Sunday, September 17, 2006

An Inspired Caramel Macadamia Tart

Great inspiration can be drawn from outstanding dining experiences. An unforgettable dessert creates an indelible mark on the senses and their memory. Beyond just memories, a spark is created, which later ignites the creative fires. A burning desire to pay tribute and recreate a special dish rages within, which nothing can extinguish but success. Much amazing cuisine has been born of this muse, the perfect dish.

However, Claudia Flemming points out in her book The Last Course that it is not only in gratifying experiences that inspiration is born. A disappointing experience too can send a cook to the fire, not to recreate, but to make it right. For Flemming, an outstanding sweet corn icecream was born of a disappointing experience in the Southwest. For me, an unfortunate caramel Macadamia tart in Durango, CO has been fueling my creative fire.

The offending tart had spent an evening or two on the dessert cart that arrived at the end of the meal. The Macadamia nuts for which the tart was named were coated in plenty of caramel, but being undertoasted their flavor was completely lost. Wrapped top and bottom, tart was encased in a thick layer of underbaked pastry. Not even a coat of chocolate could hide the bitter taste of raw flour.

With Macadamia and caramel being such a natural pair, my only problem was finding a place to begin.

I started by eliminating the top crust altogether, and removing the caramel coated Macadamia nuts from the inside of the tart shell. In their place sits a lightly whipped white chocolate coconut ganache. The caramel covered Macadamia nuts are returned to the tart, crowning the top. The two are kept separate until ready to serve, when the nuts are placed on top giving the caramel has just enough time to lazily drip down the sides before being placed on the table. Bittersweet balance is found in a spoonful of dark chocolate whipped cream served along side.

Use a tart shell of your choice, even a crumb crust would pair well with these flavors (just make sure to freeze it before adding the thick filling.) Take note that the ganache gains much of it's flavor from sitting in the fridge overnight, and the caramel coated nuts must cool on the counter for a few hours. This tart takes a little planning, but is well worth the time.

White chocolate coconut tart
with caramel coated Macadamia nuts

1 prebaked 9 inch tart shell

For the white chocolate filling
1 1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 cup dried shredded coconut
1 pound white chocolate, finely chopped

1. In a small saucepan combine the cream and the coconut and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let this mixture steep for half an hour.

2. Place the white chocolate in a large bowl. Rewarm the coconut cream and pour over the white chocolate, allowing this to sit for 1 minute.

3. Stir the ganache until the mixture is even and all the chocolate is melted.

4. Pour the warm ganache into a container, pressing plastic wrap directly on the surface, and let this set in the refrigerator overnight.

5. Bring the ganache out of the fridge for an hour to come up near room temperature. The ganache should not be very cold and feel softer. Place the ganache in the bowl of your kitchen aid, and with the paddle attachment, beat the ganache on speed 4 for about a minute. It should lighten in color.

6. Working quickly spread the ganache in the tart shell. Cover with plastic wrap and let set in the refrigerator for an hour before cutting.

For the caramel Macadamia nuts
3 cups Macadamia nuts
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups cream

1. Toast the Macadamia nuts in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until they begin to take on a golden hue. Set aside to cool.

2. Place the cream and salt in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, and keep warm while the caramel is cooking.

3. In a small bowl stir the sugar and water until the sugar is moist. Transfer this to a small saucepan and cook over medium high heat, washing down the sides of the pan with a moist pastry brush to remove any crystallized sugar. When the sugar has turned caramel colored, add the cream, a bit at a time, carefully stirring to incorporate after each addition. Be aware this will splatter a bit.

4. In a large heat proof bowl combine the Macadamia nuts and the hot caramel. Stir the two, and set aside on the counter to cool slowly. Continue stirring the mixture every 20 minutes until the caramel has come down to room temperature.

For the chocolate whipped cream

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
3 cups cream
1/4 cup sugar

1. Bring the cream and sugar to a boil.

2. Stir in the finely chopped chocolate, and cook over medium heat until the chocolate has been combined completely.

3. Strain into a container and chill in the refrigerator for 6 hours, or overnight.

4. Whip the cold chocolate cream to desired stiffness.

You can present the tart with the Macadamia nuts on top, or in a pretty bowl set aside a bowl of the chocolate cream


Blogger Seattle Tall Poppy said...

OMG! This looks amazing! With any luck, maybe it will be on the menu when I get back. I can't wait to see your smiling MARRIED face!

September 16, 2006 5:55 AM  
Anonymous peabody said...

Absolutely fantastic!

September 16, 2006 2:57 PM  
Anonymous Malini said...

Yummo! Looks divine and made me drool all over my keyboard!

September 18, 2006 9:36 AM  
Blogger emily said...

I love the pictures - and this sounds absolutely delicious.

September 19, 2006 8:12 PM  
Anonymous fiona bizwaps said...

Congratulations Mrs Cree! Glad to see you back.You and your blog have been missed.
I am looking forward to lots of blissed out married-and-in-love type desserts!


September 21, 2006 9:57 AM  
Anonymous noĆ©mie said...

you're still amazing me! It's perfect to come back with an absolutely delicious dessert. I love macadamia nuts but it's pretty expensive here in France...By the way, congratulations for your wedding!

September 22, 2006 2:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi dana!
what a mouth-watering picture of those caramel nuts dripping on the side...yum!
I love the combination of flavours -
your tart sounds a million times better than the original - great job!

September 26, 2006 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it already!

- Steven Burda, MBA

October 17, 2006 10:50 PM  

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