Chocolate-Caramel Tartlets

Chocolate-Caramels Tartlets

People often ask me, after taking a bite of a caramel in Paris: Why can’t they can’t get caramels that taste like that in America? Like bread – those kinds of wonderful foods are, indeed, available, but you need to know where to look. A while back I was in Los Angeles and a magazine had mentioned Little Flower Candy Company’s caramels. So I ran to a store in Silverlake that sold them, and they were really excellent. They could rival anything in Paris, In fact, they were better than quite a few caramels I’ve had around here. And I’ve had quite a few.

caramel for tarts

I think I even wrote Christine Moore, who made the caramels, a fan letter after trying them and we kept in touch every so often. At one point, she even offered to send me some caramels. But the vagaries of overseas shipping made me decline. (I recently was called by the UPS shipping company while I was at home telling me that – in fact – I was not at home.) Through the grapevine, and through our scattered communiqués, I learned that Christine had to stop making her wonderful caramels after she lost her lease. And I was not sure what happened to her afterward.

rice flour caramel
ganachetartlet dough

I guess I am a slow learner because I found out that her business blossomed again as Little Flower Café in Los Angeles, making not just candies, but salads, sandwiches, soups, and pastries. And, of course, those lovely caramels were back, too. (Her marshmallows are no slouch either!) I got my hands on her charming book, Little Flower: Recipes from the Café, and not only did it tell the whole story of how she overcame some obstacles when life bonked her with a few curveballs, but was full of sixty or so of her most popular recipes, which make it pretty clear she is now thriving as a successful café owner.

Chocolate-Caramels Tartlets

Although I don’t get back to Los Angeles often enough, I am sure that’s probably a good thing because I would be stuffing myself with those caramels more often than I should. (Although according to that shipping company, perhaps I could be there, but without actually being there?) However when I was flipping through her book, the recipe for Thumbprint Chocolate Caramel Tartlets caught my eye. Here, my two favorite ingredients – chocolate and caramel – come together in bite-size little treats that are small enough so that you can eat a couple, without feeling guilty, but they’re so tasty that you’re completely satisfied after you’ve had one or two.

cocoa powder chocolate tartlet dough

However I can’t lie and will say that the last sentence I wrote isn’t entirely honest. Because after I made the two dozen that the recipe called for, I packed them up to give to my other half to bring to work for his co-workers. As they sat in his car and he was about to pull away from the curb, and I stood in my kitchen, alone – without any tartlets, I ran out, saying that I changed my mind, and that I needed a few more.

Chocolate-Caramels Tartlets

And no, I didn’t feel guilty about that, either.


Chocolate Caramel Tartlets
Makes 24 tartlets


Adapted from Little Flower: Recipes from the Café by Christine Moore


Christine uses some rice flour in the dough, to make them a little crisper, but said that you could use all-purpose flour if that’s what you have. Rice flour is available in Asian markets and natural food stores, and I made the mistake in my local store in Paris of getting a rice powder that was baby food (crème de riz), rather than farine de riz.

Because she makes these in her café, she uses her tasty caramels. You can order them through the Little Flower Candy Company website, or use homemade or store-bought soft caramels.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time getting fussy, making sure each little tartlet dough is absolutely perfect. Press them into the pan and get the edges reasonably even, but don’t worry too much about perfection as the little tartlets – and any imperfections – will get swept under by a swipe of dark chocolate ganache.

For salt, I use fleur de sel, which has a light, delicate flavor. You can use any flaky sea salt to sprinkle on top.


Chocolate Dough

  • 4 ounces (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (110g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (35g) rice flour
  • (or use 1 cup, 140g, all-purpose flour, total)
  • 6 tablespoons (50g) cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process


Salted Caramel Filling

4 ounces (115g) soft, salted butter caramels
3 tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream


Ganache

4 1/2 ounces (130g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (90ml) heavy cream
flaky sea salt

1. To make the tartlet dough, beat the butter and the sugar just until smooth in the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or by hand. Add the egg, salt, and vanilla, and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, rice flour, and cocoa powder, then mix it into the creamed butter.

2. Butter the indentations of two mini-muffin tins with 12 places in each, or one mini-muffin tin with 24 places. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll each into a 3/4-inch (2cm) ball. As you work, put the dough balls in the indentations of the muffin tins. Take your thumb and press the dough down in the center of each indentation, then use your thumb to press the dough up the sides. (If the dough is sticky, dampen your thumb very lightly with water or oil.) Freeze the pans of dough for 20 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

4. Bake the tartlet shells for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough appear dry and cooked. Remove from oven and use the handle of a wooden spoon to widen and smooth the inside of the little tartlet shells, pressing the dough that’s puffed up somewhat firmly against the sides. Let cool completely, then remove the tartlet shells from the muffin tins – the tip of a paring knife might be needed to help aid them out – and set them on a wire cooling rack.

5. Make the caramel filling by warm the cream with the caramels in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring, until the caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth. Divide the caramel into each of the tartlet shells.

6. Make the chocolate ganache* by heating the cream in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then whisk the chocolate into the cream until the mixture is smooth.

7. Top each tartlet with some of the ganache and take a butter knife or small metal spatula and swipe off the excess. Sprinkle each tartlet with a few grains of sea salt.


*I had a bit of extra ganache left over from the original recipe, which called for “1/2 cup cream” and “1 cup (about 6 ounces) coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate.” I adapted the recipe to use the chocolate by weight, and reducing the amount of ganache called for. I don’t think you’ll need more, but If you do, melt together 2 tablespoons of cream with 1 1/2 ounces dark chocolate.

Chocolate-Caramels Tartlets

Related Recipes and Links

Salted Butter Caramels

Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

Cocoa Powder FAQs: Dutch Process and Natural Cocoa Powder

126 comments

  • I made these and they were wonderful! My caramel was a little too light because I was afraid of burning it. I took it off the heat too soon. Next time I will be braver. The tart shells were amazing. I think the shell recipe is so versatile and would work for lots of bite size treats. Thanks David!

  • I’m planning on bringing these to a pie competition tomorrow–wish me luck!

  • These are so gorgeous I had to put them on Pinterest! I have some caramel left from Halloween apples – gotta make these.

  • This recipe sounds fantastic. Maybe this is obvious, but could I use your salted butter caramels recipe for this in their liquid stage, without actually letting them harden, as they are going to be melted anyway? If so, do you know what proportion of that recipe would be needed for the 4 ounces of caramels called for in this recipe? Thanks!

  • Hello David or anyone who has tried this recipe… Will they keep for a day or two or will they lose their crunch? Looks fab!

  • David, these look fantastic and are going on my baking list (at the top!) That last photo with the caramel oozing out….. :)

  • Hi David,

    It is amazing how words can sting. Thank you for revealing the comment left by Oliver. It was mean and small-minded of him. I have left a comment online in the past where it was meant to be humorous and then wondered ( obsessively ) if I unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings by the words I chose. As a result I try to choose my words even more carefully. I remember a very unkind comment someone left to me regarding a photograph I posted to my flickr photo stream years ago. I also deleted it, but the hurt remained for awhile.

    Anyone who does a lot of baking knows it is far more important for the end result to taste wonderful, as opposed to it tasting awful but looking pretty. I plan on making these tartlets during the holidays and sharing them with friends and family.

    Yours is the only blog I read. I enjoy it because you enrich all of us readers with your knowledge and your kindness. You have a wonderful spirit.

    Thank you.

  • I am making these this weekend using Taza Guajillo chocolate for the ganache and goat milk dulce de leche for the caramel filling. I have been looking for a recipe to use both in and this seems perfect. Thanks!

  • SWEET JESUS! I have just received “Little Flower” cook book and what a treasure trove it is. There is no doubt in my mind that all the recipes in it will be just as good as the above recipe is. Many thanks David for the tip!

  • From an LA reader, David, thanks for covering The Little Flower Candy Co.! It’s a wonderful cafe and shop for those of us who don’t have quite the good fortune to be near to the beautiful bakeries of Paris. Love your blog!

  • Oh my goodness, hilarious story about getting the tartlets back from Romain! I swear I’ve done the exact same thing with my partner on numerous occasions… :)

  • Hi David,

    I made these tartlets and they turned out very nicely indeed ! If I may make one suggestion I would recommend that when making the ganache, that the pan of hot cream be poured into a bowl of chocolate off the stove, rather than the other way around, to avoid splitting.

    Maybe mini muffin tins are even smaller in Australia, but I managed to produce 36 tartlets rather than just 24 ! lucky me :)

    Thanks for all the great recipes,

    Jen

  • Hi David,

    I have Celiac disease and am subsequently often left with few dessert options. After having recently moved into a house with a fantastic kitchen and roommates willing to eat just about anything, I’ve taken to baking my own gluten free treats. For these, I used King Arthur’s gluten free all purpose flour. As it’s primarily rice, I just used this for the whole cup. In the first batch I baked, about 18 of the tartlets fell apart as I tried to pull them out of the tin. The remaining 6 were delicious, however.

    I saved the broken tartlets and decided to make one large tart for an office holiday party. I mixed 1.5 cups of the finely crumbled cookies with 6 tablespoons of melted butter and about 1/3 cup of sugar. I pressed it into a 9 inch cake pan and baked it for about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees (F). I kind of “winged it” on the crust, and so I took it out of the oven every so often to check its doneness. I also took this time to press the crust down into the pan and up the sides.

    It was a huge hit with my office mates and they are still talking about it!

    Thank you,
    Erin

    • Glad it worked out! Folks who has specific food intolerances and/or allegies are often good at being creative & inventive because of necessity. Happy to hear that you were able to “fix” it and make it a hit with your office mates. Enjoy!

  • Can I use a can of store bought dolce de leche in place of the caramels or is the consistency different?

    • I don’t know about that substitution because I haven’t tried it. But if you do, it would be interesting to know how it works out!

  • I tried it and it was alright. I think the homemade dulce de leche sauce would be a better idea as the consistency is thicker and gooey-er. The canned dolce de leche (I used Eagle brand) is quite runny and you can’t ‘dollop’ it. It’s not bad, but I will definitely try making my own next time. I just didn’t have the time :). The brownie batter was delicious though.

  • Growing up in South Carolina, my sister’s godmum used to make caramel brownies and I adored them, although I wasn’t a lover of chocolate. When I left home for University there was a wonderful bakery in Evanston called Ganache. The owner made her own caramel & sandwiched between layers of chocolate brownie.

    This recipe reminds me of that deliciousness. I can’t wait to bake this but 1st to finish the olive brining and then the quince jam making.

  • This is the first time I’ve visited your blog and I can tell that this is amazing!! I’m from Brazil and I miss so much blogs like yours down here… I will definately try this recipe! Congratulations.

    Ana!