These Cinnamon Caramel Tarts offer sweet, crunchy pastry shells filled with a wickedly tempting buttery cinnamon caramel & topped with a milk chocolate glaze. They are little bites of bliss.
Great news - this is the first of several recipes I’ll be posting over the next few months that involves the word caramel. Wait. I think I hear you all cheering.
To kick off my …er… caramel season I have these superbly indulgent Cinnamon Caramel Tarts. Inside of each sweet, crunchy pastry shell is a tempting layer of buttery caramel which has been jazzed up with the addition of cinnamon. Well, it is autumn and I do like my spice. This dreamy caramel is hidden under a milk chocolate glaze that balances the deep, decadent caramel perfectly.
That all sounds pretty perfect to me. In fact, it’s hard to identify the real star of the show here. All three components will individually rock your socks off.
- The pastry is the lightest, sweetest, crunchiest and most buttery pastry you could ever wish for. I stumbled upon this pastry recipe about 5 years ago in a marvellous food magazine called Taste Italia. (The magazine is sadly no longer in print… and that breaks my heart ). It has been my go-to recipe for sweet pastry ever since. The pastry is made with ‘00’ flour. Um, yes, that is pasta flour. This powder-fine flour is probably the reason this pastry is better than average.
- The caramel is, as you would expect – deeply rich, creamy and buttery. However, the salt, vanilla and cinnamon combine with it to produce an altogether more wickedly sophisticated affair.
- The chocolate glaze has an enticing shine and a firm, but biteable set - no chocolate shower when you sink your teeth into it - bonus.
All of that does indeed add up to 3 equally perfect layers.
I won’t lie, these Cinnamon Caramel Tarts do take a little time to prepare but since they are the perfect
3-layer 3-way marriage, I’m willing to forgive them the time involved.
I also know that the thought of making caramel can be a bit daunting if you’ve not attempted it before (should I stir - yes/ no/ does anybody know?) I do recall my bitter disappointment when my first attempt at caramel making went horribly wrong. Looking back, I was simply naive and ill prepared. Once I'd actually taken the time to read some proper instructions and followed them carefully, then I started to produce some respectable caramel.
Along my rocky road to smooth caramel heaven, I've picked up tips here and there. I've listed them here to to get any newbies amongst us going:
- Use the best (heavy based) pan that you have and avoid using any pan that is non-stick as the high heat of the caramel can damage it.
- Use a pan that is large enough – I usually allow my caramel to come no further than ⅓ of the way up the side of the pan.
- Do use white refined sugar. Golden or brown sugars make grainy caramel a more likely outcome - trust me, I have tried several times to use golden caster sugar (thinking I was being smart) and ended up with a pan of substandard grainy gloop.
- Add the water first, followed by the sugar and try to spread the sugar evenly across the pan since this allows the caramel to cook more evenly.
- Do not stir. As the sugar melts you can gently swirl the pan a couple of times to redistribute the mixture and aid the even cooking.
- Don't rush it. Allow the sugar to melt over a medium heat. Allow around 15-20 minutes to make a batch of caramel.
- When you add the cream be very carefully as the liquid may bubble up and splatter a little bit.
- Remember that caramel is extremely hot – take care and do not be tempted to taste as you cook (oo-oo-ouch).
And there we have it: my foolproof list of tips that I tend to adhere to 95% of the time. If you want to read more on caramel making, head over to David Lebovitz. You'll find plenty more tips along with his in-depth insights into the mechanics of caramel making.
Technical lesson over. I must now leave you to save, share and bake these ludicrously tasty Cinnamon Caramel Tarts yourselves. There’s only one left in my kitchen and it’s calling for me.... right now.
Cinnamon Caramel Tarts
For the Pastry:
- 200 g/ 7oz '00' Flour
- 85 g/ 3oz Icing (confectionary) sugar
- 150 g/ 5 ¼oz Unsalted butter - cubed
- Large pinch salt
- 1 Egg yolk
For the caramel
- 3 tbsp Water
- 280 g/ 10oz White caster sugar
- 125 ml/ ½ cup Double (heavy) cream
- 100 g/ 4oz Unsalted butter - cubed
- 1 tsp Cinnamon (adjust to taste)
- ½ tsp Vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp Sea salt flakes
For the Chocolate Glaze
- 170 g/ 6 oz Milk chocolate - finely chopped
- 15 g/ ½ oz Unsalted butter
- 60 ml/ ¼ cup Double (heavy) cream
For the Pastry
- Put the flour, salt and butter into a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles sand/ breadcrumbs and no lumps of butter remain
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and drop in the egg yolk. Use a blunt knife to stir in the yolk then, using your hands, bring the dough together
- Knead briefly on a lightly floured surface until just smooth. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 45-60 minutes
- Roll out the pastry to around 2mm thick. Using a plain round pastry cutter, cut out 20 circles, re-rolling once. My cutter was approx 7cm, but you may need to vary this depending on the size of the holes in your tart tins
- Gently press the pastry rounds into the cavities in your baking tins and prick the bases with a fork. Cover with clingfilm and put back in the fridge to chill for an hour
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170°C/ 325°F/ GM3
- When ready to bake the pastry cases, line each one with a small square of foil (shiny side facing outwards) and fill the base with a single layer of baking beans
- Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the beans and foil and bake for a further 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Once cool and firm enough to handle, remove the tart cases from the tins and cool on a wire rack
Make the Caramel*
- Put the water into a heavy based saucepan. Spread the sugar on top in an even layer
- Set the pan over a medium heat and allow the sugar to gradually melt. As it melts you can gently swirl the pan a couple of times to ensure the caramel cooks evenly, but do not stir it
- Once the sugar has melted, the caramel will begin to darken. Continue to let it cook until it reaches a lovely amber colour (but keep a close eye on the caramel as it can burn easily)
- Add the butter and pour in the cream, taking care as it can bubble up and is extremely hot. Mix with a small handheld whisk until everything is fully incorporated
- Put the pan back on the heat and cook, stirring constantly, for a further 2 minutes (if you have a sugar thermometre aim for 108°C-110°C. Any clumpy bits of caramel should melt back in nicely whilst you are stirring
- Take off the heat and stir in the cinnamon, salt and vanilla extract
- Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully pour the caramel into the pastry cases
- Leave for several hours for the caramel to firm up
Make the Chocolate Glaze
- Using a bain marie** melt ⅔ of the chocolate with the butter. Once melted, remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the remaining chocolate until completely melted
- Stir in the double cream and mix or whisk for 1-2 minutes until shiny and glossy. Don't worry if your glaze looks grainy initially, just keep on whisking and it will turn glossy
- Top each tart with a generous teaspoon of the chocolate glaze and spread out to completely cover the caramel
- Add sprinkles if desired and leave to set for around 45 minutes
- Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days