On our way out west a few weeks ago I utterly mismanaged my time packing and getting ready to go, caused us to leave the house thirty minutes later than we needed to, thus putting us in the heart of Boston rush hour. And we missed our flight. The woman helping us at the airport was so patient and diligent and figured out a way to get us into Vancouver almost the same time the next morning that we would have arrived anyway.
And what, you must be wondering, does this have to do with caramel tartlets? Our new flight schedule included a quick overnight in Chicago where we stayed with one of my best college friends, Liz, her hilarious and charming husband, Bradley, and their gorgeous toddler daughter. We ate deep dish pizza, laughed and caught up, and after dinner Liz, who is only a few days away from her due date with baby number two, looked at Bradley and asked him to get dessert from the freezer, to which he replied something to effect, "Really, babe? You want to share those??" Apparently Liz's late-pregnancy indulgence has been these amazing caramel tartlets from Whole Foods that were busting with out-of-this-world gooey, buttery, chocolately, caramely goodness and probably cost a small fortune.
We ooohed and ahhhed over them and polished off Liz's entire supply before talk turned to making them at home. And the first weekend I was home from our vacation I set about doing just that! I pressed an easy food processor dough into muffin tins and then after baking filled the little crust cups with a simple homemade caramel. I topped the caramel in three different ways - classic chocolate chips like the Whole Foods version I had at Liz's house, pecans (I was thinking of pecan pie here), and apple slices (does it get more "fall" than caramel apples??).
I loved them all. I can't quite say I had a favorite though this time of year I felt slightly partial to the pecan and apple topped tartlets because they tasted so seasonal.
So what are are you waiting for? Start now and you'll be sinking your teeth into these babies in no time. What a *sweet* way to kick off your weekend.
Caramel Tartlets - makes 18 tartlets
2 1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 tbsp. (or more) ice water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
2/3 c. heavy cream
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
coarsely chopped pecans
apple slices tossed with lemon juice
Preheat oven to 375º.
Measure flour, powdered sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Add butter and process using on/off turns until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add 2 tbsp. water and process until the dough begins to clump together, adding more ice water a bit at a time if needed.
Divide dough evenly among 18 muffin cups.
Press dough onto bottom and up sides of muffin cups.
Bake in oven until golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make caramel by stirring sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and boil without stirring until the syrup is a medium amber color. Once you see the syrup starting to color do not walk away. It goes from lightly gold to black and burned faster than you'd think possible!
Add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Reduce heat to medium and whisk until any sugar bits dissolve. Add butter, lemon juice, and salt and whisk until the butter melts.
Spoon filling into baked cups and refrigerate 10-15 minutes to let caramel harden slightly. Top tartlets with whatever you like, then return to the fridge for about 30 minutes to set the caramel.
Gently remove from the muffin pans by sliding a butter knife between the crusts and pan.