The season of lots of eating and holiday mayhem is upon us! It's time to bring out the stretchy pants (aka leggings), sweatpants, and large sweaters, cozy up on the couch with a mug of something hot and a plate of pie. I seriously love pie.
The crust is my favorite part of pie, and I count tarts in the realm of pies because there is a crust, therefore, I seriously also love tarts.
This year, I will be taking part in four Thanksgiving feasts all before the official turkey day. Thankfully the bathing suits I picked up for my trip to Cancun next week all have strategically placed ruching on them to hide my food baby. One piece bathing suits for the win!
For Thanksgiving feast number two, which was at work, I signed up to bring a pecan caramel tart. Although I love me some pie, pecan is towards the end of my list, mostly because I am not a fan of the gloopy corn syrup filling. I usually just eat the crust and the pecans. This tart gets rid of that gloopiness with only combining pecans and caramel.
I tweaked my cardamom shortbread crust recipe from my Sunshine Lemon Tart by adding a dash of cinnamon, toasted up some pecans, and made a batch of caramel. All combined to make a beautiful, buttery, crunchy, caramel-y dessert.
Homemade caramel is super easy and can be done without a candy thermometer. I mean really, who has those? And is it different from a regular cooking thermometer? I figure my caramel turns out just dandy without a thermometer, so it's one tool I currently do not need. Homemade caramel takes some patience because the sugar goes through stages, but then some magic happens and the sugar turns into a gorgeous brown color and you're like, whoa, I think I just made caramel. This caramel is my go to. I have used it to drizzle on grilled bananas, ice cream, baked into chocolate chip cookies, and now, this tart. So keep this in your cooking apron because it is one handy treat.
Pecan Caramel Tart
1 cardamom shortbread crust (I added a dash of cinnamon to the dry ingredients)
3 cups pecans
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons water
4 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Demerara/Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare tart pan by buttering or using cooking spray to coat. Press in the shortbread crust into the bottom and flutes of the pan. Use powdered sugar to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. You can also use the back of a spoon to press down.
Poke holes into the crust with a fork and let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
As the crust rests, lay out the pecans into a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Or, if you smell the pecans, take them out to cool. They are letting you know they are ready!
Once the pecans are out of the oven, pop in the shortbread crust and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool. If you are good at timing everything, you can toast the pecans and bake the crust at the same time!
As the pecans toast and/or the shortbread crust cools, prepare the caramel. In a medium sauce pan, add the sugar and water. Now you will stir and stir until the sugar goes from granulated, to liquid, back to granulated, and into melting. Once the sugar goes from liquid back to granulated, you must constantly stir and break up clumps. I prefer to use a whisk at this step. Don't worry if you have clumps, but try to break them up as best as you can. Once there are minimal clumps, and your sugar has turned a dark amber color, add butter, and stir/whisk in vigorously.
Take the pan off of the heat and slowly add in your whipping cream while stirring. Make sure to fully combine the cream in. Add in your vanilla extract. At this point you can let the caramel cool into a nice, thick caramel sauce and place into a jar for use. Now give yourself a high five.
For the purpose of this tart, place the caramel on low heat to keep the caramel runny.
Lower the temperature of the oven down to 350 degrees once the pecans are toasted and crust is baked.
In a mixing bowl, combine toasted pecans, brown sugar, and all of the caramel. Combine fully. Pour into the cooled shortbread crust. Sprinkle with a little Demerara/Turbinado sugar to give it some sparkle. Place in oven and bake 20-25 minutes, until nice and bubbly.
Let the tart completely cool down before popping out of the tart pan. And then take a moment to marvel in the fact that you made the best dessert this holiday season has tasted.
If the caramel is still clumpy after adding the heavy cream and vanilla, cook over low heat and stir. Low heat will help the remaining sugar clumps to melt.