Come ‘Out East’ for a recipe a famous Pastry Chef gave a special twist to.
The East End of Long Island is extremely fortunate in the caliber of chefs that are either restaurant owners or lured here to work in what is a gorgeous place to live. It’s not only physically beautiful. Working farms and fishermen provide an astonishing array of raw ingredients much of the year. It’s a great refuge for those either burned out by New York’s breakneck restaurant scene or priced out of the city. Its rents for both restaurants and housing, while hardly cheap, are more affordable than 90 miles west. Out East, the schools are good, the people are welcoming and you’re likely to know a lot of fellow food refugees.
A Career in Pastry started in Paris then moved to New York.
That’s how it was that Pastry Chef Claudia Fleming and her husband and former boss at New York’s Tribeca Grill, Gerry Hayden, found themselves on the North Fork. Claudia, a Long Island native, and Gerry bought the North Fork Table and Inn with a tiny kitchen. They soon turned it into one of the most highly regarded restaurants east of Manhattan. For Claudia it was the culmination of a Pastry career that included mandatory apprenticeships in Paris—at Fauchon—and a storied career at Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern, today and always one of New York’s flagship restaurants. Her boss was Tom Colicchio of Top Chef fame. Chef Colicchio had a pastry background himself. For a while, he dictated what Ms. Fleming made for dessert. Even though she had several years of hands-on pastry making, she admits she was over her head.
Claudia Fleming’s Cookbook became an out-of-print Classic selling for up to $200 on E-Bay.
It didn’t take long for that to change. As Gramercy Tavern became a destination, she got her bearings. She became most famous for starting with a single flavor and amplifying it. Her panna cotta, her roasted pears, and her fresh corn ice cream were copied everywhere. And she is credited with adding savory ingredients like rosemary, cornmeal and black pepper altering the perception of ‘dessert’ itself. On Chewing The Fat, we featured one of Ms. Fleming’s pairings: Her Apple and Bacon Crostada. (A link follows this recipe.) Her body of work became the basis for her book “The Last Course” which she wrote with Melissa Clark of the New York Times. The book, published in 2001, became a classic. “The Last Course” (Random House) is about to be re-issued saving fans the staggering E-bay price of $200.00 for the volume that was out of print. It has a preface by Danny Meyer and a foreword by Tom Colicchio. The book is a kind of coming out for Claudia Fleming. Tragically, her husband Gerry Hayden died in 2015. She had nursed him through four years of illness with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (A.L.S., or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Now she is selling the inn and moving back to New York City. She will be welcomed with open arms.
The secret ingredient revealed…
The publicity for the re-issue of the book led to the re-publication of one of her most famous recipes. The one we share with you today. It was one of her signature recipes at Gramercy Tavern. It is both sweet and salty. And it is simple. Just three elements make up this incredibly elegant dish. A chocolate pie crust filled with luscious soft caramel and then glazed with the shiniest of chocolate ganaches. The real showstopper here is the salt. Ms. Fleming explains: Sprinkling fleur de sel on chocolate intensifies the flavor of the chocolate without making it taste salty. The recipe initially was for a 10-inch tart. Andrew made these into individual 3 ¾ inch tarts. The size does nothing to the flavor of course. The chocolate pastry, the meltingly creamy caramel, and the chocolate ganache are all there topped with a sprinkle of the essential Fleur de Sel. Here is the recipe, and after it some other tarts you might like.
Claudia Fleming's Chocolate Caramel Tart
The creamiest of caramels is topped with chocolate ganache and cradled in a chocolate crust. Then the secret ingredient tops the tarts...Fleur de Sel!
- For the chocolate dough:
- ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- For the caramel filling:
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup corn syrup
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons creme fraiche (available at specialty food markets)
- Pinch of salt
- For the chocolate glaze:
- 3 ½ ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate (70 to 85%), chopped
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Fleur de sel
- Step 1 Prepare chocolate dough: In bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar and cocoa. Beat until smooth. Add egg yolk and vanilla, beat until blended.
- Step 2 Sift flour into dough mixture. Beat on low speed until combined. Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of 8-3 ¾ inch tart pan. (You can use a 10-inch pan, but the caramel may take longer to set in step 4.)
- Step 3 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line tart pans with foil, and fill with dried beans, rice or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, and bake until pastry is dry and set, another 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Step 4 Prepare caramel filling: In a large saucepan, bring sugar, water and corn syrup to a boil. Stir or swirl the pan occasionally, until mixture is a medium amber color, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Caramel will continue to cook and darken off of the heat. Carefully but quickly whisk in the butter, cream, creme fraiche and salt until smooth (mixture will bubble up). Pour hot caramel into tart, and allow to cool and set, at least 1 hour.
- Step 5 Prepare chocolate glaze: Place chocolate in a bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Pour hot cream over chocolate and whisk until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Pour glaze over tart, tilting tart for even coverage. Refrigerate until tart is set, at least one hour, then sprinkle with a few granules of fleur de sel. Keep refrigerated until serving.