I posted a throwaway remark about baking caramel tarts on our Facebook page last week and the comments came tumbling in immediately. If there is such a thing as a food radar, surely caramel tarts can be spotted at a 250km distance.
For years I made them with shortcrust pastry, but then I stumbled across the recipe using butternut biscuits as a base and my fate was sealed. And then I added sea salt to the tops of the caramel and I think, just quietly, I have a recipe here that should be raised to hero status.
There’s no quiet way to enjoy these. They are worth every groan of delight given to them, a hedonistic combination of caramel, chocolate, honeyed biscuit and sea salt. I’ll stop now before I drool all over the keyboard.
1 x 200g tin condensed milk*; 250g Butternut Snap biscuits (or make your own from the recipe below); 2 tsp ground ginger; 100g butter, melted; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 125g dark chocolate, melted; sea salt (optional) for topping
Place tin of condensed milk in a saucepan and pour enough water into the pan to come two-thirds up the sides of the tin. Bring to a simmer, cover the saucepan with a lid and slowly simmer the condensed milk, in the tin, for the next two hours. From time to time you may have to top up the water. Remove tin and allow to cool to room temperature, unopened, over the next hour or so.
Brush a 12 cup patty pan tin or tart tray with a little melted butter (you can also make these in a muffin tray, however this amount will only make 8). Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and crunch until they are the consistency of coarse sand. Add ginger, vanilla and melted butter and pulse until combined.
Divide biscuit mixture evenly between the tart tins or patty pans and press the mixture firmly into the base and sides of the tins. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Put a spoonful of melted chocolate in each tart case and evenly spread all over the base and side. Refrigerate again until firm.Open the cooled tin of condensed milk – you will find a very thick dark caramel in the tin. Tip it into a bowl and whisk it briefly to loosen it up and smooth it out, then place a spoonful of caramel into each chocolate lined tart base.
If you want a completely over the top finale, sprinkle the caramel with a little sea salt flakes just before serving – it must be sea salt, rock salt simply won’t give the same crunch or sweetness. Serve immediately or keep cool in an airtight container.
* Condensed milk is often packaged in a tin with a ring-pull top and for a while, there was a concern that one couldn’t use them in boiling water for making caramel as before without the risk of exploding the tops. I have simmered them this way over the last few years and found that, simmered gently, there is no problem with cooking the milk in the tin as we have enjoyed doing for generations. As always with this activity, watch the water levels in the saucepan and don’t leave it unattended.
$6.50 for 12 tarts (slightly less if you make your own biscuits)
Makes 20 -24 biscuits