The Musette: spiced caramel tart

During the summer months we like inviting friends round for lazy Sunday lunches. You could call it a picnic on the terrace except that I can serve dishes I wouldn’t necessarily take to an extenal picnic, largely because of logistics. In keeping with the warm temperatures, I like to offer a selection of cold appetisers, main courses and desserts most of which can easily be prepared in advance, particularly the day before.

This spiced caramel tart recipe is simple to make, but the beautiful just-set texture of the filling elevates it to showstopper status. It looks innocent enough but really packs a flavour punch. Be sure to properly caramelise the sugar to achieve the required rich, deep and nutty flavour.

Ingredients (serves 10)

Sweet shortcrust pastry

  • 300g (2 3/4 cups) all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 200g (2 sticks, less 1 tbsp) ice-cold, unsalted butter
  • 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 organic egg yolks, for egg wash

Spiced caramel filling

  • 150g (1 1/2 cup) caster (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
  • 1 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 750ml (3 cups) cream
  • 3 sheets gelatine, (6g)

Method

1. Preheat an oven to 210°C/190°C Fan/(410°F)/gas mark 7. Lightly grease a 20cm (8″) loose-bottomed tart tin, sprinkle evenly with flour and set aside.

2. To make the pastry, combine the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (you can also do this in a mixing bowl by rubbing the flour and butter together using your fingers, then stirring in the sugar once a breadcrumb texture has been achieved). Continue to mix until the dough just starts to come together, then turn out and lightly knead until smooth – do not overwork, or the pastry will be tough.

3. Roll the pastry out to a 3mm thickness. Using your rolling pin, roll up the pastry and drape over the tart tin. Very gently press the pastry into the edges, using a rolled up scrap of pastry to assist you. Line with ovenproof cling film, baking paper or foil, fill with a blind-baking mixture (you can use rice, baking beads, coins whatever) and blind-bake for 15–17 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the blind-baking mixture and brush the tart with egg yolk – this will help to seal the case. Return to the oven for a few minutes until golden brown all over, then remove and allow to cool.

4. To make the filling, add the sugar, nutmeg and vanilla seeds into a large pan and place over a medium heat. Heat the cream in a separate saucepan and soften the gelatine in iced water.

5.  When the sugar has melted into a golden caramel, remove from the heat and pour in the warmed cream, whisking vigorously – take care as the hot caramel will spit.

6. Remove the gelatine from the water and squeeze out any excess liquid. Add to the caramel mixture and stir until dissolved. Strain through a fine sieve into a mixing bowl set over an ice bath.

7. Once the mixture has cooled slightly, pour into the tart case and allow to set in the fridge (at least 4 hours but preferably overnight).

8. This sweet, rich tart needs no adornment but, if you feel the need………….just go ahead.