Early morning is my favourite time of the day. On a sleepy weekday, when the sun is still just a watery wash over your head, and the night time chill in the air still lingers, I love to wander around and revel in the tranquillity - the calm before the storm of another day comes rushing past.
This week, I took an entire day to bake something completely out of the blue. Without recipe or guidance, I drove down to the shops on quiet roads, and bought ingredients that I wanted to combine. I took my time to wander the aisles and finally settled on some good white chocolate, eager to augment it’s sweet intensity by caramelisation.
I’d seen this technique explored by the wonderful Emma of Poires au Chocolat, but broke up the milky white bar with trepidation, and placed it into the oven with a prayer. I was so curious to see how the dry heat of the oven would affect the texture, but was pleasantly surprised that rather than encountering a dehydrated chocolate mess when I opened the oven, I was greeted by a scent reminiscent of buerre noisette, a comforting, nutty, biscuity aroma, and a deepening ochre shade.
The natural accompaniment to white chocolate to me seemed to be tart raspberries, providing a burst of refreshing juice and the crunch of seeds to each bite. Creamy pistachios, with their vibrant green hue, added some bite and visual appeal, and the wafer thin pastry case a sweet cradle for all my ingredients to come together.
Having bought a glut of plump, red raspberries to decorate this dish, I had so many left over that I stowed them away in the freezer for a couple of hours whilst I baked. Once removed, they were quickly blended into a smooth ice cream with a dash of cream, a drop of vanilla extract and a sprinkle of icing sugar, a method so simple that it barely consistutes a recipe – add, taste, and adjust until it is perfection, and serve alongside the tart to cleanse the palate.
caramelised white chocolate tart plumful
For the filling
100g good quality white chocolate
100ml double cream
75g cream cheese
1 tbsp icing sugar
A good pinch of best sea salt
For the pastry case
75g cold butter
75g plain flour
Pinch of salt
15g icing sugar
100g fresh raspberries
Handful of chopped pistachios
A drizzle of caramelised white chocolate
To caramelise the chocolate, break it into small pieces and place in an ovenproof dish. Place in an ovenproof dish, and bake in an oven, preheated to 120 degrees Celsius. Remove from the oven and stir the chocolate every five minutes for 40 mins in total, or until the chocolate is a deep ochre colour. Stir in the salt. Leave to cool in the dish whilst preparing the other components of the tart.
For the pastry, rub the butter into the flour in a cold bowl until a fine breadcrumb consistency is achieved. Avoid overworking, or a tough pastry be produced. Add the sugar, and stir with a fork to distribute. Finally, mix ice cold water into the pastry in 2tbsp amounts until a smooth ball of pastry is formed. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 15 minutes. Finally, roll out to a thickness of 2-3mm on a lightly floured surface, and transfer to a fluted tart tin. Line the pastry case with parchment paper and fill with ceramic baking beans or rice, and blind bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes, before removing the beans and baking for a further 15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven to cool and harden, before removing from the tin.
Beat the cream cheese to a smooth consistency with a whisk, before adding the cream and sugar, and beating until soft peaks form. Fold in roughly 80g of the caramelised white chocolate, when it is lukewarm and still liquid and pliable. Pour into the pastry case, and spread evenly. Decorate with raspberries, and drizzle with remaining caramelised chocolate (melt using banne Marie technique if it has begun to set) and sprinkle chopped pistachios over to finish. Best eaten after a couple of hours in the fridge to set.