I torture DJ SnuggleMonster with desserts. He really doesn’t have a sweet tooth but I love to bake, so he has to partake in the confectionaries. These are wicked easy desserts. A simple pastry dough (you can’t screw it up really, even when it tears), a quick chocolate ganache filling, and peanut brittle that is so easy you’ll never buy it at the store again (swear! I was scared of it too before this recipe!). These babies look pretty and impressive and are sure to satisfy and sweet tooth. And this recipe lends itself to parceling out pieces – want a different filling? Keep the pastry cream. Want to use the ganache for a cake frosting instead? Go for it! Want to try a different nut in the brittle? Easy.
The trick with the dough is to try to keep it as cold as possible. The less you touch it with your hands the better. And give it PLENTY of time in the fridge to re-firm up and get cold. If your dough is sticking or isn’t cooperating at all when you roll it out/put it in the muffin tins, don’t fret. Just pull pieces of the dough and form it by hand in the tin. Just make sure your thickness is all the same.
WARNING – When you are making the brittle, be very careful not to touch the caramelized sugar. Melted sugar is some of the HOTTEST matter out there, and it’s not something to play with. Definitely don’t let kids do this step – even if it is dead easy. Work quickly too, as the sugar can go from melted and a nice caramel color to burnt quickly. Clean up can be a pain too, so add water to the sugar pan as soon as you transfer the brittle to the parchment paper and let it sit. If you still can’t get the sugar up, bring the water in the pan up to a boil on the stove and the dried sugar should melt and come away easily. Also be very careful with this boiled water too though.
Servings: 10 cupcake size tartlettes
Timing: 2 hours
For the Pastry Dough:
- 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled very cold, and cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups All-Purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- Non-stick spray
For the Ganache:
- 14 ounces dark chocolate (look for good quality 60%ish cocoa; either chips or squares broken into small pieces)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 stick butter, cubed
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- OPTIONAL – 2 tablespoons sugar
For the Brittle:
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cups salted peanuts, roughly chopped
Start with the pastry dough. Using a food processor (or mixer or by hand), mix together the sugar and butter until the butter is all broken up and the mixture looks uniform. Add the egg and process for about 20-30 seconds. Add the flour and salt and pulse until just combined (the dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl). You might have a bit of flour that’s not combined – that’s fine, you’ll work it in in a minute. If your dough looks too dry and isn’t coming together at all, add 1 teaspoon of ice water at a time until it does. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, quickly form into a disc and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Lightly grease a standard-sized muffin tin with non-stick spray. Roll out the pastry on floured surface to about 1/8 inch. You want this thinner than you think! Cut out 10 discs using a cutter, overturned bowl/cup, or a knife. Press into your muffin tin bowls, making sure your thickness is uniform. If your dough tears or acts up, just pull a little bit of the leftover dough from the area you rolled it out and press it into place. The dough will fuse together the pieces. Trim up the tops so that no dough overhangs past the top. Prick the sides and bottom of each with a fork – don’t just to do one prick. This will keep the pastry from puffing into itself and stay flat. Pop the whole tin back into the fridge to rest for another 20-30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Bake the tin resting on a cookie sheet for 12 minutes or until hardened and gold. If the tops start to get a bit too dark, slide a piece of foil over the tin. Or you can always trim the darker tops off once they are out of the oven and cooled. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin on a wire rack.
For the brittle, spray a large piece of parchment paper or tinfoil with non-stick spray. Place on top of a cookie sheet and set aside. Then pour the sugar in an even layer in a large, dry frying pan over medium-high heat. DO NOT TOUCH THE PAN at this point. LET IT BE! When it starts to color up, swirl the pan so that the dry sugar gets wet, and stir with a wooden spoon to make sure the sugar cooks evenly. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until it’s a light brown. Immediately add in your chopped peanuts, stirring to coat and then immediately dump onto your greased parchment paper/tinfoil and spread into an even layer. YOU HAVE TO WORK QUICKLY AND CAREFULLY HERE because sugar hardens easily. And remember this sugar is super super super hot too. Let the brittle cool on the sheet for at least 10 minutes. No, don’t even think about touching it right now.
For the ganache, place a small saucepot with about 2 inches of water on a medium-low heat. Grab a glass heat-proof bowl that will fit on top of the pot without touching the water line (this is a double boiler…classic, yet beyond easy). Place your bowl on top of the pot while the water heats to a simmer. Add your chocolate, heavy cream, salt, vanilla extract, instant coffee granules if using, and butter. Allow to melt and stir until fully melted and combined. Taste it here and add some sugar if you want it a bit sweeter. Carefully remove the bowl from the pot, pulling it toward you (and letting the steam escape on the opposite side, away from you). Steam can burn too, so be careful. Pour into your cooled pastry shells. Break up your brittle into small chunks and top your tarts with it. Chill for at least 20 minutes in the fridge. Leftover brittle will keep in airtight container for quite some time.