It only seemed fitting that my first post would be for something sweet. My grandma had a cafe in the small town I grew up in, and she made the best desserts. Pies, cakes, cookies, donuts, you name it. Given our German heritage, I definitely inherited her propensity for sweets. Seeing that Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away and I am a pecan pie fiend, making a take on this ubiquitous pie seemed perfect. Like many Americans, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It is not affiliated with a religion and even better: it’s all about the food. Since I moved to New York, I have definitely missed getting together with my family to celebrate. More times than not, I have eaten my Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant simply because the thought of making tons of food for two people seems kind of silly. Some meals have been better than others.
One of my most memorable Thanksgiving restaurant meals was at Jane. It was the first time I had ever tasted Brussels sprouts and liked them. In fact, I lurrrrved these. They were salty, crunchy and were blackened the tiniest bit which gave them a nice charred quality. I still remember one of my first Thanksgivings in NYC. My friend and I went to the Pink Tea Cup for a delicious meal of turkey and all the fixin’s. But to my horror they didn’t have pecan pie on the menu. This, of course, was sacrilege. So we paid our bill and I proceeded to stop at every grocery store we passed on the way home to get my pecan pie fix. What, no one has ANY pecan pies left at 5pm on Thanksgiving??! I wouldn’t be thwarted. Once we arrived home, I ended up calling a nearby diner and ordered a piece of pecan pie to be delivered. I’m sure I had to order something else to meet the minimum delivery requirements. The pie turned out to be very mediocre. But I laid on the couch and rubbed my belly with a smile on my face.
I have been wanting to make this Caramel Nut Tart recipe ever since finding it back in 2009 on The Splendid Table’s website. For those of you who aren’t familiar with TST, it is a fantastic NPR show that I started listening to back in 2002 when I was living in Minnesota. It is hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who happens to be one of my food heroes. She is a never-ending well of knowledge about all things food related. And you know how rubbing behind a dog’s ears puts them in a trance? Well Lynne’s voice does the same thing to me. Subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already.
This tart should have its own day. You know how there is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, etc? Well, there should be a National Caramel Nut Tart Day. It’s that good. The rich, salty-sweet shortbread crust is what kept me coming back for more. I’m a sucker for all things buttery and I love the salty-sweet combo. In fact, I would compare this to a sweet pecan pie sitting on top of a shortbread cookie. The rich, buttery crust pairs really nicely with the crunchy, sweet topping. If I made this again, I would even drizzle a little dark chocolate over the top of the finished tart.
One of the best things about this tart is that you don’t have to roll out any dough. Just use your fingers to spread it into your tart pan. In fact, I don’t own a tart pan so I used a pie pan. Voila. The pastry can be made several days in advance. But once you make the filling, it needs to be poured into the pastry and baked immediately. The top of this tart looks like a shiny, beautiful medley of mixed nuts. Perfect for your Thanksgiving table.
Caramel Nut Tart
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 3 cold large egg yolks plus 3 tablespoons ice water (more as needed)
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup firm-packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup pecans
- 2/3 cup hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup whole walnuts
- 1/3 cup shelled salted pistachios
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- To make the pastry, put all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Run a few seconds to blend. Add the cold butter and process until mixture resembles peas. Turn off the machine, sprinkle dough with yolk and water mixture and pulse until dough begins to gather into clumps. You should be able to squeeze it together easily. If dry, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon water and pulse to blend. Gently gather into a ball, wrap, and chill 1 hour to overnight.
- Grease an 11-inch fluted, false-bottomed tart pan. Roll out dough to a little less than 1/8-inch thickness and fit into pan. Double over dough at sides. Trim away excess. Chill tart shell 1 hour to overnight.
- To bake, preheat oven to 400°F. Line tart shell with foil and weight either with dry rice or beans. Bake 10 minutes. Remove liner, prick bottom of shell with a fork, and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
- To finish tart, preheat oven to 350°F. Place baked tart shell on a baking sheet. Combine the second quantity of butter, brown sugar, honey, and white sugar in a 2-quart heavy saucepan.
- Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir with a whisk until it comes to a boil. Boil one minute, or until thick and large bubbles form. Stir in nuts, quickly remove from heat and stir in cream. Immediately pour the mixture into tart shell. Spread out evenly to cover the entire surface of the pastry.
- Bake on baking sheet for about 20 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature.