Strange things can happen at night. I'm sure that they can happen during the day but there is something about the cover of darkness that gives things that extraordinary layer of excitement. Although I'm not a big drinker it's usually at night that people do get up to their most playful hijinks and this is often fuelled by drinking games. Mr NQN told me of his colleague who had found a new drinking game-one involving wizards in fact called the "Wizest Wizard".
The rules are simple, and according to Urban Dictionary the requirements are "At least two participants (you can play by yourself but then you are an alcoholic)" and also require one roll of duct tape, cans of beer, shot glasses and hard alcohol. I didn't get too far into the specifics but apparently you dress up as a wizard which nets you bonus points and then you drink as much beer as you can and then duct tape the tins together to form a wizarding staff. Mr NQN's colleague also lives on a street with an abandoned house which is dubbed "the haunted house" on the street and it apparently has trees growing out of the window (I did ask to see a pic of this and thought that it might be good location for this year's Halloween party).
So outfitted in their wizard hats, costumes and carrying their makeshift beer can staffs, the group of wizards buoyed by alcohol decided that they would pay a visit to the Haunted House. They trudged down the street and made their way to the haunted house. They stopped-there was a light on in the top bedroom which was unusual as there was never any lights on. Mr NQN's colleague decided that he was brave enough to investigate so he walked around the side of the house and found something quite unexpected...
There was a group of people toasting marshmallows in the back garden. Frightening the wits out of each other he screamed, they screamed and he ran as fast as his costumed legs could carry him without tripping in a long dress. "Get out of here!!!" he roared at his friends who picked up their skirts and beer can staffs and ran the entire way home their canned staff clanking against the pavement as they went.
The wizarding drinking game was never the same after that.
Well onto something I occasionally do at night quite sober: bake. I usually like baking during the day-the light is better for photos and I have a little routine where I put on music and bake. But I remembered the beautiful strawberries that I had bought a couple of days ago in the fridge and I knew that they wouldn't last another two days which is when my next baking experiment would be. But I was seeing my friend Elly and I know that she loves sweets and I loathe to turn up anywhere empty handed.
They were an impromptu recipe made up of a elements from a few different recipes. The tart shell was based on a sweet tart pastry recipe by Annabel Langbein which was so short and buttery it was almost like a melting moment cookie. The chocolate salted caramel filling was based on one of the elements of the Quay eight texture chocolate tart-feel free to make a regular chocolate ganache but I do love the extra element of the salted caramel to it. I filled these with the ganache late at night and topped them with the strawberries the next morning. These are one of those pushy recipes that I urge you to make. I promise that people will ask you which patisserie you bought them from because they are that lusciously good. And if you are having difficulty locating beautiful strawberries just use a bit of gold leaf or a few grains of salt to decorate.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you a day or night person? And what time do you typically go to bed and wake up? And do you enjoy drinking games?
Strawberry & Chocolate Salted Caramel Tarts
180g/6ozs butter, softened
90g/3ozs or 1/2 cup less 1 tbsp sugar
1/2 egg beaten
220g / 1 3/4 cups flour
pinch of salt
Chocolate Salted Caramel Filling
80g/3ozs caster or superfine sugar
80ml/3 fl ozs water
180ml/6ozs pure cream
100g/3.5 ozs dark chocolate, roughly chopped
100g/3.5ozs milk chocolate, roughly chopped
150g/5 ozs butter, cubed, at room temperature (important that the butter is not cold)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Icing or powdered sugar
Step 1 - In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a beater attachment, beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Beat in egg. On the lowest speed add flour and salt and mix until just combined. Mixture will be soft. Using lightly floured hands, pat dough into 3 or more portions and use immediately or seal in plastic wrap and chill or freeze until required.
Step 2 - Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment until 3mm thick. I find this easiest to use when firmed up in the fridge. Dip a cutter into flour and cut the sizes you require to fit your tin. Transfer gently to tin and line the base and sides. Repair any cracks or holes with extra pastry so you have a perfect shell. Chill for at least 10 minutes before baking.
Step 3 - Preheat oven to 160°C/320F fan bake. Cover the pastry with a piece of baking paper or a double layer of tinfoil that has been lightly sprayed with oil ensuring that it is pressed into the corners. Fill with dried beans, chickpeas, uncooked rice or ceramic baking weights.Bake for 10 minutes, remove paper and beans then bake a further 10-15 minutes until the pastry is completely cooked.
Step 4 - Make the caramel ganache by placing the sugar and water in a heavy based saucepan. Stir on low heat until the sugar melts and then turn the heat to high and then boil without stirring until you get a caramel. Turn down the heat to low and carefully add the cream-it may spit so be careful, especially if the cream is too cold but it only spits for a few seconds. Then stir the cream and caramel together until any solid pieces of caramel are melted and you have a smooth caramel.
5. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate to the pan, stirring until melted. Then add the cubed butter and salt and stir until butter is fully incorporated. I find it easiest to pour the ganache into a jug and then fill the tarts by pouring. Set in the fridge overnight or for a few hours.
Step 6 - Decorate with a simple small piece of gold leaf or top with fresh strawberries and icing sugar.