Maybe it’s my German heritage, but I’ve always had a yen for a good German chocolate cake – meaning, the kind with a nice crumbly chocolate sponge and plenty of ooey gooey caramel-pecan-coconut frosting. I had the idea that maybe those same flavors could be brought together in a smaller, more afternoon tea-friendly tartlet form.
I pulled this tartlet together from several different recipes, which I’ll reference below. But I gotta say, when it all comes together, it makes for a delicious bite! The combination of dark – almost bitter – chocolate pastry, crunchy pecans in a luscious caramel, toasty coconut in a light brown-sugar whipped cream melds together great in the mouth.
Given the different layers of flavor, there are some steps to pulling it together. For me, however, it was worth it!
I started by making my caramel first – the day before in fact. I love recipes that have the flexibility to make elements ahead of actual assembly, like this one.
The tart base is pretty straightforward to put together; I used the food processor for it, so it was fast.
I made one batch of dough, and had enough for 24 small, mini tarts (2 inches across the top; Wilton has a pan for this), and two additional five-inch tart forms that I had on hand.
I take about half of the caramel and mix in the toasted pecans. I keep the extra caramel in a little jar in the fridge for using on ice cream or anything else that caramel can improve!
This is pretty basic whipped cream, only with brown sugar for a richer flavor, and vanilla and toasted coconut. I didn’t find it needed any further kind of stabilizing. The only thing I might do differently next time is chop down the toasted chocolate just a bit more so it is less likely to clog up the piping tip.
I’m a big fan of a little chocolate embellishment, which you can probably tell if you look at other things I make! There’s something special about taking the time for this additional touch that just pretties up one’s afternoon tea dessert. And you can use any kind of chocolate, make any kind of shape – just requires a steady hand!
Some pictures of my assembly process:
For the base recipes that I pulled from, many thanks to the following for the building blocks: Holly at Spend with Pennies for the one-ingredient caramel; Chef Development.com for the dark chocolate shortcrust pastry; and Jessica at Butter with a Side of Bread for the brown sugar whipped cream idea.
Update from original posting: I forgot to add previously that you can make these a day ahead, if you’re serving at an afternoon tea. They keep just fine, even the whipped cream topping. Just store them in an airtight container in the fridge, and you’re good to go!
German Chocolate Tartlets
For the pastry:
- 175 g. flour
- 50 g. cocoa powder (I used Dutch processed)
- 50 g. powdered sugar
- 140 g. butter
- 3 egg yolks
- 20 ml. water
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- pinch of salt
- To make the pastry: Sift and place the dry ingredients in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse just to combine the butter and flour together, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- 1 4 oz. can sweetened condensed milk; and
- 1/2 c. toasted, chopped pecans
- 1 pint heavy cream (8 oz.)
- Generous 1/4 c. light brown sugar (packed)
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla or vanilla paste
- 1/2 c. toasted sweetened coconut for mixing in the whipped cream, additional to sprinkle over the top of the tartlets
Once you have achieved a breadcrumb texture, add the egg yolks, water and vanilla to the flour and butter and continue to mix until the pastry start to come together. Remove the pastry from the mixer and using your hands, lightly work the pastry together until a smooth ball is formed. Wrap the dough tightly in cling film and chill for an hour.
To cook the pastry: Preheat the oven to 375º F (190º C; or gas mark 4). Roll the pastry out (using flour as needed) to a 5mm thickness and use a round biscuit cutter slightly larger than the top of the mini tart shape to cut out circles to form the tarts. Use another small ball of dough to press down the circles into the tart forms. Prick the bottoms of the pastry with a fork. Chill the pastry for 30 minutes, to help prevent shrinking and cracking during cooking.
Line the pastry case with parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind about 10 minutes, then remove the beans and return to the oven for about another 10 minutes. Check about 5 minutes in to make sure it’s not getting overly dark; not every oven heats the same.
For the caramel, there are basically the two ingredients:
Start by preheating the oven to 425º F. Pour one can of the sweetened condensed milk into a glass dish or pipe plate, making sure you have another dish of similar shape slightly larger for the water bath.
Cover the milk with foil. Then place the foil-covered milk in a larger pan and fill to 3/4″ with water. (You may want to put into the oven and pour the water in while it’s on the rack, if you have issues transferring to the oven without spilling – as I do! Keep an eye on the water level while baking, in case you need to add more water while baking.)
Bake this 60-90 minutes or until condensed milk has reached a golden brown color. Cool completely.
The caramel makes enough you can set aside half of it, and mix the pecans with the other half. In assembling the tartlets, I put a little bit of the plain caramel in before adding a dollop with pecans. In the small tartlets, I filled them about 3/4 full with the pecan-caramel mixture.
For the whipped cream:
Whip the cold heavy cream in a stand mixer with a whisk. Get the cream at least to soft peaks before slowly adding the sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla, and continue to beat a bit more until stiff enough peaks to pipe.
Add toasted coconut to the cream and put in a piping bag with a large hole (I used a star shape) to pipe into the tarts on top of the caramel/pecans. You could chop the coconut down slightly in size so it won’t clog up the piping bag.
To toast the coconut: I like to toast mine in the oven, 350º F for 8-10 minutes – just stir and check every few minutes to make sure it doesn’t overbrown.
To toast the pecans: Similarly, I just put in the oven for 8-10 minutes at 350º F, stirring a couple of times and checking closely so they don’t burn. Once you start smelling them, it’s usually a sign they’re toasted.
To make the chocolate embellishments for the top: I simply melt my favorite semi-sweet chocolate (Ghirardelli) in the microwave – I do it in 15-second spurts, stirring in between each time, until it’s smooth and no chip bits remain (usually ends up at about 86-87º F). I don’t worry about whether it’s tempered or not for my purposes.
Then just put the melted chocolate into a piping bag and snip a tiny cut in the end of the bag (I don’t use a tip for this). Lay out food-grade acetate on a cookie or jelly roll sheet and pipe out chocolate embellishments in any shape and size you want. Let them dry and firm before using on your tarts. (I put in the fridge to make sure they firm up and have had no issues with the look of the chocolate.)
To assemble the tarts: Put a dab of the caramel/pecan mixture in the bottom of the tart forms (for the larger tarts, spread it around). Pipe some of the whipped cream/coconut on top of that. Sprinkle a little of the extra coconut on the top, and finish off with a chocolate embellishment. Serve and enjoy!
So whether you make mini-tarts or a larger tartlet….I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
(Oh, and thanks to Anokhi USA for the beautiful table cloth!)