Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tarts: Part III

If fruit isn’t really your thing, maybe you would prefer a homemade caramel and toasted walnut tart. It's delicious!

Again, the recipes are from a pastry class that I took at Whole Foods…although I did adjust the measurements to standard cup measurements rather than grams and/or ounces (because I don’t have a kitchen scale).

Caramel Walnut Tart

2 cups toasted walnuts (To toast, place the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place in a 350F degree oven for 8-10 minutes; checking and stirring regularly.)
3 oz. heavy cream
4 ½ oz. honey
6 tablespoons butter
½ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
vanilla (I think I used about 1/8 teaspoon)

In a heavy bottom sauce pan, cook cream, honey and butter until butter is fully incorporated. Add sugar and salt – cooking over medium heat to 238F degrees or the consistency of a softball sugar. Stir as necessary to prevent burning, but don’t stir continuously. (Softball sugar is when you use the ice water method for checking the caramel, details in the Tips section below. I don’t have a candy thermometer yet and I had never used the ice water method before, so don’t get too stressed about make sure it’s perfect, I just considered it done when I thought it was kind of close to what it should be like and it turned out great.)

Cool slightly, add vanilla.

Leave baked tart crust in the pan for support. Place the toasted walnuts in the tart shell. Pour warm caramel over the walnuts and allow to set at room temperature for a bit. (I actually served mine a little warm with vanilla bean ice cream. If you make it ahead of time, just place the completed Caramel Walnut Tart in the oven at the lowest temperature setting for 5-10 minutes to warm it up a bit and serve with ice cream.)

This caramel should remain soft but firm enough not to run when the tart is cut and should be on the transparent side.
If the caramel is opaque and runny it should be cooked longer.
If the caramel is hard and very clear it has been overcooked.
You can absolutely use the ice water method for checking the cooking of the caramel mixture, simply use a spoon to bring some of the caramel in to ice water and look for soft ball consistency (the caramel should form into a soft ball either on contact with the water or between your fingers, but be careful the caramel is VERY hot!)

Serve alone or accompanied with ice cream.


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