I had never made a tart before. Something about them always intimidated me, and for the longest time I couldn't figure out why. I had conquered pie crusts, so a tart crust shouldn't be that much different. Then I finally realized: tarts seemed ridiculously hard because I lacked a tart pan.
It's a belief of mine that if you have the right equipment or ingredients on hand, then cooking (or baking) is easy. Lack of a crucial ingredient or equipment, and suddenly a recipe becomes that much more difficult. A dinner that should take just 30 minutes to cook can — if you need to make extra trips to the store for those missing items — be so impractical as to be impossible at that time. So planning is everything.
Not that I plan or anything. When I saw this caramel-rich tart featured in the March 2009 edition of Bon Appétit, it reminded me of a "musician's tart" but without the fruit. We were getting together with some friends for an evening of food, conversation, and piano music on their newly restored 1876 Steinway grand (I'm soooo envious!), and I decided it was the perfect dessert for the night.
Which meant it was time to buy that tart pan and make my first tart.
Of course, I decided this the night before I needed to make the tart. The next day, I took a lunchtime trip to Macy's (it's close to my work) for a tart pan, but couldn't find one. So I went further into the mall to Williams & Sonoma, but they only had square ones. They had been out of round ones for months and didn't know when they would have more. The recipe specified a round pan. I was in a rush and not up to converting the area of the square one to see if it'd be equal to the round one that I wanted. That afternoon I called Baker's Nook in Saline, but learned that they closed at 5pm and there was no way I'd be able to make it there in time. Finally, at the end of the day, I remembered that Ace Hardware has an excellent kitchen department. They were a bit out of my way, so I called first. Yes, they had tart pans. Many tart pans. In many sizes. And they were open late enough for me. Whew! Disaster averted. (Which is to say: I didn't have to search for a different recipe. Or square the circle.)
Let that be a lesson to me! Plan further in advance!
And I am glad that disaster was averted, otherwise I would not have discovered this delicious dessert. The orange juice and zest gives this caramel a great citrus flavor that goes fabulously with the nuts. With all those nuts (and the vitamin C from the citrus!) you can pretend it's almost good for you.
(recipe in extended post, or at above Bon Appétit website)
Bon Appétit, March 2009
10 Tbs (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 C powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, separated
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
9-inch round tart pan with removable bottom
1 C sugar
1/4 C water
1/4 C orange juice
1/2 C heavy whipping cream
2 Tbs (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 Tbs honey
2 tsp finely grated orange peel
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C roasted unsalted cashews (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 C pine nuts (about 2 1/2 ounces), lightly toasted
1/2 C walnut pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces), lightly toasted
Make crust first:
Beat butter, powdered sugar, and salt in electric mixer until blended. Add egg yolk and cream. Beat until smooth. Add flour and beat until the dough just comes together. Turn out on lightly floured surface and knead briefly to combine. Gather together and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and put in freezer for about 15 minutes or until firm.
While the dough is freezing, get your oven heated to around 350 F and toast the pine nuts and walnuts. (The cashews I found were already roasted.) I toasted them separately because I wasn't sure if they'd need the same amount of time. They should come out golden, not dark brown. You can also toast them in a skillet, though I think that requires more or less constant stirring to prevent dark spots. Set nuts aside.
Roll out dough to about a 12-inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch tart pan. Fit dough into pan carefully. This is where it fell apart for me. Ideally you'll have about a 1/2 inch overhang, which you fold back into the pan to create double-thick sides. My edges broke off, so I fitted the pieces back in to create the double-thick sides. Pierce bottom of crust all over with a fork. Freeze for 30 minutes.
(You can finish off the nuts during this time, if you didn't get them done the first time.)
Line crust with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake in 350 F oven until sides are set — about 20 minutes. (Crust will not be done yet, just set.) Remove foil. Bake until golden — about 20 minutes more. If crust bubbles, press back with a fork. Crust should be lightly golden. It's going to get baked some more with the filling.
Right before the crust is done, whisk the reserved egg white until foamy and thick. Remove crust from oven. Brush hot crust with egg white and let cool on a rack; this keeps it from getting soggy. Keep oven on.
Stir sugar with 1/4 C water in heavy medium sauce pan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. (Don't stir.) You can brush down sides with a wet pastry brush. Cook until syrup is deep amber — about 9 minutes. You can swirl the pan occasionally to get it all mixed up.
Remove from heat and add orange juice and then cream. (I like to whisk the syrup while adding cold liquids.) Whisk over low heat until smooth. Whisk in butter, honey, orange peel, vanilla, and salt. Stir in all nuts.
Pour filling into crust. Bake tart until filling is bubbling thickly all over — about 22 minutes. Cool tart completely on rack before cutting and serving.
You can make the tart up to a day in advance. Cover with foil and store at room temperature. Don't drop it into the piano.