Monday, January 19, 2015


A few years ago, I was introduced to the work of pastry chef Sadaharu Aoki.  I visited his shop in Paris.  I left enamored by the beauty and precision of his work.  His treats were delicious but it was his delightful interplay of geometry and deliciousness that stayed with me.

The tastes and textures of this tart are fully informed by my love of the glorious American combination of peanuts, caramel and chocolate...with just a dash of flaky, sweet and buttery goodness to round out the party.

But the look of the tart, this is wholly influenced by Sadaharu Aoki's brilliant French/Japanese pastry aesthetic.


For the shortbread tart shell

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, very cold

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.  Using a cheese grater, grate the butter into the flour mixture (use the largest holes on the grater).

Using your fingers, massage the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

Place an 8" flan ring or tart pan on a Silpat or parchment lined sheet pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Using your fingers, press the shortbread dough onto the bottom and sides of the ring/pan.  Line the pan with plastic and using a flat bottomed measuring cup, smooth the dough by tamping the flat side of the measuring cup to smooth the sides and bottom of the dough.  Trim the top edge of the dough flat with the top of the ring.

Dock the dough with a fork and freeze for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Bake the tart shell for 10 minutes.  Turn the pan 180º and bake for 10 - 15 minutes more or until the tart shell is golden brown and baked through.  Set aside to cool completely.

For the chocolate caramel filling

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
squirt lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 70% cocoa, finely chopped

1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, lemon juice and 1/3 cup water.  Stir over medium heat until the sugar has completely melted.  Stop stirring and cook the sugar syrup until it becomes medium amber.

Take the sugar from the heat and stir in the butter.  Slowly add the cream and stir.  The caramel will have hardened, so return the pan to low heat and stir until the caramel has melted completely into the cream.  Clip on a candy thermometer, increase the heat to medium, and heat the caramel to 240ºF, stirring the mixture every once in a while.  Take the caramel from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it's melted.

Spread the peanuts in an even layer on to the tart shell and then pour the caramel on top of the peanuts.  Allow the caramel to set and cool, about 1 hour.

For the peanut butter ganache

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 70% cocoa, finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
pinch salt
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

In a saucepan, combine the heavy cream, butter and salt.  Bring to a simmer, making sure the butter has melted. Take from the heat and add the chocolate.  Stir to ensure that the chocolate is completely coated by the hot cream.  Allow to sit a few minutes and then whisk to combine.

Transfer the hot ganache to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add the peanut butter.  Allow the ganache to cool a bit, about 10 - 15 minutes.

Mix the ganache on medium speed until it's cool, spreadable and has lightened in color a bit.

Transfer the ganache to a large pastry bag fitted with a medium open tip.  Pipe the ganache in a spiral over the cooled caramel.  Refrigerate the tart until the ganache is firm, about 20 minutes.

To finish

1 tablespoon natural cocoa powder
8" parchment round

Cut the parchment round as indicated in the photo below.  Place the parchment over the set ganache but don't press down (make sure that the ganache is firm).

Place the cocoa in a sieve and sprinkle the cocoa over the top of the tart.  Carefully remove the parchment triangles.  Serve immediately at room temperature or refrigerate for up 3 days (the caramel firms up quite a bit when cold so bring to room temperature before serving unless you like a firmer caramel).