While I don’t make candy, I have made caramel as part of other recipes. This tart, taken from an almost 20-year-old issue of Bon Appétit magazine that featured the food of Spain, is one of my favorite desserts ever. Yes, it’s time-consuming, and yes, the caramel is the hardest part, but it’s well worth the effort. My sister likes me to make it for Christmas, and often I do.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 teaspoons whipping cream
1 cup (scant) dried pears, cored, coarsely chopped (4 ounces)
1 cup (scant) pitted dates, halved
1/3 cup pear nectar
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup pine nuts (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup toasted whole almonds (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup dry roasted cashew nuts (about 2 ounces)
1 1/2 tablespoons whipping cream
For crust: Mix first 3 ingredients in processor. Add butter and cut in using on/off pulses until mixture resembles coarse meal. Blend in yolk and vanilla using on/off pulses. Blend in enough cream by teaspoonfuls to form dough that begins to clump together. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough between sheets of waxed paper to 12 inches round. Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges. Freeze crust 15 minutes. Line with foil. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until sides are set, about 10 minutes. Remove foil and beans; bake crust until golden, about 20 minutes more. Cool completely on rack.
For fruit filling: Combine all ingredients in heavy medium saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute. Purée mixture in processor to thick paste. Cool completely.
For nut topping: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Simmer first 3 ingredients in heavy large saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil. Boil vigorously 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add nuts and cream.
To assemble: Spread fruit filling in crust; smooth top. Set tart on cookie sheet. Spoon nut topping over. Bake until filling bubbles, about 20 minutes. Transfer tart to rack and cool 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, loosen tart pan sides but do not remove. Cool tart completely in pan. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.) Remove pan sides. Cut tart into wedges. Makes 8 servings.