Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chocolate Cheese Toffee Tarts

I worry a lot about my future children.

I worry about what they will think of me when I sit at our breakfast table with a slice of chocolate cake.

I worry about what sort of role model I will be when my afternoon snack is raw cookie dough.

I worry about how they will react to my gigantic stash of chocolate bars and my permanent supply of butter that occupies most of my fridge space.

Often I'll make a cream-filled chocolate cake that needs to live in the fridge, but there's a big cauliflower taking up most of the middle shelf. You can guess how this ends - chocolate cake always wins.

How will my future children know that it's really not OK to eat brownies before dinner if I do it all the time? I might need to change my ways... or find a good hiding place.

Since I don't think I will ever change - children or no children - I have a plan for this future scenario.

I will have to keep a separate secret fridge for all of my chocolate, cakes, custards and creams. I will wake up extra early to have my sweet breakfast before having a proper one together. I can live in my chocolate shame for as long as I need to because nothing can take us apart.

These individual cheesy chocolate treats come together quickly.

No pastry required to make these little tarts. Instead we make a type of shortbread/crumble mixture that caramelizes into toffee magic as it bakes. The result is a crunchy, sweet & salty, candy-like base that is a lovely contrast to the smooth bitter chocolate filling.

You don't always need graham crackers or digestive biscuits to make cheesecake base. Although I do love graham crackers (S'MORES.... hello!), I rarely have them in my pantry. 

This is no problem because with only a handful of ingredients, you can make your own base, and changing the proportions will lend different textures.

For this recipe, we have a crunchy base that is super caramlized like toffee candy thanks to the relatively high proportion of brown sugar and butter compared to flour.

The cheesy chocolate filling is full of bitter 70% chocolate and it whips up into a luscious thick mixture. After creaming the cheese and sugar together, and then beating in the egg, you can lose the electric mixer. Just a spoon or spatula will do to mix through the melted chocolate because aggressive beating at this stage would result in a very stiff mixture as the chocolate cools and hardens. 

Having the chocolate still warm helps with the mixing too, which is great because it means less waiting time and the sooner these babies will be on the breakfast table. Or dinner table.... Or special occasion dessert table? (to be more appropriate). 

Oh my future children - you are probably going to be fat. We'll work on that.

Chocolate Cheese Toffee Tarts
Makes 12 small tarts

For the base:
2/3 cup (90g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (75g) packed brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ cup (56g) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the filling:
250g cream cheese (one package), softened
¼ cup (55g) packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
85g (3 oz) bittersweet chocolate, melted
42g (1.5 oz) white chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan and set aside.

Combine flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl and rub together to push out any lumps of sugar. Add cold butter and rub it in until well blended and mixture is crumbly. Divide mixture evenly among wells the prepared muffin pan. Press it in firmly and evenly. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until browned and fragrant. It should smell like spiced toffee. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 150°C.

To make the filling, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add brown sugar and vanilla extract and beat until very smooth and glossy. Beat in egg until blended. Add still warm melted chocolate and stir it in until incorporated. The mixture will be thick.

Spoon mixture over cooled crusts, dividing it evenly. Spoon a little melted white chocolate over the filling and swirl it in with a skewer to create a marbled effect. Bake at 150°C for 10-12 minutes until edges are set but filling is still a bit soft.
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