Four-Star Recipe: Tree-Nut Tarts

“Omigosh, wasn’t Saturday so fun? I keep thinking about that tree-nut tart. Do you think you could find a recipe for it?” All Four Stars, page 263

Why yes, Charissa–there is such a recipe!

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Charissa Bentley, one of the main characters in All Four Stars, loves desserts and nuts, so it’s no surprise that this dish from Classy Cakes quickly becomes one of her favorites. A twist on pecan pie, the tree-nut tart contain a variety of nuts as well as ground almonds in the crust. (Learn more about the differences between pies and tarts.)

To get the traditional straight-sided tart shape, you’ll need a springform pan–either the standard size (for one big tart) or four smaller pans (which I used to make the tarts pictured). However, if you only have a pie pan, that should work, too.

Note: If you want to be all posh like Allison Sconestein-Alforno (pastry chef at Classy Cakes in All Four Stars), you can seek out fancy nut varieties to include in your tarts–her menu boasts a mix of black walnuts, Marcona almonds, and DuChilly hazelnuts for the filling. But regular old nuts from the grocery store will work just fine, too, as long as you have a good mix.

Classy Cakes’s Tree-Nut Tarts
(serves 8)

Almond-spiked crust:
½ cup almonds
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup flour (all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour, or a combination)
¼ tsp salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract (or use all vanilla extract)

Tree-nut filling:
2 cups of mixed tree nuts of your choice (such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and/or pecans)
2 large eggs
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil or melted unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions:
If you are a young chef, ask an adult to work with you on this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease one large springform pan (for tart version), four small springform pans (for small tarts), or a pie pan (for pie version) with oil or cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse the almonds and sugar together until they form a coarse meal. Add flour and salt and pulse to blend. With the motor running, add the butter a few pieces at a time and process until well blended.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolk and extracts until combined. With the processor motor running, add this mixture to the food processor. Process until a sand-like mixture forms (about 1 minute).

Turn the mixture out into the prepared tart (or pie) pan or pans, pressing it into the bottom and up the sides to form a crust. Place pan(s) on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the crust is no longer raw.

Meanwhile, make the tree-nut filling. In a food processor, pulse the nuts together a few times until they are chopped to the size you prefer.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, oil or butter, salt, and vanilla extract together. Pour the nuts into the liquid mixture and stir until combined.

Remove the tart crust from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Spread the nut mixture evenly in the crust. Bake until the tart no longer jiggles in the middle when shaken, 25-30 minutes.

If using a springform pan, cool tart on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then gently remove the sides of the pan. If using a pie pan, let cool to desired temperature.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman coverThis recipe is part of a series inspired by dishes from All Four Starsmy middle-grade novel about 11-year-old restaurant critic Gladys Gatsby. It will be published by Putnam/Penguin on July 10, 2014.

Find more recipes on my four-star recipe page!

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