d get the cheese between the whole table!

35/100 Time Out’s best dishes in London

Chocolate Macaroons

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To me, macaroons means the delicious sunken sand-coloured hemispheres with a slight chew that we got at Pesach (/ Passover) that were pipped to the post for my favourite festival treat by cinnamon balls.

These delicious, ganache-filled sandwiches, which have recently become the new cupcake (though I’m sure something else has in turn become the new them) have always been “macarons”.

In fact, of course, the two are the same – and the latter feature two of the former sandwiched around whatever flavoured filling (of the right consistency) you might like to pair with the shells. In spite of the reputation, I don’t think these are super-hard to get right. Have a go!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate Macaroons
 
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This makes a boatload of macaroons (see the picture) - they bake so quickly that making a huge batch is little more work than making far fewer, so you might as well go all-out. That said, I've never managed to pipe anything without making an amazing mess, and no doubt this mess rises exponentially the more you make. I think this might be the most I could manage without coating the entire kitchen with batter. Some recipes suggest almond flour rather than ground almonds - but I think these should have a nice, slightly gritty texture, so would push for the latter.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 40
Ingredients
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 250 grams ground almonds
  • 250 grams icing sugar
  • 50 grams cocoa
  • 250 grams caster sugar
  • 250 grams super-dark chocolate
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 50 grams butter (salted will add flavour)
Instructions
  1. Whisk (use the electric!) the egg whites, along with half the caster sugar at a medium speed for a couple of minutes, then even faster for a bit. Once the mixture starts to firm, add the rest of the sugar, and keep beating to stiff peaks. The stiffer it is, the more room you have to 'lose air' as you fold this is, so take your time. It should look glossy and brilliant white.
  2. Mix the ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder, and fold into the egg whites with a large spoon, using a figure of eight action, until completely incorporated.
  3. With a piping bag, pipe large-marble-sized blobs onto baking paper, leaving space for these to flatten themselves. You'll probably need several batches, so have a large table or surface to lay out a number of lots ready to bake.
  4. Important: leave the blobs to sit for 25 minutes, until slightly drier.
  5. Bake on a baking tray for 12 minutes at 165 degrees C. Be brave about believing that they are done at this point.
  6. After cooling for ten minutes, the shells should be easy to lift and set aside.
  7. For the ganache, melt the chocolate in a bain marie (a bowl sat atop a pan of boiling water), add the cream and stir quickly to mix in. Add the butter, and stir this in too. Allow to cool until thick enough to spoon, but not set.
  8. Press the tip of your thumb into the flat side of a shell to make extra space for ganache, and generously add ganache, pressing another (intact) shell on top. Twisting may help to spread the filling evenly.
  9. Refridgerate overnight before serving (oh, go on, you can have one!) and store up to a week (genuinely) in the fridge in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before eating.

 

Swiss Millionaire Shortbread

I love millionaire shortbread – but I only recently discovered just how easy it is to make. In fact, shortbread is such a cinch that I can’t understand why anyone would buy it.

The vanilla brings out the taste – and who wouldn’t use salted caramel now we’ve all been made aware of its existence?

Hat tip to BBC Recipes for the basic mould of this one, though I use vanilla essence rather than pods (who can afford / find them easily?) – and I make it Swiss by using Toblerone, an easy way to make yours stand out.

The certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted, and it’s not guilt-free, but sure to go down well.

Swiss Millionaire Shortbread
 
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Recipe type: Treat
Serves: 20
Ingredients
For the shortcake:
  • 175g butter
  • 225g flour
  • 75g sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
For the caramel:
  • 400ml tin condensed milk (though, oddly, it's generally sold in 397ml tins - anyone know why?)
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200g butter
To top:
  • 400g Toblerone (I used the normal milk one, that comes in the golden box)
Instructions
  1. Rub together 175g butter, flour, sugar, vanilla essence, until it’s dough. Press into a 23cm square tin, prick all over with a fork.
  2. Bake for 5 mins at 175 degrees, then 35 mins at 150 until golden brown (though still a little soft). Allow to cook for ten minutes.
  3. Heat condensed milk, golden syrup and salt. Add 200g butter slowly, then boil for ten minutes stirring constantly. Where the sugar ‘catches’ at the bottom it will become dark brown, but will mix back in, making a dark golden brown caramel. Pour the caramel over the shortbread, and cool in the fridge.
  4. Melt Toblerone in a bain marie (pyrex bowl on top of simmering pan of water) and pour over the caramel. Cool outside the fridge and cut while the chocolate is still not rock solid – this will allow you to create squares without cracking.