Caramel Nut Tart

Caramel Nut TartStocking Up
The anticipation of Christmas morning is both the best and the worst part of the holiday…especially for kids. I know the wait was a killer for me starting from a very young age. And, that feeling stayed with me until the day I moved out.

The reason may be surprising. Yes, it was always fun exchanging gifts in the morning. Dad was always a good gift-giver and waiting to see what he got Mom every year was so much fun. Especially when he would think outside the box. You just never knew how it would go down. My sister and I would always look forward to what Santa brought. But, what we really looked forward to and snuck out in the middle of the night to see, was our stockings.

Mom was ridiculously good at stockings. I think she spent more time thinking about what to put in the stockings than what to put under the tree. I asked her one year why she focused so much on something that for most people is an afterthought. Her answer was that growing up, she was always disappointed because she would get things like oranges and walnuts in her stocking while her friends would get candy or little toys.

Yes, at the time my grandmother wasn’t too far removed from the depression. And yes, she should have been grateful to get anything at all. But, come on. What 8-year-old gets excited about an orange and some walnuts in the shell? I mean it’s definitely worse than socks. So, Mom swore that when she had kids, she would make sure that the Christmas stockings would be great. And, she threatened us with walnuts if we were naughty leading up to the big day. I hate walnuts, so her threat was taken seriously.

Over the years, nuts became a minor player in our Christmas traditions. Though we never had the traditional tray of mixed nuts out to crack and eat like my grandparents, they did show up in the form of Christmas decorations. Most notably the wreaths of nuts that had been spray-painted gold and glued to fake greenery. (She went a little overboard that year.)

I do find it funny that nuts are a very winter holiday thing. I can’t think of any other time of the year where you will see a festively wrapped burlap bag of pistachios and think Yes! That is the perfect gift for Uncle Ralph! and I don’t ever remember sending a fruit and nut tray for Easter.

Personally, I myself am a big fan of a dried fruit tray. Though I prefer to enjoy my yearly holiday nut allotment in a different way….

Caramel Nut Tart Recipe
Adapted from Lisa Volpe Hachey and Food 52
Yields 12 servings

The dough for this tart is a pate sucre which is pressed into the pan rather than rolled. This is great for cooks who don’t like rolling pie dough or for gluten-free flour substitutions.

For the crust
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour (we like King Arthur brand)

For the filling
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup Karo syrup
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 cups mixed unsalted nuts such as macadamias, sliced almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts

Make the crust
Combine butter and granulated sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix until the ingredients are combined on low speed (using a paddle attachment—if you have one). Add the egg yolk and mix again until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the flour and mix on low speed until incorporated. The dough should be in large clumps.

Shape the tart crust
Remove dough from the bowl and place it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press clumps of dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the pan. Chill the crust for 30 minutes.

While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 350º F.

Pre-bake the crust
When the crust is chilled, lightly prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Bake the crust in a preheated oven for 12 minutes.

Make the caramel filling
While crust is baking, prepare the filling.

Place the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and cream in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Slowly bring it to a boil, stirring continuously. Boil the filling mixture steadily for 3 minutes and remove it from the heat.

Remove the tart crust from the oven and decrease the oven temperature to 325º F.

Bake the tart
Place the nuts on the crust and carefully pour the caramel over the nuts. Return the tart to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly.

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