walnut tartlets – smitten kitchen

So, yesterday was a fun and totally out of the ordinary day in the Smitten Kitchen. First, I cooked while wearing lip gloss, which — and I don’t mean to destroy your vision of your blog hostess looking as cute as Giada each day as she creams the sugar with the butter — um, never happens. Oh and second, some really nice young ladies filmed me while I worked.

my favorite

As part of their grant from PBS’s Road Trip Nation, these recent college grads are going around the country talking to people who have travelled down entirely different career paths in hopes to get a clearer picture of what they’d like to do with their lives. How fun is that, right? And they wanted to come visit the Smitten Kitchen and talk to me, which is really funny considering that the answer to “what kind of career path led you here” is, in short: “What’s a career path?” chased with a guffaw, because I haven’t a clue.

wee tartlets

The video will be ready and online somewhere in the next few months, and I’ll be sure in all of my wanting to pull a bag over my head awkwardness to tell you about it anyway. In the meanwhile, since it was, after all, the Smitten Kitchen, I was of course baking something. I didn’t get much in the way of pictures, being busy yammering to the camera and totally forgetting to suck my stomach in and/or hold my shoulders straight (sorry Mom) but I did end up with a delicious dessert I’ve been wanting to check out for eons.


Unfortunately, it was a near disaster. You see, these tartlets bubbled up and over the sides and frankly, all over the place. Thank goodness I had them on the tray or you would have one very cranky blogger on oven-scrubbing duty today. Nevertheless, I wondered who tested this recipe and went back to the original photo of it from an old issue of Bon Appetit to see clear evidence that their caramel rose up over the sides too. Ha, vindicated! Or something.

Alas, this doesn’t leave me in a really good place to give advice. Cons: This bubbles over and will make an awful mess, so you’ll probably want to not only put your tartlets on a tray, but line that tray with foil. Pro: Oh, it tastes amazing. Like, they were all gone by 5 p.m. (I gave four out as goody bags. Gosh people, I’m not that piggish!) And I have missed them dearly all the minutes since.

walnut tartlets

One year ago: Chile-Garlic Egg Noodles
Two years ago: Wild Mushroom Pierogis

Walnut Tartlets
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 1999

Unfortunately, the cure to the bubbling-over drama is not to fill the shells less (I went about 90 percent full, myself) as the filling shrinks back down and you don’t want a half-empty shell. That said, if you can deal with a little mess, you’ll be duly rewarded with an inordinate amount of deliciousness.

Serves 6

1 recipe Great Unshrinkable Sweet Tart Shell, unbaked
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon whole aniseed (we liked this level, but use 1/4 teaspoon if you’re anise-phobic)
1 3/4 cups walnuts, toasted, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 370°F. Cut pastry dough into six pieces, and roll out each one to a 6-inch circle. Transfer to a lightly-buttered 4 1/2-inch-diameter tartlet pan with removable bottom. Press crust onto bottom and up sides of pan; trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in and press, forming double-thick sides. Repeat with remaining dough disks and 5 more pans and prick them all over with a fork.

Freeze crusts for 30 minutes. Lightly butter six pieces of foil and press them tightly against frozen tart shells. Bake crusts for 10 minutes before taking them out, carefully removing the foil, pressing down any pastry that has bubbled up gently with the back of a spoon and baking them for an additional 7 minutes, or until lightly golden at the edges. [More detailed instructions in this post.] Take them out of the oven and let them cool. Increase oven temperature to 400°F.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Stir cream and next 5 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil until mixture bubbles thickly and color darkens slightly, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in walnuts then salt.

Place crusts on baking sheet lined with foil. Divide filling among crusts. (I had a bit extra. Can we say “best ice cream topping, ever”?) Bake tartlets until filling bubbles thickly and crusts are golden, about 25 minutes. Cool tartlets in pans on rack 5 minutes. Remove pan sides while tartlets are still warm. (Hm, I ignored this and found them easier to remove when they were fully cool, but I’ll let you decide.)

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

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