This is the season for those who love the taste and texture of toasted nuts. Pecan pie is a perennial favorite this time of year and this tart follows loosely in that tradition.
I begin with the Tarte aux Trois Noix (Triple Nut Tart) from the The American Boulangerie cookbook, which I like because of its lower sugar content and the fact that it doesn’t rely on a heavy dose of corn syrup, substituting part honey instead. Many pecan pie recipes have twice the sugar/corn syrup sweetness, so this is more of an emphasis on a great mix of toasted nuts. And since I love the flavor of coffee in this kind of dessert, I changed up the basic recipe by adding some instant espresso powder. I’ve presented the original recipe below along with a couple of my revisions so you can make your own choices.
The aroma of this baked tart is really lovely. It's not too heavy or extremely rich and it's grand when accompanied by a small dollop of whipped cream or a little scoop of vanilla or coffee ice cream. For nut lovers only.
- Browning the small amount of butter takes only about a couple of minutes. Watch it closely because it will burn and you’ll have to start over. I always lift the pan off the heat periodically and swirl the butter to control the browning process. You want only a light brown, not too dark or it will taste bitter and overwhelm the vanilla.
- Use whatever nut combination you wish. You could also add a pinch of cinnamon to the filling.
- I added a half of a vanilla bean, which gets steeped in the butter as it's browned. I also upped the rum to 1 T + 2 t for a bit more of an edge and added 1 T espresso powder. I thought it needed more salt to pique the flavors so I used a generous 1/4 t salt.
- The original recipe uses a pâte sucrée tart shell, which has more butter and sugar and an egg, but I decided to use a plain pastry shell. Use your own favorite recipe if you wish.
Adapted from The American Boulangerie by Pascal Rigo with slight variation
Serves 8 - 10
1 C flour
1 1/2 t sugar
1/4 t salt
3 oz (6 T) cold butter
1/4 C cold water
Espresso Nut Tart Filling
1 1/2 oz (3 T) butter
1/2 vanilla bean [I added this]
1/2 C dark brown sugar
1/4 C honey
3 T dark corn syrup
3 eggs @ room temperature, lightly beaten
1 T flour
scant 1/4 t salt [I used a generous 1/4 t ]
1 T + 1 t rum (optional) [I used 1 T + 2 t rum]
1 t instant espresso powder [I added this]
1 C of your favorite toasted nuts
For the tart shell, place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until thoroughly combined. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. Pulse until the mixture looks like very coarse meal with butter in small pieces about 1/8” - 1/4”. Add the cold water and pulse until the dough starts to clump around the center of the bowl. Remove the dough and wrap in a piece of plastic. Chill for about an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured piece of parchment or work surface. Let it sit for about 3 – 4 minutes to take the chill off. Lightly dust the surface of the dough with flour and roll out to a round shape large enough to line a 9” tart pan, keeping the work surface and dough lightly floured as needed. Lift the dough and gently shape it to fit closely into all the contours of the pan. Prick the bottom of the tart dough several times with the tines of a fork. Bake for about 25 minutes or until light golden brown.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Place the butter in a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a sharp thin knife and scrape the seeds into the butter and toss in the bean. Melt the butter over medium low heat. Let the butter foam up, watching it closely until it just begins to brown slightly. Lift the pan up off the heat and swirl it as it continues to brown. Return to heat for just a few seconds if it’s not quite a light nutty color, swirling constantly. Take off the heat, pour into a mixing bowl and cool for a couple of minutes. Remove the vanilla bean casing and whisk in the sugar, honey, dark corn syrup and eggs until the mixture is thoroughly blended. Combine the rum and espresso powder and add to the filling.
Place the baked tart shell pan on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the nuts in an even layer in the bottom of the tart shell. Carefully pour the liquid evenly over the nuts. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the filling is golden brown. The filling will look puffy but will settle down quickly as it cools. Place on a wire rack and cool completely.