I could tell you that this concoction was first invented in 15th century Peru when some cacao nibs and peanuts slipped into a pot of near-burnt sugar, a globule of which, by chance, jumped out of the pot straight into a passing peasant’s mouth. He then, mesmerized by the taste, recreated it, and by selling it by the jar to hamlets, towns and cities far and wide, went on to become one of the wealthiest men in the country.
Or I could say that this is a derivation of the notorious Assyrian king’s, Ashurbanipal, favourite meal, served to him in his private garden every time he returned home from battle victorious, with the dripping heads of his decapitated enemies slung over his shoulder.
Or I could even conjure up some heartwarming tale about how it has been passed down the generations of my family, a secret recipe that was fiercely protected by my great grandmother in South Africa, and only baked once a year while fellow villagers thronged outside her window to get a glimpse of its majestic chocolate swirl.
But, I’d be lying.
There is no story behind this recipe. I wanted chocolate. I wanted peanuts. I wanted caramel. And so came together three revered ingredients to make this simple but deeply luscious dessert. I admit to a glimmer of inspiration from the Season 11 contestant of RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, the drag queen with the moniker Silky Nutmeg Ganache. But apart from that, I attribute this recipe to greed.
It hits the sweet spot texturally and taste wise too: the crunch of the salted roasted peanuts contrasts with the velvety ganache, while the sweetness of the caramel is counterbalanced by the barely sweet tart case and the adorning crystals of sea salt. And the whole dish is prevented from becoming overpoweringly saccharine by limiting sugar mainly to the caramel, and allowing the bitterness of dark chocolate to shine in the tart shell and the ganache.
I wanted it, so I made it, and I suggest you do too.
NB this is a great dish to make ahead of a dinner party, with no last-minute preparations necessary. The unbaked pastry dough can be made two days in advance and kept chilled in a freezer. The baked pastry can be made a day in advance if kept in an airtight container.
280g plain flour (+ little more for surface dusting)
30g unsweetened cocoa powder (+ a little more for dusting the tart tins)
30g icing sugar
½ tsp salt
180g unsalted butter, chilled and roughly cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
4 tbsp milk (I use plant-based but you can use dairy instead)
335g caster sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
90g unsalted butter, roughly cut into small pieces
80ml double cream
1 tsp salt
150g salted and roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
115g dark chocolate (70% cacao), finely chopped
125ml double cream
30g unsalted butter roughly cut into small pieces
1 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
Pie weights or dry/ceramic beans (to weigh the pastry down when baking)
Either a 25cm diameter round tart tin with fluted edges, or two 35 x 12cm rectangular tart tins with fluted edges, heavily greased with butter and dusted with cocoa powder
1) To make the pastry: in a large bowl, sieve together the cocoa, sugar, flour and salt, and stir to mix. Add in the chopped butter and, working quickly, rub it into the dry ingredients with your fingers until almost fully combined and the mixture feels like damp sand. Pour in the yolk and milk and stir together until the mixture forms a slightly dry dough – you may need to knead it a little with your hands to make it all comes together. Flatten the dough into a disk (if using two tins, divide the dough into two), wrap in baking parchment, and chill in the fridge for 2 hours minimum.
2) Preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove the pastry dough from the fridge and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes to soften slightly. On a surface lightly dusted with flour, roll the dough to the shape of the tart tin (rectangular or circular) to 3mm thickness. Then roll it over the rolling pin (to avoid it collapsing en route) and drape over the greased and cocoa dusted tart tin(s). Press the dough into the base and flutes of the pan and allow the excess to drape over the edge. Either use a knife, or roll the rolling in over the edge to slice off the excess. With a fork, prick the base of the dough a few times all over, and place in a freezer to chill for 10 minutes (or until very firm).
3) The pastry is then blind baked. In order to do this, remove the pastry-lined tins from the freezer and line the pastry with tinfoil. Then pour the pie weights or baking beans onto the tin foil to prevent the pastry from puffing up and shrinking as it bakes. Place in the oven to bake for 12-15minutes until the edges are dry to the touch. Take the tins out of the oven, remove the tin foil and baking weights and place back in the oven to bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until firm to the touch and completely dry. Place on a baking rack to cool.
4) To make the peanut caramel, place the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small pan over a medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then, when it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer for about 5-10 minutes until the mixture turns a deep gold – the further you push the colour (without burning it) the deeper the flavour. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter a piece at a time until full melted. Pour in the double cream and salt, and continue to whisk until fully combined. Then pour in the chopped peanuts, stir to fully combine and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. While the mixture is warm (but no longer boiling), pour it into the baked tart case(s), using the back of a spoon to form an even layer over the base of the pastry. Allow to cool to room temperature.
5) To make the ganache, place finely chopped dark chocolate in a small heat proof bowl and set aside. Pour the double cream and butter into a small pot and cook on a medium-high heat until the butter has melted and the mixture just threatens to boil. Immediately remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Gently fold the ingredients together, taking care not to over mix, until combined into a glossy ganache. Pour over the caramel layer and use the back of a spoon to create an even layer with a few artful swirls, if you like. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve.
(Adapted from Bon Appetit Mag)