Chocolate-Caramel-Nougatine Tarts

I spotted this recipe by Francois Payard a while back in a cookbook and what immediately drew my attention to it is the nougatine part. A nougatine is a confection similar to praline made from a light caramel mixed with crushed almonds or hazelnuts, it’s poured onto a baking sheet and when the mixture cools down it becomes pliable and can be shaped in many different ways. When I was 7 years old there was an excellent pastry shop in my little village in Gascony that was reputed for their nougatine and chocolate creations from which I remember winning a human size replica of a cartoon character once. Now I think of it, the pastry chef/owner was a friend of my dad and the lottery was probably fixed but I guess I paid for it anyway in the form of thousands of dollars in dentist fees. I’m finally ready to take a bite again.

The filling consists of a layer of caramel topped with a layer of chocolate ganache which both play nicely against the crunch of the caramelized almonds, and there’s a touch of fleur de sel. The only “difficulty” in this recipe is to cook the nougatine just right, if it isn’t cooked enough it will remain pliable even after it has cooled off and you will end up with a nougatine “pizza” rather than a tart, if you cook it too much it will be.. well, burned and hard as a rock. Aim for a nice amber color and trust your inner chef if you have any doubts.

  • Chocolate-Caramel-Nougatine Tarts

    (Adapted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard)
  • Serves 8
    • Nougatine shells:
    • 6 ounces butter
    • 1 1/8 cup sugar
    • 1/3 cup milk
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 2 1/4 cup sliced almonds, crushed
    • 2 ounces milk chocolate, melted (for the shells)
    • Caramel filling:
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • pinch of fleur de sel
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
    • Chocolate ganache:
    • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (61%)
    • 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
    • 3/4 cup + 1 Tbs heavy cream
    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • Fleur de sel for garnish
    • For the nougatine shells:
    • Preheat oven to 350’F. Line a half-baking sheet with a silpat.
    • Combine the butter, sugar, milk and honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture reaches 230’F on a thermometer. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the almonds and orange peel (if using).
    • Spread the mixture in an even layer, about 1/4 inch thick and bake for about 8 minutes until a nice golden brown.
    • While still warm and pliable cut out 4-inches round and press the dough into tartlets pans, and let them cool (if the dough hardens too much before you can shape it, return to the oven for a minute or two).
    • When cool, brush the melted chocolate inside the shells to patch the holes.
    • For the caramel filling:
    • Place the sugar and fleur de sel in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the sugar turns slightly golden gently stir with a wooden spoon to obtain an even caramelization. Once the caramel is a deep amber color carefully add the cream (it will splatter) and keep stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until smooth.
    • Let the caramel cool until it doesn’t feel warm and pour it inside the nougatine shells. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
    • For the chocolate ganache & finish:
    • Put the chocolate and fleur de sel in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a boil.
    • Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it melt. Whisk until smooth. When the mixture is just warm whisk in the butter until well incorporated and the ganache is smooth and shiny. Pour in on top of the caramel filling and let it set. Best made the same day or the nougatine dough might get soggy.
    • Garnish with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

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  • Zo @ Two Spoons

    Genius! Love that it’s naturally gluten free too.

  • annna

    just by looking at the pictures, I can tell how deliciously crispy this will be!

  • Em

    Almond and caramel are so good together! I’ve never had chocolate caramel tart in a nougatine shell, but I can already imagine how good it would be. If I see this on a restaurant’s dessert menu, there is no doubt that I’m getting it!

  • davina

    so beautiful Zen! I’m totally sold with the nougatine shell.

  • Miriam/The Winter Guest

    I’ve got to try those shells…

  • Nina

    Zen, gosh man this is utter torture. I love the simplicity of it all. Although not quite simple, you just make it seem like that!

  • Molly

    Thank you for introducing me to nougatine. I had never heard of it until right now, and I know this tart is in my near future.

  • Deepa.

    very nice dish..I am falling in love with it..and i am a fan of your blog so I picked ur blog as one of my fvrts in a recent blog award and mentioned that in my last blog entry.
    Keep doing the good work.


  • vanillasugarblog

    now that’s my kind of shell. does it harden up or stay pliable for a while? love this frenchman!

  • Oui, Chef

    This brilliant dish I will be making for my wife this weekend, nudity will be an almost certain outcome. – S

  • Anonymous

    It stays pliable for as long as it’s hot. Then things get crunchy.

  • Anonymous

    You’re too kind. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    hahahaha.. Good luck, steven!

  • Cooking Rookie

    Yum! And the photos amazing as always

  • Heather

    Oh my god, this looks ridiculously, insanely wonderful. Nougatine shells… who would’ve thought??

  • Kate Pet

    Almond, chocolate, caramel – WOW! Beautiful tarts… I can only imagine the incredible taste!

  • Joy

    That looks wonderful. I love love this recipe.

  • Wine Dine TV

    Thank you Zen! It is PERFECT!

  • Anonymous

    Wow, I’d be happy with just one of those empty, nut-filled shells. But heck, when you put the caramel and chocolate inside, it’s even more crazy good. 😉

  • Briarrose

    This dessert looks amazing. Fabulous job!

  • Jean

    I became a fan of Mr. Payard after trying one of his recipes recently and if the simply tart I tried is any indication, I’m sure these are excellent, especially with the Zen Chef touch! I’m in love with caramel right now. How perfect that it’s paired with my other two favorite ingredients: chocolate and almonds! :-)

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    Oh my, that looks amazing! If I could dive right into that tart I’d be one very happy girl! 😀

  • Pennie

    Those nougatine shells look amazing! And the combination with chocolate and caramel makes me salivate. Oh, and fleur de sel–the perfect final touch. I will definitely give this a go… Thanks for sharing.

  • The Addicted Baker

    How amazing. Can’t wait to try one

  • Brie

    wow, a stunning dessert! a new favorite for sure.

  • Adelina Badalyan

    Wow! I can’t look at the pics too long… it’s making me melt here. These are fantastic and I wish I had some magic powers to try them myself.

  • Bren

    i guess payback can be a sweet *#*$&$. I love this and I can totally visualize the little bakery in your village.

  • Joan Nova

    That nougatine crust has me absolutely drooling. And, of course, your lovely presentation.

  • pigpigscorner

    wow, that tart shell is a killer!

  • Asiantablefor6

    Hi Zen recipe looks amazing and can see many adaptions for use of tart. thanks for sharing

  • Rachel (S[d]OC)

    You want to send some of those my way? I suppose you can’t because I’m sure as many as were made were probably immediately gobbled up by anyone and everyone in the vicinity. I guess I’ll have to trust my inner chef and attempt these myself. Caramel likes to play games with me and be perfect one day and burn and be stubborn the next. Think I got the chops?

  • Colloquial Cook

    Hein!! Mais tu en as trop dit ou pas assez! C’était quoi, un Picsou en nougatine? Un Bugs Bunny?? Un Milou? Ah, je *brûle* de curiosité.

  • Anonymous

    I think you’ve got the chops! Go for it!

  • Anonymous

    C’etait un Donald. Dis donc, rien ne t’echappe toi!! :)

  • Jason Phelps

    Holy snack! This looks so tasty.


  • Ciaochowlinda

    yes, yes and triple yes. That nougatine base just makes this even more special. This is one deliciously decadent treat.

  • Colloquial Cook

    Nan, rien ne m’échappe – tu crois peut-être aussi que je n’ai pas vu que tu avais ressorti ta fpoon hein? Must be springtime, darling 😛

  • Kimberly Fujitaki

    photos are beautiful. these look divine

  • Charlier

    Bless Your Heart!

    Thank you for this recipe!

    I’m on the email list for

    The pastries this lad shows are reviews without recipes is heartbreaking in their beauty!

    And now you finally have one recipe!

    I’m in your debt!!

  • Anne Hernandez

    Can these be made in advance and frozen? If not the completed dessert, how about the nougatine shell? I have a wedding and am making an assortment of mini-desserts for 500 and thought these would be a lovely addition to the mix. The event is next weekend (9/1/2012), so I’m looking forward to your response.

  • K Wechsler

    I also am doing desserts for a wedding. How did these turnout for you, what other desserts did you make for it?

  • zenchef

    I wouldn’t recommend those for a wedding as the caramel crust needs to me kept in a cool place or it would soften. Try these instead: