This tart has been in the making for three years now. I created it for one of my closest friends who couldn’t eat dairy products at the time. The recipe has sat on my computer ever since then and has only been shared twice. The first time was an e-copy that was sent to a vegan friend who tried some of the original dish and wanted to know how to make it for herself; the second sharing event was a printed copy included in a short cookbook I wrote using all of my vegan recipes and given as part of a wedding present.
As you may suspect, the most complicated part of this recipe to develop was the caramel. Standard caramel is based around sugar, cream and butter – as you can imagine removing the dairy from this is not ideal. My first attempt involved replacing the cream with coconut milk and the butter with a dairy free alternative. It was almost good. The problem: you need to cook the caramel for a decent length of time and I broke, I just gave in too early and took the caramel off the heat. It did not set. You really need to boil caramel to get it to set properly. Since then I have realised that vegan caramel also works far better with brown sugar and not melted white sugar, as I would use for a classic, cream-based caramel.
Coconut milk is extracted from the grated flesh of the coconut. It is relatively high in fat (above 20% for non-skimmed/non-low fat varieties) and this is why it works as a cream replacement in the dish. Coconut cream has at least 20% fat and is incredibly thick. While you could use it for this recipe instead of coconut milk, it really isn’t necessary as the aggressive boiling will drive off the water from the coconut milk. Moreover, I would discourage using coconut cream because the extra water in the milk will help dissolve the sugar before the cooking begins. If the sugar isn’t all dissolved, you will end up with a gritty caramel – or even worse, it might crystallise and if that happens there is nothing you can do to revive the situation.
I class this recipe under my list of things that show that vegan food is just as good as the non-vegan stuff. Just because this is dairy-free does not mean it is flavour-free too! Let me know what you think.
Vegan Caramel Chocolate Tart
Work time: 2 hours
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cool time: 4 hours
For the pastry:
250g plain flour
125g cold margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
2 tbsp water
For the vegan caramel:
300g dark brown sugar
400ml coconut milk
For the chocolate layer:
300g dark chocolate
50g brown sugar
Tip the flour and margarine into the bowl of a food processor and blend until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar and blend again.
Pour in the water and vanilla and blend until the pastry starts to clump together.
Pour the pastry onto a clean surface and squeeze it into a ball. Very lightly knead this to ensure the pastry is homogenous.
Wrap and leave in the fridge to chill for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6
Unwrap the pastry and roll it out to a few millimetres thick (about ¼ inch). Use the pastry to line a tart case.
Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork.
Line the pastry with foil weighed down with baking beads and bake for fifteen minutes.
Remove the beads and bake for another ten to fifteen minutes until the pastry is golden.
To make the caramel:
Start this when the baking beads have been removed from the pastry case.
Tip the sugar and coconut milk into a pan and whisk to combine (you do not need to fully dissolve the sugar).
Bring to a boil and add the butter in four chunks.
Boil, stirring regularly, for about ten minutes until the bubbles become larger and slow down. The mixture should be thick on the back of a spoon. To test if it is done, take a small amount of caramel and place it in a bowl in the fridge. After about 30 seconds, it should be thick and not flow too much when you draw your finger through it.
Pour the caramel directly into the pastry case.
Lightly sprinkle with flakes of sea salt.
Allow to cool for an hour to room temperature and then in the fridge for another hour until the caramel is cold to the touch.
For the chocolate layer:
Pour the water into a pan. Add the sugar and the margarine. Bring to the boil
Break the chocolate into pieces and place them into a large measuring jug.
Pour the boiling liquid over the chocolate, leave for two to three minutes for the chocolate to melt and then lightly whisk until a smooth, glossy, chocolatey sauce is accomplished.
Pour the chocolate sauce over the top of the caramel. Pour it in the centre of the tart and allow it to flow out! This will get you the smoothest result. Gently tip and shake the tart to smooth out the chocolate layer.
Allow to set in the fridge for at least an hour.
Decorate with cocoa powder, lustre dust, chocolate pieces or whatever else you fancy!
This can be served with cream or ice cream (or dairy-free alternatives) but I don’t think they are necessary as it is perfectly amazing by itself!
If you fancy trying the non-vegan variety, why not check out my quadruple chocolate and salted caramel tart or if you are looking for other plant-based desserts, look no further than my apple and cinnamon tart.
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious Indian dish.