January 18, 2003
Candy Bar Tart
posted by Carl
candy bar tart

I originally saw this tart in Book of Tarts by Maury Rubin of the City Bakery in New York. At the time, I was astounded by the simple, elegant beauty of the pictures, but was only vaguely interested in actually baking these for myself. More recently though, I read the last chapter of the new Steingarten book where he talks about gold standard recipes that should be used as a baseline for others. These recipes aren't meant to be simply 'good enough,' but rather to embody the 'best so far'. In Steingarten's opinion, "If a baker, at home or in commerce, cannot make better pastry than Maury [Rubin's], he or she should simply follow Maury's recipe or throw in the towel and find other work."

Whenever I read a Jeffrey Steingarten article, I usually get excited about trying out the recipes or techniques he writes about. (This has happened before with pizza, bread, and will happen again sometime soon with potato gratin.) The tart dough was instantly intriguing to me, much more so than when I had leafed through the actual tart book. I was also excited about getting the beautiful stainless steel flan rings with rolled edges that the recipe requires.

We had some leftover caramel sauce in the fridge from who knows when that was just taking up space. I remembered reading in the tart book about a tart that was styled after a Milky Way candy bar: a layer of caramel covered by a layer of light and fluffy nougat. The nougat in this case turns out to be chocolate whipped cream. I have another 'cookbook' that has recipes to recreate brand name foods including Milky Way bars; their nougat requires beating egg whites into melted sugar and is probably more authentic. The simpler recipe seemed like the way to go -- at least this time.

Actually making the tart dough was quite easy. Getting the dough into a good shape in the metal rings was a bit tricky, but I eventually got the hang of it. The recipe makes enough dough for eight tart shells and, since I had found a good, cheap source for the flan rings, I rolled and shaped all eight of them. I didn't have eight people coming for desert, but fortunately, you can keep the unbaked shells in the freezer for months and just pop directly in the oven to bake. I now have three leftover shells in the freezer waiting for another filling.

I cooked the tart shells for almost twice as long as what was called for in the recipe. I kept them in the oven for so long because they looked pale and undercooked. When I finally removed them from the oven, the tart shells were a dark golden color and had a toasty smell. A little bit longer and they would have started to burn. Their flavor was also affected by the longer oven time. Instead of being light and neutral, they tasted nutty and toasted, reminiscent of browned butter.

In addition to being delicious, the tart shells were also very fragile. After baking, the inside corner between the wall and floor of the tart shell was cracked and had some holes, almost appearing perforated. In fact, I broke one of the shells as I was transferring it off of the baking sheet. This holes in the corners proved to be problematic again as I tried to put in the first layer of caramel sauce. I was originally pouring the caramel sauce into the tart shells as they rested on a cooling rack but, with the fragile, hole-ridden corners, much of the sauce cam streaming right back out. It was much easier to fill the shells on the plates where they would be served. Any caramel that dripped out would be stopped by the plate and might even serve to cement the tart in place once it cooled and hardened.

Once the caramel had cooled, the tarts seemed much more secure and filling them with the milk chocolate whipped cream was easy. I turns out that I was lucky in overbaking the shells, because the tasted, nutty flavor of the shell excellently complemented the complex flavors of the caramel. The chocolate whipped cream with decadently rich and silky smooth. Although the recipe described this as a Milky Way tart, I thought it tasted more like a Twix with the combination of shortbread-like tart shell and caramel. These tarts were so good that they far outclassed the dinner of roasted duck that preceded them. Just looking at the picture makes me salivate remembering the wonderful flavor. Unfortunately, the book appears to be out of print but hopefully it will be reprinted.