Chocolate caramel tarts and I have kind of a long history. About 10 years ago I read about this caramel chocolate bar, in Bon Appetit, and became mildly obsessed. The recipe, like all those I hold near and dear, was super easy, calling for a simple shortbread crust, a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk-based caramel, and a chocolate topping sprinkled with sea salt. I made this recipe a lot, and even developed a version of it (the “twix bar”) for baked. Cut to a couple of thanksgivings ago when my cousin shared her recipe for apple sour cherry pie with me, and inadvertently included her recipe for a chocolate, pecan, and caramel tart in her email.
Her tart recipe made me think of my beloved bar (obvs), and I immediately switched Thanksgiving dessert gears, made the tart, and tabled the pie. Big surprise, it was a huge hit (think large piece of turtle candy). So much so, in fact, that when working on a recipe development job several months later, I developed a caramel chocolate tart (sans pecans) inspired by my cousin’s candy-like one, and learned much about said tart’s iconic status along the way. The caramel chocolate tart was (supposedly) first created by Claudia Fleming at gramercy tavern (and is found in her book) and a version of it is served nightly at Brooklyn’s Marlowe and Son, to much acclaim.
Iconic or not, this holiday season it seemed like high-time to put my stamp on this tasty and popular treat. Here’s what I knew: my crust would be cookie-based like my cousin’s recipe, and not a chocolate sweet-tart dough like the Claudia Fleming/Marlowe ones. I chose digestive biscuits over graham crackers, however, as digestives are my personal fave for crusts. Said crust would be coated in bittersweet chocolate (again, like my cousin’s recipe). My caramel would have a bit of sweetened condensed milk in it (like in the bar, described above, that I was so fond of). Milk chocolate (and sea salt) would top the tart. What I didn’t know is how I would make the tart stand out. That is, until I looked in my pantry for inspiration and focused in on a box of Rice Krispies . . . . The combo seemed so brilliant and yet so obvious — a caramel krispy filling?? Genius. But would it work? Would the Rice Krispies get soggy? Would they retain their cripiness in the caramel?
I hightailed it my computer to see if others had concluded that caramel and breakfast cereal were a match made in heaven, and if they had, to see how things had unfolded. Testing and tinkering began in earnest, and I could not have been more pleased. The Rice Krispies perfectly cut the sweetness of the two chocolates and the caramel (which also benefited from a hefty glug of vanilla and Maldon sea salt). Plus, the Rice Krispies gave the tart the most amazing and unexpected texture. My recipe is easy (just the way I like them), not terribly time-consuming, and the perfect combo of sweet, salt, and crunch. Think watchamacallit bar (without the peanut butter) and think yum.
Caramel Chocolate Krispy Tart
For the Crust
- 10 digestive biscuits a generous 1 1/3 cup
- 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
- 7 Tbsp salted butter melted (if using unsalted butter, add 1/8 tsp salt)
- 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate melted (I used the microwave, and heated it in 20 second intervals, stirring after each interval)
For The Caramel
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 5 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 to 2 tsp flaky sea salt
- 3 cups crispy rice cereal
For the Milk Chocolate Ganache
- 3/4 cup milk chocolate melted
- 3 Tbsp heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- flaky sea salt for sprinkling
To Make The Crust
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Combine the biscuits and sugar in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add warm melted butter and pulse until moist clumps form, scraping down the bowl as needed. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, and firmly press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the pan. If needed, use the bottom of a one cup dry measuring cup to help you achieve a flat, even bottom and sides.
- Freeze the crust until firm, at least 30 minutes. Bake the crust until golden and fragrant, about 8 minutes, rotating after 4. If the crust puffs up at all while baking, simply press it down with your fingers or a measuring cup. Set aside to cool completely on a rack.
- Once cool, pour the melted bittersweet chocolate into the crust, and using a small offset spatula, or similar utensil, spread the chocolate evenly over the bottom of the crust. Place in the fridge or freezer to firm up while you make the caramel.
To Make The Caramel
- Combine the cream, sweetened condensed milk, and butter in a small sauce pan and place over low heat to warm.
- Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized sauce pan and stir gently. Place the pan over medium-high heat, and cook the mixture without stirring, lifting the pan and swirling the mixture periodically to ensure the sugar cooks evenly. Once the mixture begins to caramelize, and becomes a light amber color, about 8 to 10 minutes, you may remove it from the heat if the color is to your liking. if you like a darker caramel, with almost a burnt flavor, continue to cook the sugar until it reaches a dark amber color.
- Remove the pot from the heat, carefully add the warm cream, condensed milk mixture, and stir. The caramel may seize up at this point, but once it is returned to the heat, it will smooth out again. Return the pan to the heat and stir the caramel until smooth. Attach a candy thermometer and cook the caramel until the thermometer reads about 220°F. Immediately add the vanilla, salt, and rice cereal to the caramel and stir to incorporate. Pour the caramel krispy mixture into the cooled, chocolate-coated crust until the caramel is almost flush with the edge of the crust (you will have about a cup of caramel left-over for eating straight from the fridge or drizzling on ice cream). Refrigerate (or freeze) the tart in order to set the caramel, about an hour.
- Once the caramel has set-up, make the milk chocolate ganache. Combine the chocolate, cream and salt in a small microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 15 to 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate over the cool caramel, and spread the chocolate almost to the crust — I like to leave a border of caramel peaking out between the chocolate and the crust. Refrigerate for about an hour until the chocolate has set. sprinkle with sea salt and serve.