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Recipe: Four-Layer Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

Nancy Silverton’s latest book is out later this week

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four-layer salted caramel chocolate tart Christopher Hirsheimer/Knopf

Nancy Silverton may be a well-recognized restaurateur and entrepreneur, but few know that she’s also the only chef ever to be awarded both the Outstanding Chef and Outstanding Pastry Chef awards from the James Beard Foundation. This fall, she publishes her seventh book with co-author Carolyn Carreño, Mozza at Home, out later this week and available for preorder now. It follows The Mozza Cookbook, published in 2011, which outlined recipes from Los Angeles’ Pizzeria Mozza and its white tablecloth sister restaurant next door, Osteria Mozza.

Mozza at Home is a more candid and casual book than its predecessor — with the exception of one recipe. This four-layer salted chocolate caramel tart is a project, but well worth the effort. It was a collaboration between Silverton and her longtime pastry partner Dahlia Narvaez, currently the executive pastry chef for the Mozza group. Read on to learn how and why it was created, and find the full recipe below.


When we opened Chi Spacca, our meat-centric, third restaurant on the Melrose-Highland corner, Dahlia wanted to have a chocolate dessert that was as bold and aggressive and unsubtle as the meat dishes on the menu. This four-layer chocolate and caramel tart was what we came up with. It consists of four separate components: a black chocolate crust; a rise-and-fall, chewy chocolate cookie filling; a salty caramel layer dotted with cocoa nibs (just to be sure to represent chocolate in all its forms); and a chocolate ganache topping. It’s the richest dessert on earth, and it’ll kill you if you eat too much of it, but if you’re a chocolate lover and you can show restraint, it’s one of the most satisfying desserts you’ll ever eat. It’s my friend Caryl Lee’s favorite dessert at any of our restaurants, and Caryl is the opposite of a glutton; she doesn’t even have a sweet tooth, and yet she loves this dessert.

It’s definitely the most challenging dessert in the book to make, but because it is built of separate elements, all of which can be prepared in advance, it is very doable. That said, if you’re just not up for a project, this isn’t the dessert for you. Make the Bittersweet Chocolate Tartufo with Olive Oil Croutons and Sea Salt (page 365) instead. At the restaurant, we make individual round tarts, but for serving at home, we make the same dessert in the form of a long, slender rectangular tart, which guests can slice to whatever size they want.

This recipe calls for two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: Dutch process (also called black) cocoa powder and dark cocoa powder. Dutch process cocoa powder is black in color; I use it to give a deep, dark, very nearly black color to desserts. This type of cocoa powder is what I use to make my version of Oreo cookies. The problem with this cocoa powder is that if you use too much of it, your dessert will have a strange, almost mineral taste. My solution is to use a combination: dark cocoa powder for flavor and black Dutch process cocoa powder for color. If you can’t find Dutch process cocoa powder, use all cocoa powder instead; the tart shell won’t be as dark, but it will taste just as good.

This is such an elegant dessert, and because it takes some effort, I think of it as a bit of a special-occasion dessert. Serve it with Braised Oxtails (page 220), Saturday Night Chicken Thighs with Italian Sausage and Spicy Pickled Peppers (page 92), or Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chops with Mint Yogurt Sauce (page 104).

The yield on this varies greatly depending on the degree of willpower of those you are serving.

Four-Layer Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

SERVES 8 TO 20

Materials: You will need parchment paper or paper coffee filters, pie weights or rice, and a 13¾ x 4¼-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom to make this.

FOR THE TART SHELL

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup quality Dutch process (black) cocoa powder (such as Ghirardelli or another quality brand)
½ cup quality cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona or another quality brand; not Dutch process cocoa powder)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, plus more for buttering the tart pan
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 extra-large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

FOR THE FUDGE COOKIE

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup quality cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona or another quality brand; not Dutch process cocoa powder)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 extra-large egg
1 extra-large egg white
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 60% to 70% cacao), roughly chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 ½ teaspoons cocoa nibs (about ¼ ounce)

FOR THE CARAMEL

1/3 cup light corn syrup
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
1 tablespoon kosher salt

DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 60% to 70% cacao), roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
¾ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons quality cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona or another quality brand; not Dutch process cocoa powder)

To make the tart shell, pour the flour, Dutch process cocoa powder, cocoa powder, and salt into a fine-mesh strainer or sifter and sift the ingredients into a large bowl.

Combine the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream them together at medium-high speed until they’re light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Lower the mixer speed to medium, slowly add the egg yolks and vanilla, and mix until they are incorporated. Turn off the machine, add the dry ingredients, and mix at low speed until no flour is visible. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times to bring it together. Using your hands, shape the dough into a thick rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches) and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days; or freeze the dough for up to 2 months and defrost it overnight in the refrigerator.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, butter the sides and bottom of a 13¾ x 4¼-inch tart pan, and place the pan on the baking sheet.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it into a few chunks. Dust a flat work surface with flour and knead each chunk until it is the texture of Play-Doh. Bring the dough together to form one ball and pat the ball into a 1-inch-thick disk. Roll the dough out to a 17 x 7-inch rectangle, 1/8 inch to ¼ inch thick, or large enough to line the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Fold the dough in half and carefully place it in the tart pan, centering it. Unfold the sheet of dough so the edges flop over the edges of the pan. Push the dough down to fit snugly inside the mold, lifting up the edges of the dough while pressing the dough into the crease on the inside perimeter of the pan. Dip the knuckle of your index finger in flour and press the dough into the crease with your knuckle to create straight rather than sloping sides. Don’t stretch the dough to fit or it will shrink during baking. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to cut the dough. Pull off and discard the trimmed dough. Place the tart shell in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325°F.

Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator. Line the shell with parchment paper or coffee filters and weigh it down with pie weights or rice. Put the baking sheet in the oven to bake the shell until the edges of the shell look dry, about 18 minutes. Remove the tart shell from the oven and carefully remove and discard the parchment paper or coffee filters; reserve the pie weights or rice to use (as pie weights only) another time. Return the tart shell to the oven and bake until it is fully cooked, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the tart shell from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Increase the oven temperature to 350°F.

To make the fudge cookie, pour the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder into a fine-mesh strainer or sifter and sift them into a large bowl. Add the salt and stir to combine the ingredients. Make a well in the center. Add the egg and egg white to the well and whisk until the ingredients are combined. Add the chopped chocolate and cocoa nibs and use a rubber spatula to gently fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the tart shell and use a small offset spatula to spread it evenly in the shell.

Bake the filled tart shell for about 25 minutes, until the fudge cookie cracks at the center, turning the tart halfway through the baking time so it bakes evenly. Remove the tart from the oven and cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, to make the caramel, fasten a candy thermometer to the side of a medium deep saucepan (preferably one with a light-colored bottom). Put the corn syrup, granulated sugar, and 3½ tablespoons water in the saucepan and stir to combine. Cook the ingredients over high heat without stirring, tilting the pan so the sugar cooks evenly and brushing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove the sugar crystals, until the caramel reaches 248°F. Add the butter and cream and stir to incorporate it, being careful because the caramel will splatter when you add the ingredients. Turn off the heat and stir in the cocoa nibs and salt. Set the caramel aside to cool slightly, but not so much that it is no longer a pourable consistency. Use the caramel or allow it to cool completely, then refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days. Warm the caramel over low heat, stirring often, until it is a pourable consistency. Pour the caramel over the cooled fudge cookie layer of the tart. Put the tart in the refrigerator to cool the caramel completely, about 20 minutes.

To make the ganache, put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat until it begins to bubble around the edges. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow the hot cream to sit, without touching it, until the chocolate is melted, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and whisk, working your way from the center of the bowl outward, until the ingredients are combined and the ganache is smooth. Set aside to cool until the ganache is the consistency of cake frosting, about 20 minutes. (If the chocolate cools too much and is stiffer than frosting, place it over gently simmering water and whisk it to loosen the consistency. Then set it aside again until it sets to frosting consistency.)

Spoon the ganache on the tart and use the back of the spoon to spread it to cover the surface, making peaks and valleys in the ganache to give the tart a pretty, textured surface. Place the tart in the refrigerator until the ganache is set (it will lose its shiny quality), about 1 hour. You can make the tart up to 1 day in advance of serving it.

To serve, pour the cocoa powder into a fine-mesh strainer and tap the strainer over the tart to dust it lightly. Gently push the removable bottom to lift the tart out of the pan and, using a long offset spatula, gently slide the tart from the metal bottom onto a long platter or pretty wooden cutting board. Serve the tart with a cake spatula for guests to cut the size they want and serve themselves.

Excerpted from MOZZA AT HOME by Nancy Silverton with Carolyn Carreño. Copyright © 2016 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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