"Let's talk about candy," I proposed as Jeff and I lolled in our big bathtub last night. We have some of our best discussions in the tub, and if there's one thing I like to discuss, it's forgotten childhood candy. Such as!
Chuckles. Jeff did not know what these reshaped jumbo gumdrops even were, which struck me as tragic, not because Chuckles were any good but because one of my cousins (Josie? Molly? or was it my uncle Charlie?) had a beach towel emblazoned with a giant reproduction of the iconic Chuckles packaging. I remember studying the Chuckles packaging on the towel and wondering why they were not lined up in Roy G. Biv order. And was that black one supposed to be grape or licorice? It made me sad to think that Jeff had never given Chuckles a single thought, but meanwhile I had spent untold minutes puzzling over them.
Bottle Caps. Bottle Caps came in a groovy purple and green packet and boasted flavors like the surprisingly accurate root beer. Jeff enjoyed these too, and we shared a very minor bonding moment.
Fun Dip, a.k.a Lik-M-Aid. (I wish I could find an image of the original packaging.) I liked but Jeff loved this powdered candy that came in three connected pouches (with flavors like lime, cherry, and grape) accompanied by two Lik-A-Stix. Jeff spelled that out for me twice to make sure I'd get it right. Basically you likked the Stik, which was a white piece of candy, and then you dipped it into one of the pouches. The powder stuck to the Stik thanks to your saliva. Delicious! Fun Dip's thrill was gone for me once I finished junior high, but Jeff continued to obsess over it in high school, even going so far as to part the linings that separated the three pouches--a delicate, dangerous operation--thus allowing all three flavors to intermingle. Oh how I wish I would have known high school Jeff.
Which brings me to this week's candy-coated splurge item: the malted crisp tart, another big winner from Baked Explorations. Let's talk malt: specifically Whoppers. Does anyone not like these? Whenever I eat some, I wonder why I am not eating them every day, all day.
Sidebar! My eating method is as follows: warm Whopper in mouth, create small incision in chocolate that exposes the malt, rotate exposed malt area to tip of tongue, suck. Give it a try and see if I'm not absolutely right about this. End of sidebar.
Back to this tart. Malt is involved in nearly every component in some way, but the tart does not scream MALT at you. It's more complex, with its brown sugar crust, caramelized crispies, milk chocolate ganache, and fancy malted diplomat cream. I tasted it for the first time a few minutes ago, and I'm still wrapping my mind around its absolute greatness. Here's my first conclusion: if last week's total chocolate blowout was Marilyn Monroe, this tart is Elizabeth Taylor, if that makes any sense.
This tart will keep you busy for part of an evening and most of the next morning if you do it in phases. Make the crust and the crispies during phase one, and take care of the rest during phase two, although you could cram everything into one day if you had to. This tart will also keep your dishwasher busy. Here are most of the dishes involved in phase two alone:
I'm going to break down the ingredients and directions into sections once again. Do not let the number of steps and ingredients discourage you--it's all pretty easy.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE BROWN SUGAR CRUST
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon malted milk powder
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into half-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Lightly spray a napkin or paper towel with vegetable oil and use the napkin to apply the oil to the sides and bottom (and nooks and crannies) of the tart pan.
Place the flour, salt, malted milk powder, butter, sugar, and vanilla in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is crumbly.
Scoop the crumb mixture out into the prepared tart pan and use your hands to press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan (the crust should not look too thick).
Preheat oven to 350.
Place the tart pan in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Remove tart pan from the freezer, place on a baking sheet, and bake until the tart is golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack and cool completely.
Note: I was amazed at how quickly the food processor created the crust. Mere seconds! My crust took 25 minutes to bake. It's very easy, tasty, and unique, and I know I'll use the crust in other recipes.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE CARAMELIZED CRISPIES
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 cups crisp rice cereal
Line a half-sheet baking pan with a Silpat or, alternatively, a sheet of aluminum foil sprayed with vegetable oil.
In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together 2 tablespoons of water with the sugar and bring just to a very low boil for about 1 minute.
Add the crisped rice cereal and stir until the mixture is dry. Keep stirring until sugar begins to caramelize and the pan begins to smoke. Fold the mixture over and over until all the crispies are coated with an amber layer of sugar. Once the crispies are completely coated, turn them out onto the Silpat and cool completely. Break the candy up into large chunky pieces and set aside.
Note: Maybe this was because I used store-brand crispies rather than the real thing, but I found that I needed to add an extra sprinkle of water during the stirring process. The crispies are really good. I let them cool completely on their Silpat. Then I scooped them into the center of the Silpat and covered them with a bowl overnight. I didn't want to put them in a plastic container because I thought that might cause them to get soggy, but this was probably just my own nutty hang-up. Feel free to eat a few of the crispies from time to time; the recipe seemed to make more than I thought was necessary, at least for my pan.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE MILK CHOCOLATE GANACHE
- 8 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons malted milk powder
- also: 1 cup malted milk balls, crushed, plus more for garnish
Place the milk chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.
In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk together the heavy cream and malt powder. Bring the mixture to a simmer (tiny bubbles will form around the edges of the cream; it should not be a rolling boil). Remove from the heat and pour over the milk chocolate. Let the mixture sit for 2 minutes. Starting in the center of the bowl, and working your way out to the edges, whisk the chocolate ganache in a circle until completely smooth.
Gently pour the ganache into the cooled tart shell. Top with crushed malted milk balls and 1 cup caramelized crispies. Very gently press the crushed malt balls and caramelized crispies into the ganache.
Refrigerate the tart while you make the malted diplomat cream.
Note: Unfortunately, my store had run out of 4-ounce milk chocolate baking bars, so I used chips instead, in their 11.5 ounce bag. I poured out what I estimated was a generous 8 ounces into the bowl, but the ganache seemed a bit thin and never truly solidified. I'm not sure if it was supposed to or not. It was more like a thick pudding, but *whatever*, it was totally delicious.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE MALTED DIPLOMAT CREAM
- 1 1/4 c whole milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- one large egg yolk
- one large egg
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons malted milk powder
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 5 ounces heavy cream
Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl.
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer and keep warm.
In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, egg yolk, egg, cornstarch, and malted milk powder together until the mixture is pale, about 1 minute.
Whisk half of the warm milk into the egg yolk mixture, then pour the mixture into the remaining milk in the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. (Mine took more like 3.5.) Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through the sieve and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Put in the refrigerator for about 1 hour until chilled.
Note: As soon as this pastry cream came together, I had a happy flashback to the days when Mom made cream puffs. This is exactly the same cream she used to fill them with, and it took a great deal of willpower for me not to eat the pastry cream then and there. But! What makes this a diplomat cream? It's the addition of whipped cream after the pastry cream cools. Ahhh. Because diplomats would not eat regular pastry cream unless you folded in whipped cream. It's just so obvious. Diplomats are fancy like that.
Remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator and whip until creamy.
In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream with a whisk until soft peaks form and fold into the pastry cream.
FINISH ASSEMBLING THE TART
Remove the tart from the refrigerator and cover the milk chocolate malt layer with the malted diplomat cream. Garnish with a few whole malted milk balls and caramelized crispies. Refrigerate the tart to set up, about 30 minutes, and serve immediately. The tart can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Note: Bun was all about eating this tart. I tried to block her from the tart with our ceramic rooster, a.k.a. "the cock" as I took photos. That strategy did not work until I put a finger-full of diplomat cream on its head. (You can see her licking it off in a photo way up there, and Jeff had hilarious and offensive things to say about Bun licking the cock when he saw the photos.) This gave me about five seconds to work with, after which she began stalking the tart in earnest.
As I ate the dreamy and kind of sloppy first slice, I let Bun have a few licks of the cream. Then a contented Bun sat in the sunshine with her sister Pache for the rest of the afternoon.