Caramel week: white chocolate, ginger caramel and macadamia tarts
I couldn’t make the technical challenge for caramel week on The Great British Bake Off. The stroopwafels required a waffle maker. I don’t have one and I wasn’t going to get one. It’s not that they’re particularly expensive, it’s just that they take up room. If I bought one, I’d attempt the stroopwafels, probably fail, and the waffle maker would take up cupboard space for years, along with the low-fat fryer thing and the fondue set.
I had a flick through my books to find something that sounded nice and involved caramel and found a recipe for caramelised white chocolate, ginger caramel and macadamia tarts in Edd Kimber’s Patisserie Made Simple, which is also available on the BBC Goodfood website.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recipe this long. It involved five separate elements: sweet pastry, ginger macadamia caramel, caramelised pears, caramelised white chocolate bavarois and caramelised white chocolate glaze. Two of those (the bavarois and the glaze) required caramelised white chocolate which, in itself, needed its own recipe. I needed a lie down after just reading it.
Sweet Pastry – Pâte Sucrée
I started with the pastry by scraping the seeds from a vanilla pod into a bowl with plain flour, ground almonds, icing sugar and a pinch of salt. I added very cold diced butter and mixed it with my pastry blender until my mixture looked like breadcrumbs.
After smashing one egg, I added an egg yolk and mixed. The yolk wasn’t enough to bring the mixture together, so I added a bit of iced water (probably a couple of teaspoons) and I had my pastry dough. I wrapped it up in clingfilm and put it into the fridge.
Now, the recipe makes eight tarts using individual 8cm tart rings. I don’t have any small individual tins. I did look for some, but I couldn’t find any. It was also a bit extravagant to buy eight tart rings for what could turn out to be just one recipe. As well as the tart tins, I needed some silicone dome moulds. If I was making the 8cm tarts my domes needed to be 7cm. I couldn’t find any of those either. There were some really small ones though, so I bought those and decided to make my tarts in a jam tart tin.
I blind baked the tarts at 160° fan for 15 minutes with baking beans and another 10 without. So far, so good.
Caramelised white chocolate
This was the recipe within the recipe. I needed it to add to the bavarois, and to make a glaze. The recipe looked pretty easy. All I needed to do was to break up a couple of bars of white chocolate, put them onto a baking tray and into a low oven for an hour, stirring every ten minutes.
I had three attempts.
I burnt the caramel. I wasn’t sure what I was aiming for you see. The recipe says that, during the caramelisation process, the mixture will change in appearance. Sometimes it will be smooth and glossy and sometimes thick and grainy. I didn’t really know what I was supposed to end up with. Runny, melted chocolate, or something a bit more solid? My chocolate went from this after ten minutes,
to this, at the end of the hour.
I tasted it. It was burnt. I couldn’t really pretend that it was just a lovely autumnal bonfire night taste. It was definitely burnt. I was going to have to make it again. It was only then that I noticed Edd Kimber’s top tip on making caramelised white chocolate. You have to use decent chocolate. I had stood in front of the chocolate in Tesco that morning and decided to go for Tesco’s own white cooking chocolate rather than spending double the cash on Green & Blacks. A false economy.
I didn’t fancy another trip to Tesco for more white chocolate. I was only on step two of the recipe and needed to crack on. The Asda garage at the end of the road didn’t have any, neither did the local Spar. They didn’t even have Milky Bar. The local CostCutter did though and I was almost at the till with a couple of bars when I noticed that they had Smarties in them. Smarties in Milky Bar? Really? Luckily, as I put them back, I noticed some Menier white chocolate. I bought enough to allow for a second and third attempt at the caramel.
It still wasn’t clear to me how my chocolate should look like after its hour in the oven. I did look it up on Google, but some pictures were of chocolate that had melted completely and some that, like mine, was solid and crumbly. It might be best to judge my taste.
I put my second batch into the oven and, when I had something that was the colour of caramel, and tasted like caramel I stopped. I was going to have to melt it when I needed to use it, but hey, that I could do easily in the microwave. This was where I failed. The chocolate was in the microwave at a very low heat but I didn’t keep enough of an eye on it. It was only when I started wondering what the burning smell was that I noticed that it had gone black and started to smoke.
My third batch of chocolate caramelised in the same way as the second. I didn’t have a smooth and glossy caramel. Just chunks of caramel-coloured chocolate. It tasted OK though and, this time, I didn’t go near the microwave. I put a couple of tablespoons of cream into it and heated it up very slowly on the hob. This time I had something that I could pour, and it did taste really good. I’m not sure whether I got it right, but it was right enough.
I melted butter and light brown sugar in a saucepan and, once the mixture was bubbling, I added some diced Conference pears. I cooked them until they were soft then left the mixture to cool.
Once the pears were cool, I put them into my silicone dome mould and popped them into the freezer for an hour. Once they’d frozen into the dome shapes, I turned them out and put them back into the freezer on a baking tray until I needed them.
Caramelised White Chocolate Bavarois
Bavarois, according to wikipedia, is custard thickened with gelatin. I haven’t had much experience with gelatin. I did use it when I made a fridge-set banana cheesecake in the summer and I ended up with a cheesecake laden with chunks of the stuff. It was awful.
I whisked egg yolks (this time I managed without breaking any) and caster sugar in a bowl and heated some milk in a pan. When the milk started to boil, I poured it over the egg and sugar mix, making sure that I kept whisking. I put the mixture back into the pan and stirred. Unfortunately, I think the pan must have been too hot and my custard started to curdle. I plunged it into cold water and kept stirring but it didn’t really work.
There wasn’t time and, to be honest, I didn’t have the energy to start again, so I decided to carry on. I put the custard into a bowl, added some of the caramelised white chocolate which, if you remember, I’d melted with a bit of cream, and, finally, squeezed the water out of the gelatin and added that. After giving the mixture a really, really good stir, I covered it with clingfilm and left it to cool. Once the custard had cooled and started to set around the edge, I folded in some whipped cream.
I wasn’t quite sure about the next step. I was supposed half fill the silicone moulds with the custard, put the frozen pears into the centre and put more custard over the top. My pears were the same size as the moulds so, however I did this, I was going to end up with overflowing moulds. I put a bit of custard into the bottom of the moulds, put the pear in, and then tried to cover the pear with the custard. It seemed to work, although I was going to end up with very rough-bottomed domes. I decided to put them into the freezer and work out how best to deal with them later.
Ginger Macadamia Caramel
I’d toasted some chopped macadamia nuts after taking the pastry out of the oven. They had 10 minutes at 160° fan and came out just on the right side of burnt. I also heated up some cream with some root ginger. When the cream started to boil, I took it off the heat and left the ginger to infuse for an hour before straining it.
The actual caramel was the thing I was most worried about. I attempted it before when I made caramels and a caramel apple cake. Neither had been complete disasters, although I would class them as resounding successes either.
To make the caramel this time, I melted some caster sugar in a pan. I resisted the urge to stir, and, instead, gave the pan a couple of good swirls. When the sugar was fairly dark, I took it off the heat and slowly added half of the cream. The recipe says that, at this point, the mixture will bubble up violently. My mixture wasn’t doing this. It didn’t bubble until I started to stir the cream in, then it really got going. Once it had settled down again, I added the rest of the cream, some butter and most of the macadamia nuts. I was fairly pleased with the result. My caramel wasn’t burnt (which was my main fear), my main worry was that it tasted too strongly of ginger.
Caramelised White Chocolate Glaze
The last thing to make, before assembling the tarts was the glaze. This was a mixture of cream and caramelised white chocolate. I heated some whipping cream and simply poured it over my the caramelised chocolate. After the trauma of my three attempts at getting the chocolate right, making the glaze was a walk in the park.
After what seemed like a week in the kitchen, I was ready to assemble. I filled my tart cases with the macadamia caramel, then went to get the bavarois domes out of the freezer. They were stuck to the shelf above. I swore a bit and prised them off with a palette knife. When the domes came out of the mould they were lovely and smooth on the dome side, and very rough and ready underneath. My thinking was that if I pushed them down far enough into the caramel, no one would notice.
I put the domes onto a wire rack and poured the glaze over them. Once they were covered, I used the palette knife to lift them off the rack and put them on top of the tarts. I made a few finger prints in the glaze but nothing too drastic.
I finished off by putting chopped macadamia nuts around the base of the domes. Here they are, the final tarts.
They were a but rough around the edges, and I did need a lie down and G&T after I’d finished, but finish them I had and, I think they looked OK.
Was it Worth It?
It’s a difficult question. The tarts tasted OK. The pastry was good, I’d managed to make caramel without burning it, and a bavarois that didn’t have enormous chunks of gelatin in it. I’d also, after three goes, got the hang of caramelised white chocolate. On the downside, I thought that the caramel tasted too strongly of ginger and my husband thought it was too nutty. Neither of us could really taste the pears, and the whole thing had taken a very, very long time. There are some elements of the recipe that I think I will use again, but whether I’ll ever make this exact recipe is pretty doubtful. It’s too exhausting.