Pumpkin-Caramel Tart With Toasted-Hazelnut Crust

Have you had your fill of pumpkin pie yet? Are we moving on to all things gingerbread and eggnog in flavor? To be fair I wouldn’t blame you if you swore off pumpkin till next September when the craze picks up again. But can I urge you to make room for just 1 more pumpkin thing? It’s a pumpkin caramel hazelnut tart and I swear it’s going to completely change the way you think about pumpkin pie. Here, take a look.

Warming up to the idea yet? Maybe it’ll make a difference that the filling is not predominantly pumpkin at all. Instead it starts with a base of homemade caramel sauce, one where you let the sugar get just to the point of almost burning before dousing it in cream. Only then does this rich and intensely flavored sauce combine with a modest amount of pumpkin and cinnamon and a good dose of freshly grated ginger.

No, still not convinced?

Well maybe I should mention that this caramel pumpkin filling is baked inside of a wonderful crumbly, shortbread-like hazelnut crust. Almost a full cup of hazelnuts go into this crust along with a good amount of butter for good measure, giving the each and every bite of the tart the slightest amount of crunch and an underlying nutty flavor.

And if you’re still hesitant, I should probably add that the entire tart is topped with a generous sprinkling of candied hazelnuts for an ultimate sweet caramel crunch.

And of course there has to be an enormous dollop of whipped cream on top.

So really, you shouldn’t even compare this to pumpkin pie, it’s in a category all to itself. But if you still refuse to have a slice, if you’re too pumpkin-ed out, I guess I can’t complain… more for me!

Pumpkin-Caramel Tart With Toasted-Hazelnut Crust
Serves 8-10
Bon Appetit Magazine


For the crust
1¼ cups hazelnuts
1 cup flour
2 Tbs granulated sugar
¾ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into cubes

For the filling and topping
1¼ cups granulated sugar, divided
pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 Tbs light brown sugar
1 Tbs flour
1½ tsp. freshly grated ginger
¾ tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. salt

3 eggs
whipped cream, for serving

Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by lining the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the hazelnuts on a sheetpan and toast in the oven for 10-13 minutes, until fragrant. Remove and let cool. Once cool, use a clean kitchen towel to rub the hazelnuts together and remove most of the skins.

Transfer ¾ cup of the hazelnuts to a food processor and set the rest aside for the candied hazelnut topping. Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the food processor and pulse until you have a coarse meal. Add the butter and continue pulsing until you only have a few pea-sized pieces of butter left. Transfer to a bowl and add up to 3 tablespoons of water to the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it forms a dough.

Press the dough into the pan so it goes 1½ to 2 inches up the side. Place the pan with the dough in the freezer for 10 minutes and then transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes and then let cool slightly.

To make the filling combine 1 cup of the sugar, the cream of tartar and 2 tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Over a medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar begins to melt. Once it is melted, stop stirring and occasionally swirl the pan to evenly distribute the caramel. The caramel is ready when it turns a deep amber color. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the cream. Whisk until it is smooth and set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt and the eggs until it is smooth. Slowly incorporate the caramel. Pour the filling into the hazelnut crust and bake, rotating halfway through, for 35-45 minutes until the edges are set and the center jiggles just slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the tart cooks, make the candied hazelnuts. Roughly chop the remaining ½ cup of hazelnuts. Add to a saucepan with ¼ cup of sugar and a tablespoon of water. Place over a medium heat and stir until the sugar melts and coats the hazelnuts. Pour onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper to cool. Once cool, break into pieces and scatter over the cooled tart. Serve with whipped cream.

Swiss Chard Tart with Sesame Cracker Crust

So here we are, coming to the end of June, and just like last year my family an I have reached the stage of our gardening where we find ourselves in a bit of a leafy green crisis. We can literally scalp our rows of chard and lettuce and within the week they have grown back to full size. We start to run out of room in the refrigerator, out of storage containers, out of recipes. Though I suppose I can hardly justify complaining about an overabundance of homegrown vegetables. They are gorgeous and delicious and, most notably, absolutely free so we try our best to cram them into as many dishes as possible.

We have found a winner of a recipe in the recent Martha Stewart Living Food Issue Magazine, one that can rid the refrigerator of 1.5 pounds of greens in one fell swoop and is incredibly tasty at the same time. Now, a little side note, if you haven’t picked up this magazine yet, you really should. It has become a permanent fixture on the kitchen table and I discover something new to make every time I flip though it. It also has the recipe for this one-pot pasta, which has been making quite a few appearances in the foodie blogosphere lately. It may very well be the brainchild of someone with magical powers and is revolutionary in its approach to making a pot of pasta. Everything literally cooks together in one pot – you don’t even need a colander. It stands for all things cheap, easy and fabulous and will probably become a weekly thing once our cherry tomato plants begin to burden grace it with their bounty. But back to the recipe at hand…

This here is a Swiss chard tart with sesame cracker crust. To break it down its pretty much like taking the filling of spanakopita  (the recipe actually calls for all spinach but, well, we had Swiss chard so that’s what we used) and stuffing it into a tart shell that tastes like those little sesame cracker sticks in the packs of Asian-like trail mix. You know what I’m talking about, right? The pieces that everyone picks outs out of the mix first, leaving behind the stale nori crackers and wasabi peas.

You start by making the dough for the crust, which uses a dump and stir method and it comes together in seconds. It gets rolled out, placed into a tart pan, and baked until golden and crisp. The filling is mostly the greens but they get a salty punch from feta and some nice residual heat from red pepper flakes. And when the two come together and bake until piping hot, the result is simply lovely. The green surface is speckled with the bits of red, yellow, and orange stems of the chard and the scattering of white sesame seeds. The taste borders the line between light and fresh and something that is perhaps a little naughty with its rich, flaky crust. The crust holds up really well and actually stays quite crispy even after refrigerated and heated up again in the microwave. It’s a definite best contender for an easy lunch to bring to work the next day. Because of its richness, it pairs well with something a little more acidic. A pinot grigio would be nice but I had it with

Dogfish Head Festina Peche, a brewed malt beverage with a tart and tangy taste and a lingering wheat-like finish. All in all, with a slice of this tart at hand and a cold glass of your drink of choice, this is all I want out of an early summer evening supper.

Swiss Chard Tart with Sesame Cracker Crust
serves 4-6
slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

¾ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp coarse salt
t Tbs. sesame seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup water

1½ lbs swiss chard
1 Tbs olive oil
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
3 oz feta cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp sesame seeds

Start by making the crust. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the flours, salt and sesame seeds in large bowl and whisk to combine. Add in the olive oil and water and use a wooden spoon to mix together, finishing with your hands to knead it into a uniform ball. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle about 2 inches wider in diameter than your tart pan (use one with a removable bottom). Fit the dough into the pan, pressing it up the sides and trimming off any excess. Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork and bake for about 30 minutes and let cool slightly. Once cooked, reduce the oven to 350 degrees.

While the tart crust cooks, prepare the filling. Remove the green leaves from the chard and tear them into large pieces, saving the stems. Add the leaves to a large pot with ¼ cup of water and cover. Heat on medium, stirring periodically until the leaves are wilted. Transfer greens to a sieve placed over a bowl or sink to drain the excess water and set aside. Drain any water from your pan and place over a medium heat with 1Tbs. of oil. When hot, add the shallot, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the shallot is soft, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

When the chard leaves are cool enough to handle, place themin a clean towel and squeeze it over the sink to remove the extra water. Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop. Add to a mixing bowl with the shallot mixture, crumbled feta, eggs, and salt. Stir to combine. Add the filling to the slightly cooled tart shell and evenly press it in. sprinkle the ½ tsp. of sesame seeds overtop. Bake in the 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Apple Tart

Apple season always puts me in this crazed fanatic mood. I stock up on dozens and literally change all of my meals so that they somehow incorporate this beautiful seasonal ingredient. I’ve been making pork chops topped with sautéed apples and blue cheese, sweet potatoes stuffed with apples and cheddar, butternut squash soup sweetened with apples and cider. There is nothing comparable to the taste of a freshly picked Virginia apple. The skin is rough and bumpy, free from that awful wax that defiles the outside every store-bought variety. The flesh is firm and dense as if every square inch is packed with as much pure apple flavor as possible. And of course nothing beats that satisfying crunch with each and every bite.

But a celebration of the fall apple wouldn’t be complete without an apple pie, right? Well, the thing is, I’m not a huge pie fan. They are just so heavy and the crust seems to overtake the fruit inside, the ingredient that should stand out instead. The filling usually ends up as a sickeningly sweet and syrupy concoction that masks that great fruit flavor and that syrup eventually runs to the bottom and transforms what used to be a flaky crust into a pile of mush.

Yep, definitely don’t like pie too much.

But a tart…now a tart is not a pie. A tart takes all of the unfortunate aspects of pie and gets rid of them, leaving all that is good and tasty. Whether it’s a fruit tart, chocolate, frangipane, etc., it just seems to get the proportions right.

This simple apple tart I made is a proper tribute to the fall apple. A thin, flaky, and buttery crust serves as a sturdy base for a whole lot of pure and simple apple. No gelatinous flour sauce coats this fruit. It gets a little brush of butter, a sprinkling of coarse raw sugar, and a dash of cinnamon. That’s it. It bakes long and slow and the apples slowly soften, the sugars condensing and turning the tart flavors slightly sweeter. A sweet and toasty smell fills the air in a scent that speaks of nothing but fall. The crust crisps up, turning delicate and tender with a subtle crunch from the sugar and a thin glaze of jam puts a lightly sweet glisten over the top. It needs nothing on the side (though a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream wouldn’t be bad at all) for the apples speak for themselves. If you want to celebrate apples this year, this is the way to do it.

Apple Tart
from Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of Alice Water’s recipe

This tart actually keeps for a while in the fridge. Though it’s best warm and fresh out of the oven, it revives beautifully when recrisped in a toaster oven. Like any pie, it can also be frozen after cooling and reheated in the oven if you want to make it ahead of time. But it is so light and fresh and fragrant, you may not be able to resist from gobbling it up before it makes it to the freezer.

for the dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
6 Tbs. just-softened butter cut into cubes
3½ Tbs. cold water

for the filling
5 firm and tart apples (I used enterprise apples) peeled, cored, halved, and cut into thin half-circle slices
2 Tbs. butter, melted
3 Tbs. coarse sugar
a dash of cinnamon

for the glaze
your favorite jam

First make the dough. Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add 2 Tbs. of the butter. Rub the butter into the flour with the tips of your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the rest of the butter and rub into the flour until you have pea-sized pieces. Dribble in the water, one Tbs. at a time and toss it into the butter and flour mixture with your hands. Continue adding the water (add more or less as needed) until the dough is able to form into a ball. Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

While the dough is sitting in the fridge, you can work on preparing you apples, peeling, coring, halving, and cutting into thin slices. When ready to assemble, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until about 1 inch bigger that the tart pan on each side. Lightly grease the ban and drape the dough overtop, pressing it up the sides and letting the extra hang over the edge. Arrange the apple slices inside, flat, cut-side down, overlapping and working in a circle from the outside in until you use all of the apples. Take the overhanging crust and drape it over about two inches of the apples on the outside. Remove any excessive crust. Brush the melted butter over the apples and the crust and sprinkle over the sugar and a little bit of cinnamon. Bake for 45 minutes, turning every 15, until the crust is golden and the apples soft.

Remove from the oven to cool about 15 minutes before serving. Before serving, heat a small amount of your favorite jam or preserves (apple or apricot would be nice) in the microwave and brush a thin layer over the apples so they shine. Serve alone or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.