While summer in Greece probably stretches a bit further than in most of Europe, our weather has also turned recently. It is still fairly warm, but really, really windy, which is the taste of impending winter, Greek island-style.
In some ways, winter here is quite tough. After the craze of summer, the place gets so empty and shut down that it would be depressing if not for the amazing nature around us. Winter (and the peak of Greek summer) also tends to sabotage my running plans. Every time I get into a steady running routine and quietly congratulate myself on sticking with it, a week of 24 m/h (40km/h) winds appear on the horizon and I’m back to square one.
In other ways though, I’m looking forward to winter. For starters, cooking in relentless heat can be quite challenging so a bit of cooler weather makes it a much more pleasant pastime. Another thing I am looking forward to are cold winter evenings spent under a warm blanket with a cat sleeping next to me, catching up on favourite shows and enjoying some nice wine and food, including more decadent desserts like these vegan chocolate and salted caramel tarts.
Ever since I started working on this recipe, Duncan has become a massive fan of these little tarts. Whenever, after a tasting, I decided that I am not 100% happy with the end result (be it looks, consistency or balance of flavours), he was secretly very happy that there will be a few more iterations of this dessert appearing in front of him.
He is very particular when it comes to desserts. He hates typical vegan desserts (or what most people think of when they hear ‘vegan dessert’) with a passion. He says all kinds of energy balls, vegan slices and raw brownies (ahem), etc. remind him of baby food. Nice! He loves the kind of desserts that you would have hard time believing were vegan if someone hadn’t told you. He says that the world doesn’t need any more energy balls, it needs elegant and decadent desserts that just happen to be vegan. He reckons that you guys will go crazy for these!
- 120 g white all purpose flour
- a pinch of salt
- 6 level tsp icing sugar
- 6 level tsp raw cacao powder
- 40 ml / 2½ tbsp olive oil
- 20-30 ml / 1½-2 tbsp water (at room temperature)
- ½ cup sugar (I used brown raw cane)
- ½ cup full fat coconut milk + ¼ cup (see instructions)
- ¾ level tsp fine salt
- Sift flour, icing sugar and cacao into a mixing bowl. Add olive oil and rub it into the dry ingredients with your hands. Finally add water – be careful, do it gradually – how much water you’ll need depends on how absorbent your flour is (mine needed 25 ml). Combine all the ingredients into a dough gently, but do not knead. Wrap it in a piece of cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 mins.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and divide into 4 portions. Place each portion of the dough between two sheets of baking paper and roll gently until you get a rough circle, about 2-3 mm in thickness. (Below a photo from another tart recipe illustrates how to line tart moulds with shortcrust pastry).
- Put each rolled-out pastry over each mould and and work the pastry into the mould making sure it reaches all nooks and crannies. Once you are happy with the coverage, trim off the excess pastry with a sharp knife. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork in a few places. Place the pastry in the fridge for about 60 mins.
- 45 min into pastry chilling time, preheat the oven to 175° C / 350° F. Line the pastry cases with a small piece of baking paper and fill with baking beads.
- Blind bake the pastry for 15 mins, then remove the beads and bake for another 5 mins. Cool pastry cases down completely before pouring any of the filling in.
- Spread an even layer of sugar at the bottom of a dry pan or pot. Heat up sugar on a medium heat (I used setting 3 out of 6). Refrain from stirring it, although if your pan has hot spots, you may need to gently manoeuvre unmelted sugar into a hot spot. Meanwhile, warm up ½ cup of coconut milk in a separate pot.
- Once all the sugar has melted, let the sugar caramelise and darken slightly (it will happen quite quickly so be careful not to burn it). The darker the caramel the less sweet it will be. Once the sugar achieves the colour you are after, take the pan off the heat and slowly stir in warmed up coconut milk and then add salt. Be very careful as even though warming milk up minimises this, caramel may be splattering at this point and it will be very hot.
- There is a chance that once you add coconut milk, some of the caramel will harden into big lumps. What you need to do is to return the pan to the stove and set on a very low setting (I used 2 out of 6) to allow these lumps to melt away. Make sure you keep on stirring the mixture. Now, because the longer you cook your caramel sauce the more sticky and less sauce-like it will become, if you do need to bring it back to the stove to melt any stubborn lumps, add another ¼ cup / 60 ml of coconut milk to the pan to ensure that once your lumps have dissolved the caramel will retain sauce consistency. Do not panic if it appears to be too runny at first, caramel thickens as it cools down. If it does end up being too runny, place the pan back on the stove an reduce the caramel gently to thicken the sauce.
- Melt the chocolate very slowly (I used setting 1 out of 6) over a water bath. Once melted, remove from heat, but keep the bowl with chocolate over the hot water. Start adding coconut milk whisking gently the whole time. At this point the chocolate may seem to have seized a little, don’t worry, keep on whisking gently and any lumps will eventually melt away. Once you have added all coconut milk, add water stirring the whole time.
- Once you have a smooth ganache, add 2 tsp of maple syrup – this is not strictly necessary as I find that bitter chocolate provides a nice contrast against very sweet caramel, but that’s up to you.
- Let it cool off completely before pouring it into cool pastry cases.
- Pour about a level tbsp of cool caramel sauce into cool (that’s important) pastry cases.
- Pour cool chocolate ganache on top of the caramel. Let the tarts set for a few hours at room temperature. You can also put them into the fridge if you want be able to eat them sooner.
- If you want to store these overnight, I found that the best way to do it is to keep them in a box covered with a piece of cling film at room temperature (as opposed to the fridge).