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Salted Butter Tart

People often ask me how I get the ideas for my recipes. Some magically happen from ingredients in my fridge, others are inspired by restaurant meals or ingredient combinations that I like. And then there are those that come from the oddest of sources.

Several years ago I’d been perfecting my recipe for salted caramel sauce. When it comes to desserts, caramel is my weakness, and the combination of salted butter and caramel is close to perfection, with the salt accentuating the caramel and balancing its sweetness. During this time, one of the bakeries in my Paris neighborhood, which had been run by an accountant who had exchanged crunching numbers for kneading dough, was bought by the well-known Paris baker Eric Kayser. Just after Kayser moved into my part of town, my friend Laura dropped by with a copy of his new tart book. It was full of mouthwatering photographs with short, seemingly simple recipes, each of which fit neatly on a single page. I flipped through it, thinking that perhaps his tarts were better than his bread. (Believe it or not, the accountant had actually made better bread.) When I saw a recipe for tarte au beurre salé, or salted butter tart, I knew I had to try it. It took quite some tweaking, as the brief recipe instructions were not much help, but I finally made a rich, sweet, satisfying version of his tart. The secret, I found, is to be brave and cook the caramel until it is rich and dark without letting it burn and turn bitter. If you lack courage and don’t cook it quite to the daring point that I do, the tart will still be delicious–just sweeter.–Jennifer McLagan

LC Fatty Fat Fat Note

Mmmmm. Butter. And more butter. And even more butter. While butter is the primary component in this luxe tart, it takes a smidgen of its colossal creaminess from–you guessed it–heavy cream. Author Jennifer McLagan, a proponent of all things fatty fat fat, strongly suggests you buy some extra cream so you can dollop each slice of tart with a cloud of whipped cream. The cream cuts the sweetness—yes, it does work like that, says McLagan. And yes, this is just another benefit of eating fat. Should you end up with a half pint extra cream leftover, lucky you! Just put it in your cup of coffee like they did back in the day. It makes everything better.

Salted Butter Tart Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 2 H
  • Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • For the sweet butter pastry
  • 2 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup (2 ounces) superfine (caster) sugar
  • For the salted butter filling
  • 1/2 recipe Sweet Butter Pastry (see above)
  • 1 1/4 cups (9 ounces) superfine (caster) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) salted butter, diced
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Lightly whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Directions

  • Make the sweet butter pastry
  • 1. Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles very coarse bread crumbs. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
  • 2. In another bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture and mix with a fork. Squeeze a bit of the mixture between your fingertips. If it holds together, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface; if not, add a couple of teaspoons of ice water and test again. Knead gently and form into a ball, divide the pastry in half, and flatten into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.
  • 3. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and line a 9-inch or 9 1/2-inch (23-cm or 24-cm) tart pan. Prick the base of the tart with a fork and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • 4. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • 5. Place the sweet butter pastry-lined tart pan on a baking sheet. Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill it with dried beans. Bake until the pastry is just set, about 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and continue to cook until the pastry is a dark golden color, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the tart to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  • Make the salted butter filling
  • 6. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and butter in a deep, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir to mix and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter and sugar caramelize, 10 to 15 minutes. The sugar and butter will go through several stages: First the mixture will look like a flour-butter roux, then it will appear curdled, and then the butter will leak out of the sugar mixture. Don’t worry: It will all come together in the end.
  • 7. While the caramel is cooking, pour the cream into a saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil, then immediately remove it from the heat and set aside.
  • 8. Keep stirring the butter-sugar mixture, watching carefully as it begins to caramelize and remembering that the heat in the pan will continue to cook the caramel once it is removed from the burner. You want to end up with a rich, dark caramel color, but you don’t want to burn the mixture, which will impart a bitter taste. When the caramel reaches a color that’s just a shade lighter than what you want, remove the pan from the heat and slowly and carefully pour in the cream; the mixture will bubble and spit. When the caramel stops bubbling, return it to low heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the caramel in the cream. Remove the pan from the heat and let the caramel cool for 10 minutes.
  • 9. Slowly pour the cooled caramel into the cooled, baked pastry in the tart pan. Refrigerate the tart for at least 2 hours.
  • 10. Remove the tart from the pan and, using a wet knife, cut it into wedges. (The tart is easier to cut when it’s chilled.) Serve the tart at room temperature. For maximum flavor, bestow a dollop of whipped cream upon each slice.
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