December is one of my favorite times of the year because baking season is in full swing. Even those who eschew their ovens for the other 11 months gather up flour, sugar and all the supplies they need to spend an afternoon in the kitchen whipping up sweet treats to share with family and friends. Cookies are the go-to for holiday baking, but I think the type of gathering determines the most appropriate indulgence.
I volunteered to bring dessert to a recent family dinner. It had been a while since I had baked a tart. I always find it satisfying to make the dough from scratch and fit it into a fluted pan for an end result that is very elegant on the plate. I scanned the pantry for inspiration for a filling, and I discovered a random collection of partial bags of nuts. Wanting to clear some space on the shelves, I baked a caramel nut tart. A bit of ground cinnamon in the dough added a subtle seasonal touch.
Makes one 9-inch tart
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 pound assorted nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts)
For the dough, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract and add the dry ingredients mixing until just combined. Pat the dough into a 1-inch thick disk, cover in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it warm slightly. On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough an 1/8-inch thick and large enough to fit a 9-inch diameter tart pan with a removable bottom. Carefully transfer the dough to the pan and trim the excess. (Extra dough can be stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days or frozen up to 1 month.) Prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Line the crust with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans, rice or pie weights. Bake for 25 minutes until the tart starts to turn light brown. Remove the foil and weights and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
To make the caramel, combine the granulated sugar, dark brown sugar and water into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring the caramel to a boil without stirring. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush as necessary. When the caramel is a deep amber color, remove it from the heat and whisk in the heavy cream, honey and vanilla extract. Stir in the nuts.
Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 15-20 minutes until the filling bubbles. Cool on a wire rack before serving.