November 20, 2019

Pumpkin Caramel Tart

Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving staple, but there are so many ways to dress it up it doesn't make sense to have a plain pumpkin pie on the table anymore. Whether it's a swirl of cheesecake or baking it in blondie form, pumpkin pie deserves a little love and a lot more creativity. I'm more of a crust girl than a filling fan myself, so any way to up that ratio automatically gains a few points in my book. Add a caramel base for some more complex sweet notes and you've got quite the showstopper, especially with a big scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of the leftover caramel. This tart will have you abandoning your basic-as-pumpkin-spice pumpkin pie recipe this season, if it even is pumpkin at all.

You can usually get away with buying the pie crust at Thanksgiving since there are so many other things that must be homemade and it's so easy to flake out on it. Too bad store-bought crust isn't actually flaky (sorry for the terrible puns... I'm on a post-Halloween candy sugar high). Fortunately, it's super easy to make your own pie dough, and you can even make it a few days in advance so you can focus on all your other Thanksgiving recipes. I've written plenty of recipes with advice on pie crusts, so I'll keep it brief: keep everything (especially the butter) as cold as possible and work the dough as little as possible. Since this is a tart, you'll probably have to roll the dough a bit thinner than you would a pie so it covers the whole pan, but you can just cut the ends flush with the edges: no fancy crimping required. You'll also need to blind bake the crust since the thinner layer of pumpkin filling requires less time in the oven. Don't worry; this just entails covering the dough with foil, weighing it down with dry beans or pie weights, and par-baking it so it starts the cooking process without puffing up in the middle.

Normally, pumpkin pie filling is just a combination of pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, and spices. This recipe is kinda similar but also kinda not, since a homemade caramel sauce takes the place of the sweetened condensed milk, plus I throw in a spoonful of flour to help it set during baking. Since it's pretty much just whisking a bunch of liquidy ingredients together, you don't even need a stand mixer. While you're on a mixing kick, go ahead and make your own pumpkin spice blend. There's no need to buy an overpriced bottle of the stuff if you already have classic fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. If you don't have those ingredients already, you should go ahead and buy them instead of pumpkin spice.

The caramel sauce is probably the hardest part of this recipe, but it's as easy as caramel gets. It starts by heating sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar, and a splash of water together. The corn syrup and cream of tartar prevent the caramel from crystallizing and turning gritty later on, so don't be scared off by the stereotypes. Those ingredients all cook together until the caramel gets as dark as you like. I aim for a dark amber, but it can go over in a snap so make sure to keep an eye on it. The trick is to watch and don't touch, since stirring promotes crystallization and will give you a grainy caramel. Once the caramel reaches the proper color, whisk in some cream to turn it into a smooth, creamy sauce instead of a hard candy.

To make it all come together, blend the cooled caramel with the pumpkin, an extra spoonful of brown sugar, a bit of flour, eggs, vanilla, and your homemade pumpkin spice blend. The crust is already partially cooked, so you really just have to bake it until the filling is just set and barely wobbly. Once it's cool enough to dig in, serve it a la mode with a bit of extra caramel sauce for your family's new favorite part of Thanksgiving.

1 Recipe Pie Crust (See Below)
1 Cup Sugar
2 T Brown Sugar
2 T Corn Syrup
Pinch Cream of Tartar
1 Cup Cream
1 Cup Pumpkin
1 T Flour
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla
3 Eggs

Roll the pie dough out to fit a 10" tart pan. Cover with foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Blind bake the crust for 20 minutes at 375F. Set aside to cool and leave oven at 350F.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar, and 2T water in a medium pot, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until deep amber, swirling occasionally but not stirring, about 8-10 minutes. Immediately remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream. Set aside to cool.

Combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, flour, spices, salt, vanilla, and the caramel sauce. Whisk in the eggs one at a time.

Pour the filling into the par-baked crust and bake until just set, about 30 minutes.

For the crust:
Pulse 1 1/4 C flour, 1/4 C sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt in a food processor until combined. Add 1 stick chilled and cubed butter and pulse until small pieces remain. Combine the an yolk with a tablespoon of cold water and add in. Pulse until it begins to form a ball, adding more water as necessary. Chill.

Makes 1 Tart
Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

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