Salted Caramel Cashew Tart
If you like salted caramel, this dessert is for you. If you would rather have chocolate covered pretzels than strawberry shortcake, you’re in luck. If you sometimes have dreams about potato chips dipped in dulce de leche, you have come to the right place. My friends, this is all about the balance between salty and sweet, held together by a buttery rich and tantalizingly spiced pastry crust and served to your hungry self. This is not just caramel, it is salted caramel. This is not just a butter tart, it is a nutty, cashew laden butter tart. This is GOLD.
My father’s birthday was on Sunday and I volunteered to make the dessert. Now making desserts for your Dad can be hard, right? I mean, if you suggested making Crème Brulée he’d laugh you out of the room (mostly so that he could eat it all in secrecy). Angel food cake? Not going to fly. Rich chocolate brownies? Maybe, but only if they have walnuts. We know that making sweet treats for Dad is hard, but with just over a month until Father’s Day that give you plenty of time to try making this, and decide that yes, this is indeed the dessert that might finally make Dad forget about all those times that you said you’d be home by 11pm and stumbled in at 3, or when you totalled his car at 17….and again at 21. Our Dad’s have put up with a lot from us, right? It’s time to give back. It’s time to give back in the form of buttery pastry, rich nuts, and silky sweet salted caramel. Trust me. Because my Dad finally does.
Salted Caramel Cashew Tart
Makes one 9″ tart
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder *
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- 3 – 4 tbsp heavy cream, chilled
- 1 cup honey
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 egg
- 2.25 cups salted cashews
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt **
Special equipment: 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom
* Chinese five spice is a blend made from, more often than not, significantly more than 5 spices. However, it is meant to evoke the 5 main tastes of sweet, sour, bitter, strong and salty. The main ingredients in Chinese five spice are usually star anise, cinnamon or cassia, cloves, fennel seed and peppercorn. Other common ingredients are ginger and dried mandarin orange peel. If you don’t have Chinese five spice on hand, feel free to combine ground versions of the above until you have 1 teaspoon of volume and add this to the tart shell.
** How much salt you will add is a matter of taste, but it will also vary enormously on how salty your cashews are. If you have basic middle of the road salted cashews you will want to add about 1/4 tsp of kosher salt. If you have super-salted cashews that make your mouth pucker and bleed with masochistic glee, you might want to cut that down to a mere pinch. I’ve bought “salted’ cashews before which were barely seasoned (and quite a disappointment), and if that’s the case you’ll want to up this significantly, up to 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Remember that it’s easier to start with an underseasoned caramel and then adjust before your tart goes into the oven. If you reach too far too soon and over-salt the sauce unintentionally, you’ll regret it. You can always adjust before it gets baked.
Measure the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and 5 spice into the bowl of a food processor and pulse them together a few times until combined. If you are making this pastry by hand, simply whisk them together.
Chop the ice cold butter up into small chunks about 1/4 -1/2 inch each and add them to the flour.
Pulse the mixture in one to two second drills until the butter is broken down into mixture that is coarser than sand and where no one chunk of butter is larger than the size of a wee French pea. If you don’t have a food processor, you can do this using a pastry cutter or (if you’re ambitious) two knives.
Crack in the egg and add the egg yolk.
Begin to pulse this mixture while drizzling in three tablespoons of the cream. The mixture should be crumbly and starting to stick together. If it looks too dry, add the remaining tablespoon of cream and pulse a few times until it is just barely incorporated.
Again, if you don’t have a food processor that is totally fine. Whisk the egg and egg yolk together with three tablespoons of cream and then drizzle this on top of the flour mixture before cutting in with your pastry cutter or two knives. Drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of cream if the mixture appears to be too dry.
Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface and gently turn and pat it together until the dry bits have bumped uglies with the sticky bits and it feels rather homogeneous. Pat the dough into a disc and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap before tucking it in the fridge to chill and rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
Now tell me, was that very much work? I thought not. And if you disagree, just remember that you’re doing it for this: a Salted Caramel Cashew tart with a rich and buttery spice scented crust. It’s worth it.
Preheat your oven to 325ºF with your racks set near the bottom.
Pour the honey into a small pot set over medium high heat and add the sugar.
Swirl the pot or give it a stir occasionally until the sugar has liquefied and the honey has come to a boil. Add the butter and salt and let it bubble away for 5-10 more minutes, or until the color just starts to deepen ever so slightly.
Remove the pot from the stove and pour the liquid into a heat safe mixing bowl. Let this cook for at least 15-20 minutes, or until it is barely tepid to the touch.
Whisk in the egg and heavy cream. This is your chance to see if the caramel has enough salt. Ignore the raw egg for a minute, if you can. Take a cashew, dip it into the creamy caramel filling, and give it a taste. It should be sweet with a whisper of saltiness coming up from the rear. If you want to add more salt, now is the time; whisk it into the filling mixture.
Now then, that tart shell has been resting for at least half an hour. Lightly flour your work area and roll it out until it is about 1/4″ thick and big enough to have a 3″ overhang on all sides around your tart pan. Gently lift the pastry by wrapping it loosely around your rolling pin and using a bench scraper or flat knife to urge it free if parts are sticking to the board.
Use that rolling pin of yours to carefully lay the pastry on top of your tart pan. Carefully press it in with your fingertips, ensuring that the crust is pressed in evenly and nice and tight against the edges. Turn the excess dough over along the top (sharp) seam of the pan and then run your rolling pin over it once or twice until all of the excess falls away. You WILL have a bit more dough than you need, but you can ball it together and freeze it for a few months or dispose of it as you see fit (ie., cut into stars and sprinkled with sugar).
Pour the salted cashews into the bottom of your tart shell.
Drizzle the caramel filling evenly over top. It should come just up to the edge of your pastry, but you don’t want it to overflow.
Being careful not to tilt and spill the tart, lift the pan and place it onto a baking sheet to catch any spills or bubbles as the tart cooks.
Bake the tart near the bottom of your preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until the top is golden and the edges of the tart are looking crispy and browned, like a delicious nut-rich butter tart.
Now let’s talk, guys. You hate making pastry, right? I hate making pastry too. It’s fussy, it’s alarming, sometimes it’s dry and other times it sticks and goshdarnnit there are better things to fret about.
But then you look at this.
Golden, rich, tender and delicious with the intriguingly exotic scent of five spice. Maybe making pastry isn’t so bad after all……..
Cut the slices fairly small, because this IS a rich caramel tart chocked full of nuts. Oh yes, and because it’s particularly welcome when people ask for seconds. Let’s not forget about that.
Sweet and just a little bit salty, creamy but dense, and poured into a buttery but slightly spicy shell. This tart has it all.
So go ahead and make someone’s day. If it isn’t Dad, that’s okay too. Make it for yourself if you like, because *I* think that you deserve it. Just don’t bring the rest of it in to those harpies at work, because they totally don’t. Just saying….