Ever since I can remember I've loved baking. Always. Since approximately the age of 11 years old I have been in charge of birthday cakes at home. My repertoire was limited yes, but very very good.
At the time I stuck to Argentinean classics: lemon meringue tart, Rogel - our version of millefuilles: 10 or 12 layers of thin crunchy crust filled with dulce de leche and covered in Italian meringue, strawberry tart, the "Bombe" – fudgy brownie, dulce de leche, Chantilly and Italian meringue, and finally the "Havannet".
The Havannet has its own particular story. When I was little one of the best times was when my dad had to travel to Mar del Plata (a city on the sea coast, 4 hours away from Buenos Aires, where I used to live), or when we got to go there on vacation. Because in that glorious city lived the King of Alfajores: HAVANNA.
At the time Havanna was a store that made "alfajores" and a very special little pastry called "havannet". These where little cones composed of a base of shortcrust pastry, dulce de leche and the whole thing was dipped in chocolate. Perfection really. And at the time, you could only buy them in Mar del Plata, nowhere else.
So you can imagine how happy a little girl could be when she would receive a box of alfajores and a box of havannets? The answer is over the moon! Plus it was a commodity, it happened rarely. I remember making them last as long as possible, or at least trying to. A treasure really.
Nowadays there's a Havanna store almost on every other corner, so it's not as exiting when you eat an "Alfajor Havana"; because they have first and last name.
Going back to havannet, someone decided to make it into a tart. A genius person I must say! So there are as many recipes for this dessert as there are bakers. I would like to share mine with you.
Over the years I've changed the crust recipe as many times as I have made this tart, but I think I have found "the one" now. I found it in Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery Cookbook. It's just perfect. However it is not in my opinion the key to success when preparing this deliciousness, the balance between the layers is! You want a thin crust, really thin a nice generous dulce de leche filling, and chocolate ganache to top it all off that should me as thick as the crust.
Finally, I gave our classical Havannet a slight twist: I replaced our dulce de leche, for salted caramel. It was a brilliant decision. Make it for yourself and tell me what do you think! I hope you'll agree.
And to make things even better, the shortcrust pastry I used is hands down the bust pate sablée recipe out there. Really. Thank you Chef Thomas Keller. Life is definitely better with your tart dough recipe in it!
For the shortbread crust recipe, see Shortbread Crust.