Salted Caramel Pecan Tart for the Craving

“Imagine a Carthage sown with salt, and all the sowers gone, and the seeds lain however long in the earth, till there rose finally in vegetable profusion leaves and trees of rime and brine. What flowering would there be in such a garden? Light would force each salt calyx to open in prisms, and to fruit heavily with bright globes of water–-peaches and grapes are little more than that, and where the world was salt there would be greater need of slaking. For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing–the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again.”

― Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (ever my favorite book)

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Salted Caramel Pecan Tart as Craving

Adapted from the Food Network

1 3/4 cups pecans

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons salted butter, thinly sliced and at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ounce semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Sea salt, for sprinkling, and craving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the crust: Lightly coat a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes; let cool. Transfer 1/2 cup of the pecans to a food processor; add the flour, sugar and kosher salt and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until it is in pea-size bits. Pulse in the egg yolk and vanilla until large clumps form.

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Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press it into the bottom and up the sides. Prick the bottom all over with a fork, then freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.

Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until set, about 25 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and continue baking until golden, 10 to 15 more minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Make the caramel for the filling: Combine the sugar, 1/4 cup water and the kosher salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Cook, swirling the pan but not stirring, until amber, 8 to 10 minutes. Brush any sugar crystals off the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream, butter and vanilla (the mixture will bubble). Return to medium heat and simmer, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes.

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Gently whisk the eggs and flour in a large bowl, then whisk in the caramel. Place the crust on a baking sheet, arrange the remaining 1 1/4 cups pecans in the bottom and add the filling. Bake until set around the edge, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring, until smooth. Drizzle over the tart and sprinkle with sea salt. Let the chocolate set before slicing.

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I am not fool enough to allow any of my own words to follow Marilynne Robinson, though I crave to write so well.

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