Kumquat Apple Tart
With Scotch Whiskey Caramel
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I love to improvise when I cook. When I bake? Not so much.
I enjoy baking, but the precision of it has always put me off a little. I like cooking because I don't have to measure, and I can decide to add or remove an ingredient while I work. But baking requires a lot more planning. So when it comes to inventing a baking recipe I get a little unsure of myself. To compound my worries, this tart doesn't really fit into any conventional molds - it's not a traditional apple pie, it doesn't use a flaky/risen crust, and it doesn't use a citrus curd or a custard. But I swallowed my fears and dove right in. And wow, am I glad I did.
This tart is just... I mean, it's a little bit banal to say that it's good, but it's so good. The crust has the buttery feel of a very thin shortbread, and it plays perfectly against the filling. The apples have a bit of bite to them (I personally don't like mushy apple pie), and the kumquats are bright, sour, and bitter all at once. The caramel adds another layer of flavour and a great little bit of crunch that really brings things together from a textural standpoint. And the Scotch whiskey? Oh boy. Or... ach, laddie. It's difficult to describe just what the Scotch does that's so spectacular, but I'm going to go on the record here and say that whiskey-and-citrus is a match made in heaven. Did I mention that it's in the caramel and the filling? If you're going to change anything, you could try a different whiskey (bourbon would work), but for the love of pie, don't leave it out altogether.
Ironically, writing a food blog and developing recipes has forced me to measure and plan more. You can't just pour a little extra something into your dish... your readers need to know how much. You have to remember and write down every little step along the way (even if you think something should go without saying, like 'remove from the oven' - surely people know to do this with cooked food?). You can't just sit down and eat - you have to figure out how best to capture the dish photographically, and whether or not you need any photos of the prep. So maybe I'll do a little more baking - I'm half-way there already.
This is a relatively time-intensive recipe, but not a difficult one. Plan ahead and you'll find that it actually comes together quite easily.
The crust can be substituted for another short crust recipe if you prefer, but I don't recommend using a flaky pie dough. You want something firm to stand up to the relatively soft tart filling. Make sure that you get the crust nice and thin. If you don't have a large tart tin like the one called for in the recipe, you can use a very large pie dish. If you only have smaller dishes, I would recommend either a) baking two pies, or b) scaling down the recipe, as it won't work as well if the filling is very thick. The whole tart should only be about 1.5 cm (3/4 inch) thick.
Macerating the fruit, sugar, and whiskey helps blend and mellow the flavours while also serving to soften the kumquats. I recommend leaving the mixture in the fridge overnight and breaking this recipe up over two days.
I like the kumquat cut into tiny strips and the apple left as a small dice, but you can vary this depending on your personal tastes.
If this is your first time making caramel, this is a pretty easy one to work with. The most important thing to remember is that you need to work fast - the difference between caramel and burnt sugar is only a matter of seconds. Once the cooked sugar is a nice golden color, add the other ingredients and watch as the whole thing suddenly looks like it's about to explode. That's the fun part about making caramel. (Don't worry, it won't explode).
The final product will only be pliable for a little while, so make sure to pour it while it's warm. It will cool into a solid, candy-like caramel, and not a soft chewy one.
Nutritional info is given for a single slice representing 1/10th of the total tart.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Kumquat Apple Tart with Scotch Caramel
- 400 g kumquats
- 100 g white sugar (~1/2 cup) separated into two equal portions.
- 30 ml scotch whiskey (~2 tbsp)
- 400 g granny smith apples
- 50 g brown sugar (~1/4 cup) lightly packed
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 30 g butter (~2 tbsp)
- 15 g all purpose flour (~2 tbsp)
- 200 g all purpose flour (~1 and 1/4 cups)
- 1 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
- 80 g sugar (~1/3 cup)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 100 g butter (~7 tbsp) softened
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp cold water
- 30 ml scotch whiskey (~2 tbsp)
- 50 g white sugar (~1/2 cup)
- 15 g butter (~1 tbsp)
- 1/8 tsp sea salt (large pinch)
Crust and Filling
- Peel, core, and dice the apples. Seed and chop the kumquats. Combine all the fruit with the brown sugar, half the granulated sugar, and the whiskey. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Wait until this step is done before preparing the crust.
- Combine the flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter or stand mixer (or two knives if you're a masochist), cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Continue until the pieces are no larger than peas.
- In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, vanilla, and cold water. Whisk together, then add to the crust mixture. Mix together until just combined. Form the dough into a ball and chill for 1 hour.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it warm up for 5 minutes. Lay out a large sheet of wax paper or parchment paper and roll the dough into a ball on top of it. Roll the dough out into a circle large enough to fit in a 12 inch tart tin. The dough will be quite thin - about 3-4 mm (~1/8 inch).
- Carefully lift the dough and transfer it to a 12 inch tart tin. Press the sides against the tin and trim any excess. The lip of the crust should come up only about 1 cm (~1/2 inch) or so.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prick the surface of the tart crust all over with a fork, then place in the oven to blind bake for 25 minutes, or until it is firm and golden. If air gets trapped beneath the tart, you can gently shake the tin to let it out. The final dough should be firm, but still a little bit pliant while warm. Remove the crust from the oven and set it aside to cool. Leave the oven on, unless you plan on waiting a while before making the filling. Note that if you choose to use baking weights, you may want to extend the cooking time slightly, and be sure to remove them with a little time left to allow the crust to brown.
- Melt the butter for the filling in a large pot over medium heat. Transfer the fruit/sugar/scotch mixture and the flour to the pot and stir. While the mixture is heating, whisk together the remaining sugar and the eggs. Once the apples are beginning to soften and the mixture is quite warm, slowly pour the egg and sugar mixture into the pot while stirring to combine. Once the mixture is evenly mixed, pour it into the prepared tart crust. Take care not to overfill the tart -- if you have extra filling, refrigerate it and use it for something else. Transfer the tart to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. The tart should be set, but will remain soft even after cooling. Allow the cooked tart to cool at room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before adding caramel and serving.
- Combine the scotch whiskey, butter, and salt and set aside. They do not need to be thoroughly mixed together, but should all be ready to use at the same time.
- Heat the sugar in a small, heavy pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. The sugar should begin to melt and brown fairly quickly. If it isn't melting evenly, give it a gentle stir to ensure that it cooks evenly. As soon as the sugar is a golden yellowy-brown, add the whiskey, butter, and salt. The caramel will immediately (and violently) seize. Stir slowly and gently to melt and mix the ingredients together. As soon as the caramel is well-mixed and opaque, turn off the heat.
- Drizzle the caramel over the cooled tart. It will harden almost instantly. Note that this is a crispy, candy-like caramel, not a soft/chewy one.