May 24, 2012

Caramel Nut Tart

This recipe is from my hero, Martha Stewart. 

my two fav's, Martha AND Cookie Monster

Well...most probably it was created by someone on her staff anyway.  I'm guessing she is too busy running an empire to roll out pasty dough these days (unless she's being taped of course) but it doesn't matter I love her anyway.

The recipes from Martha's website, magazine, books, etc are never overly complicated.  They're written concisely and don't have a million and one ingredients which is something I love and appreciate about her brand.

The trickiest part about this tart (for me anyway) was the crust.  If you've read my post Gentleman's Apple Pie you'll see that I've given some tips about perfecting the pie crust.  I'm not there yet.  Not even close.  But it's okay you've just got to practice and eat.  Practice, eat.  Repeat.  It's the only way to learn.

This crust recipe is called a Pate Sucree which is fancy-pants-french for 'Sweet Dough.'  It is ideal for tart pans as it doesn't stick to the sides of the pan and doesn't shrink.  It's a bit 'tougher' than a flaky pie crust but still has a nice bite.  The taste is somewhat similar to shortbread cookie.  Crisp and buttery, not too flakey and not too sweet.

As always with any pastry dough remember the following so you won't be cursing in the kitchen:

Work FAST: don't dilly-dally (like message your friends telling them you're making pie).  You want the dough cold cold cold.  Two important reasons.  First, pastry dough is much easier to work with when it's cold.  It is less likely to stick to the counter and rolling pin if it's chilled.  Second, you want chunks of butter (not hunks of butter, more like slivers) throughout the dough.  These chunks go into the oven cold and melt in place, in turn creating a buttery crust.  Yum yum.

Less NOT more (it terms flour): When rolling out your dough, sparingly use flour to dust the counter and your rolling pin.  If you find that your dough keeps sticking the culprit is mostly likely that it has become too warm.  By continually adding flour to the dough you're setting yourself up for a brittle, tough crust.  Work cold and work fast.

Caramel Nut Tart
Yields 2 nine-inch tarts
printable version

For the Pate Sucree
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons ice water
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten

For the filling
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound (16 ounces) assorted mixed nuts (I would go with unsalted) such as hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, almonds, pecans, or cashews
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


In the bowl of a food processor, add flour, sugar, and salt.  Add butter and process for approximately 10 seconds or just until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

With the motor running, add ice water drop by drop (don't just dump it in).  Slowly add egg yolks until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky, about 30 seconds.  Test the dough at this point by squeezing a small amount together.  If it is too crumbly, add a bit more water.

Divide dough into two equal portions (I weighed mine for accuracy).  Flatten into disks and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling.  If you keep the dough in the refrigerator over night, move to the counter for at least 30 minutes so it will soften slightly and be easier to roll.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Have ready two 9-inch tart pans with a removable bottom (I only have one so I had to make the pies separately.  If you have two pans you can bake them at the same time).  Cut out two parchment circles to fit the size of the pan and set aside (note: if you only have one pan you only need one circle, you can just re-use after the first pie is done). 

Roll out one disk of pate sucree to a 12 inch circle with a 1/4 inch thickness.  After rolling hold the pan over the dough to make sure the diameter is correct.  Roll dough onto the pin and unroll over one of the tart pans.  Press dough into place and being careful not to stretch the dough.  Use a paring knife to trim off excess dough.  Repeat with remaining dough and tart pan.  Chill both pans for 30 minutes.  If you only have one pan keep the other disk of dough in the fridge until later.

Line pastry dough with the parchment circle and fill with pie weights or dried beans. My husband walked in at this exact moment and said 'oh you're making a bean pie, are they going to cook all dry like that?' I mean really, what else could he say? Yes honey you've been bad, you get a bean pie. A dry one. Ick.

Bake until pastry begins to take on color, about 25 minutes.  Remove the parchment and weights (beans) and continue baking or until light golden brown all over, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside until ready to use.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  To prepare the filling, place butter, both sugars, honey, and heavy cream in a large saucepan over high heat. 

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil 5 minutes.

Stir in nuts and vanilla and remove from heat.  Pour filling equally into reserved tart shells.  I weighed the mixture so each tart would have an equal amount of filling.  If you're only using one pan at a time, cover remaining filling and set aside.  Once you're ready to fill the second tart shell, microwave the mixture for about 30 seconds until it's somewhat fluid and easy to transfer (as it firms up somewhat quickly).


Bake tarts on the center rack until the filling bubbles. 15 to 20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Store in an airtight container up to 2 days.


Pate Sucree and Filling recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart

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