It is almost November and Blue Cayenne almost missed celebrating October as National Caramel Month.
What was I thinking?
The only excuse I can think of is that I’ve been in a sugar-induced stupor for the last couple of weeks. With Halloween approaching, I bought a huge bag of Costco chocolates for the trick or treaters. You know how that goes.
Although my intentions were pure, I’m well on my way to finishing off the tiny “fun-size” Milky Ways and have found myself eyeing the little Butterfingers. The little ghouls and goblins on my street are just going to have make do with the (ugh!) peanut-butter cups and the Baby Ruths.
In the four days left of October, there is still time for us to celebrate caramel month, though. What better way to do that than with this recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine for a decadent caramelized honey, nut and seed tart. It is a beauty–full of wonderful nuts and seeds held in place by an abundance of gooey caramel. Your guests will swoon!
You are probably sitting there reading this and wondering about the history of caramels.
Some believe that the confection was invented by the Arabs and transferred to Europe via the Crusades. Interestingly, the word for candy derives from the Arabic word qandi (made of sugar).
Caramels were mostly an aristocratic indulgence in Europe until the 19th century when the cost of sugar declined and put the candy within the reach of people of more modest means. It appears that the popularity of caramel candy in America coincided with the collapse in world sugar prices.
For some reason, early American caramel manufacturing was concentrated in Pennsylvania. Milton Hershey was one of the early manufacturers of American caramels. In 1900, Hershey sold his caramel company (The Lancaster Caramel Company) and shifted his attention to chocolate candy production, saying “Caramels are just a fad, but chocolate is a permanent thing.”
I will leave it to you to decide if this caramel tart is a fad. I’ve added it as a permanent part of my cooking notebooks.
A link to the original recipe for this caramel and nut tart appears at the bottom of this post.
Ingredients: Caramelized Honey, Nut and Seed Tart
1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. powdered sugar
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 C. (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter (cut into pieces)
2 large egg yolks
1 T. water
1/4 C. honey
1 T. water
1/4 C. granulated sugar
1/4 C. heavy cream
4 T. unsalted butter
2 T. light corn syrup
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 C. mixed unsalted (and roasted) nuts (such as pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios, and/or sliced almonds)
1/3 C. unsalted, roasted seeds (such a pumpkin or sunflower or a mixture)
Bake at 350 degrees F. in a 9 inch (diameter) springform pan.
For the crust, combine flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the butter to the food processor bowl and pulse until the butter is mixed in and the mixture has the texture of coarse meal with a few pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks with 1 T. water. Turn the food processor on and slowly pour the egg yolk mixture into the butter/flour mixture. Continue processing until the mixture begins to form into large pieces of dough. Scoop the dough out of the processor and, with lightly floured fingers, form the dough into a ball and put it into the springform pan. Using your floured fingers, press the dough into the bottom and one inch up the sides of the springform pan. Smooth the dough into the pan and freeze for fifteen to twenty minutes or until the dough is frozen solid.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Once the dough is frozen, remove from the freezer the prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Bake for twenty to twenty-five minutes. The dough should be slightly golden in color. Remove crust from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
For the filling, simmer honey and 1 T. water in a saucepan over medium to low heat until the mixture is darkened in color and has a nice nutty aroma. This will take about two minutes. While this is happening, DON’T stir the mixture. Instead swirl the mixture in the pan and use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush away the sugar crystals that form on the side of the pan. Otherwise, you compromise your caramel-making efforts. Next, carefully stir in granulated sugar, heavy cream, butter, corn syrup, salt and vanilla. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil. Continue cooking your caramel for give to eight minutes (swirling the pan again–not stirring– and brushing down the sides of the pan with the pastry brush) until your caramel is dark in color and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Watch your caramel carefully to be sure that it doesn’t burn. If you overcook your caramel, it will turn into toffee.
Stir in the nuts and seeds and continue stirring until the caramel mixture coats the nuts.
Scrape the caramel nut mixture into your prepared pie shell and, using a spatula, spread the thick mixture until it fills the crust and extends to the edges of the crust.
Bake in a 350 degree F. oven until the filling for the pie is a deep golden brown and your caramel is bubbling away. This will take 25-30 minutes. Let your tart cool before cutting and serving.
Serve with a scoop of high quality French vanilla ice cream.
Here is the link to the original recipe: