Maple-Nut Tart

My dad loves nuts. Pecans are his favorite, but he’ll take them all – pistachios, almonds, walnuts, you name it. I knew we needed to have something in the pecan pie vein on our Thanksgiving table, but I didn’t have 7 1/2 hours to make an actual pecan pie. The Maple Nut Tart recipe from the November 2007 issue of Everyday Food was a great alternative.

I started by making a pie crust using the Our Favorite Pie Crust recipe from the same Everyday Food issue. I combined flour, salt, and sugar with a pastry blender and then cut in a stick of butter. When that resembled course meal, I added 2 tablespoons of ice water and worked the dough until it was crumbly but moist enough to hold together when squeezed. I formed the dough into a 3/4-inch-thick disk, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and let it firm up in the refrigerator for an hour. (I used the time to make the cranberries and stuffing.)

After the hour had passed, I rolled my crust dough into a 12-inch circle on some lightly floured parchment paper. I carefully lowered the crust into a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan (one of my favorite pans) and then used a rolling pin to cut off the excess crust.

Next, I whisked together some eggs, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. I added pure maple syrup (no Mrs. Butterworth’s!), and then stirred in 1 1/2 cups of pecan pieces and 1 1/2 cups of walnut pieces. I put the tart pan with the crust on a pizza pan and poured the nut filling into the crust. Here’s what the tart looked like pre-oven:

unbaked_maple_nut_tart.jpg

I baked it for 55 minutes at 350 F and let it cool for about 90 minutes. Here’s the post-oven result:

maple_nut_tart2.jpg

The last line of the recipe says “Remove tart from pan before serving.” With a removable bottom nonstick tart pan, this should be the easy part, right? Not so much. I suspected I might have a problem when I saw that some of the filling had seeped out of the bottom of the pan and it was baking into what was essentially maple syrup glue. I’m not sure if seeping was expected (the baking sheet under the pan is usually a clue) or if I had a small hole in my pie crust. Anyway, after 15 stressful minutes of rubbing the bottom of the pan with hot water (to dissolve the “glue”) and prying with a paring knife, I was able to get the tart out in one piece. Whew.

I really liked this tart. It was kind of like pecan pie but without the jelly-like filling. It was really popular with my family members, too. It only took about 3 hours total, which is less than half the time a homemade pecan pie would’ve taken me. I’ll probably make this one again next year, but I’m hoping for much, *much* better luck getting it out of the pan on my second try.

TIPS: Be careful not to stretch the crust dough when you’re placing it in the tart pan. If you stretch it, it will shrink when you bake the tart. If you’re afraid you might have stretched the dough, let it rest in the pan in the refrigerator for 20 – 30 minutes before proceeding with the recipe. This has worked well for me in the past.

Also, I used only 2 tablespoons of water when making my pie crust, though the recipe said you could use up to 4 tablespoons. I may try 3 next time to see if the extra moisture makes the dough a bit easier to handle.

Recipe link: Maple-Nut Tart (The two recipes – Maple-Nut Tart and Our Favorite Pie Crust – are about midway through the page.)

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