Though I'm a Midwesterner by birth, having lived in more southern climes for the past five years, I sometimes forget just how bone chillingly cold the northern winter can be. So cold, that long underwear (top and bottom), a hat, scarf, and ankle-length puffy coat are necessary attire even if you're just stepping out to the corner café for a cup of coffee. This was something I forgot once again last month, when, in my thin wool coat and no hat or long underwear to speak of, I ventured to Chicago to embark on a Windy City Pie Tour for an NPR Kitchen Window story.
It turns out, I was in luck for at least that first day of my visit. Though the temperature was soon to plummet drastically, it was pushing the high 40s when I boarded the bus to meet my friend Ryan at my first pie stop--Floriole Café and Bakery.
I've been wanting to try Floriole's baked goods every since my friend Abra started working there, back when it was just a 10X10 stand at Chicago's Green City Market. Since 2010, though, its occupied a 2-level beautiful light-filled brick and mortar space in Lincoln Park and features chalkboard menus listing breakfast quiches, Lottie + Doof-inspired Rotini and Cheese, and Mushroom and Swiss Chard Sandwiches; a full espresso bar; shelves lined with house made jams, wine, and baguettes; and a pastry case stocked with the likes of Orange and Satsuma Tarts, Basque Cakes, and Raspberry-Rose Panna Cotta. As head chef and owner Sandra Holl says, the Floriole approach is "pretty simple baked goods and pastries, made with the best fresh, seasonal ingredients." While "simple" may be selling herself a bit short, particularly for a home baker like me, in awe of her creations, I understand what she means. In each pastry or savory dish, excellent ingredients are the highlight, and they're presented with real care and without pretension.
Abra who now runs the savory program, was in the kitchen prepping sandwiches when Ryan and I arrived. She gave us a little tour of the kitchen, and presented us with a large plate of three Milk Chocolate Caramel & Hazelnut Tarts to photograph (and oh yes, sample) for the pie tour story. With our little table by the door filled with the tarts, two sandwiches, a slice of quiche and a Passionfruit Tart and Basque Cake that Abra brought for us to try, we felt like total gourmands. What the other customers walking in the door must have thought! But we weren't complaining.
Of the savory selections we tried, my hands-down favorite was the B.A.D., a bacon, arugula, almond-date spread and goat cheese sandwich on a yeasted corn bread. I'm gonna have to try to replicate that at home so I can satisfy my cravings between my infrequent Chicago visits. As for the pastries, though it was hard to decide. The Passionfruit Tart was just-tart and light and sweet with a few pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top--good for the morning hour. But the Milk Chocolate & Salted Caramel Hazelnut Tart! Just so rich and decadent, though a nice pairing of sweet milk chocolate and slightly bitter dark caramel. Sandra calls it an "adult candy bar," and recommends eating it with a cup of black coffee or Earl Grey tea. Luckily, she shared the recipe so you don't have to immediately jet to Chicago and brave the Windy City cold to try a bite.
Milk Chocolate & Salted Caramel Hazelnut Tart
Makes one 10-inch tart or five 4-inch tarts
For sablé (or short crust) dough:
8 ounces (2 sticks) soft butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
For milk chocolate ganache filling:
1 1/2 cups cream
14 ounces chopped milk chocolate
For salted dark caramel/hazelnut topping:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
For the dough:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar and salt. Mix until well combined and the mixture just begins to lighten.
2. Add the eggs one at a time. Allow each egg to be fully incorporated before adding the next. Add all of the flour at once. Mix on low speed until homogenous.
3. Form the dough into a ball, then pat it out into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least three hours or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle about ¼-inch thick. Place the dough into a 10-inch removable bottom tart pan. Press the dough into the corners and remove excess dough. Chill about 15 minutes before baking.
5. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. If the dough bubbles while baking, lightly press it down with a measuring cup. Let cool to room temperature.
For the ganache:
1. Place cream in a small saucepan on low heat, and bring to a simmer. Put chocolate in heat-proof bowl. Once the cream is simmering, pour over the chopped chocolate and let sit 5 minutes. Stir
2. Pour the ganache into the prepared shell and let set at room temperature. This will take
about four hours.
To make the caramel and hazelnut topping:
1. Combine all ingredients except the cream in a deep heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to boil and cook until the color begins to change. At this point, begin to stir the mixture slowly with a whisk. It will first begin to smoke from the sides. Once it begins to smoke from the center and is a deep amber color slowly add the cream and stir. Be very careful because the mixture will bubble up and can cause terrible burns.
2. Let the caramel cool. It should still be warm but not hot when you pour it over the top of the chocolate. Top the tart with chopped and toasted hazelnuts. Serve at room temperature.
Dark Chocolate & Salted Caramel Pie
This post was featured on Relish Magazine's "Blogs We Love". Thanks, Relish!