Friday, March 15, 2013

Baking Bouchon - Recipe 19: Caramel Nut Tart

Oh my.  I don't think the tarts in this book and I are going to be friends.  The first one had way too many complicated ingredients and took me three days to make.  This one... let's just say if I wasn't laughing I'd be crying.  Don't get me wrong, it was DELICIOUS (honestly, how could a dessert containing something called caramel jam not be good?) but because the path to caramel nuttiness or nutty caramelness was fraught with disasters!

It all started off well enough when I made the crust (ok, fine, Pâte Brisée if you want to be all fancy pants about it).  This is basically just a regular old pie crust... butter, flour, salt and ice water.

Every other pie crust I've ever made instructs you cut the butter into the flour until crumbly (I usually do this in my food processor), then add the ice water until it comes together.  This was a little different in that you add the butter to half the flour and it forms a dough, then you add the other half of the flour and you end up with that same crumbly mixture before adding the water.  I can't say one is better than the other because this crust did end up being very light and flaky.  Honestly, maybe a bit too flaky since it crumbled a bit when the tart was sliced.

The one thing I have been doing in my other pie crusts lately is substituting a little of the water with vodka and I really like it.  Yes, because everything's better with booze, but also because when you bake the crust the vodka evaporates quickly and keeps the dough really light and flaky.  I can't decide which I like better.  I think I'll probably stick with my vodka crust for everyday use.

So, the dough gets refrigerated overnight and the next day I prepared the rest of the ingredients.


The tart really is just nuts and caramel which is fine by me.  The first thing to do it to completely bake the pie crust so it's ready to receive the nuts and caramel.

See how pretty this is?  You'll never see it looking this way again... ever.

But before we get to the crust catastrophe, have I ever told you what I like to do with pie crust scraps?  I roll them out, sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar and bake them.  These little buddies are super yummy!  I sometimes think I should just make pie dough and do this with it without ever making a pie or tart... maybe with a little sweet cream cheese dip on the side.  Oh man, I'm getting really excited now.

I've never really found anyone else who appreciates these scraps as much as I do, but that's fine with me.  You see that plate of sweet, cinnamony scraps?  I ate the whole thing all by myself and I didn't feel bad at all.

But a few minutes later I did feel bad.  Why?  Not because I ate too many scraps (I've got a much higher butter tolerance than your average girl) but because disaster struck. 

So, I devoured my scraps, the crust was finishing up in the oven and I started to work on my caramel.  I got everything on the stove and pretty close to done when the pie crust was ready to come out of the oven.  You know how tart pans come in two pieces?  There is the circular base and then the ring around the edge.  Well, I slid the pan out of the oven with my hand in a hot pad underneath of it.  The ring proceeded to slide off the tart and around my arm.  Remember how I just took it out of a 325 degree oven?  Yeah, it was hot.  I danced around the kitchen with a hot ring around my arm and a delicate pie crust in my hand.  The ring bounced around on my arm leaving multiple burn marks until I dropped the crust... one the floor... upside down.

I now look like I've been cutting on my left arm.

And guess what happened while I was dancing around the kitchen with a ring of fire around my arm?   

Yep, I burned the caramel.

After I stopped laughing, cleaned up the floor and dumped the burned caramel, I started all over again.  Luckily, I had enough ingredients on hand to remake the crust and the caramel.  Although, needless to say, this crust did NOT rest in the refrigerator overnight.  It got one hour and it should be grateful.

In other news, Sconnie really likes pie crust.

This time around I focused on one thing at a time.  I made the crust, chilled it and baked it.  Then I started back on the caramel again.

This go around the caramel came together pretty easily and did not taste like burnt sugar.

Isn't it neat how just sugar can go from clear to caramelized gooey goodness just from a little heat?  Sometimes science is cool.

In the bottom left hand photo you can see how the sugar foams up when you add the cream.  Once it stops being scary, it's actually pretty cool.

Lucky me, I got to see it twice today. 

So, you've FINALLY got a pie crust that isn't in pieces on the floor, some caramel that doesn't taste like you licked a campfire and some toasted nuts.  (It's hard to believe I didn't burn the nuts when I  toasted them.  Thank goodness for small favors!)  The nuts gets sprinkled over the crust and topped with the caramel.  Then you let it cool for a couple of hours.

Let me tell you, if I hadn't messed it up the first time, this tart would have been pretty easy to make.  I'm so glad I persevered and got this tart finished because it was really very good.  I was sceptical that the caramel would hold up when sliced but it definitely did. The crust is not sweet at all and actually a bit salty so it balanced nicely with the sweet caramel and the earthy nuts.  CA thought it was going to be a sugar bomb when he saw it but when he tasted it said it wasn't too sweet at all.

I'll definitely make this tart again (for a third time) and will be sure I am completely focused on what I'm doing.  Who knew you had to pay so much attention when you are baking?


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