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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Caramel Sand Tarts

Ok so this is probably the trickiest of Helen's recipes that I've come across.  I'll jump right in with the paper clipping so you can get an idea of what I mean:

The first thing that comes to mind is what paper is this written on?  In all honesty it looks like the combination of a card game score sheet and a grocery list with a list of ingredients in the middle.

If you look closely at the ingredients list it kind of looks like there is some sort of cookie or crust (butter, b sugar which I assume means brown sugar, and flour).  Then there is something that looks like some sort of filling (eggs, salt, b sugar again, vanilla, baking powder, and more flour).

Ok so I happen to know from some previous research that real shortbread consists of just three ingredients: flour, butter, and sugar in a ratio of 3:2:1 (by weight).  Two cups of flour weighs about 8 oz, 1 cup of butter 8 oz also, and 1 cup brown sugar is also about 8 oz (a little less).  So while 1:1:1 maybe a bit rich in sugar and butter compared to the flour but still probably a cookie of some sort.

You may have noticed that in between the ingredients are some instructions (beat, press in pan, bake 20 min at 325).

Beat what? I tried "beating" the crust and well it was a bit thick but it was the consistency of a soft shortbread which could easily be pressed into a pan.  It was about enough to fill a 9x13 pan.  So, the next question is do I cook the cookie before working with the rest of the ingredients.  I figured that given where the instructions were in the recipe, I'd try that.

Ok so what is the filling?  With the large amount of eggs and sugar, this looks like it could be some sort of custard, but custard typically calls for cream or milk or some sort of dairy.  Well who I am to argue with Helen so I just creamed everything together with mixer and then added the flour and the baking powder at the end.  The result was a kind of thick sugary filling which looked a lot like pecan pie filling without the pecans.

So pouring this filling over the cooled cookie crust and backing (again at 325 for another 20 min or so) gives something that looks like this:

Here it is again after it's cooled and removed from the pan.

The cooked crust does look and taste a lot like a shortbread.  The filling turned out to be not a custard at all but a sticky super rich caramel.

Here are the "cookies" cut apart on a plate:

Close up shot:

When all is said and done, I'm not really sure this is 100% correct but they certainly taste good.  I later found out that this recipe is most likely a version of sand tarts (a Google search brings up a bunch of different recipes none of which are exactly like this one but some are close).  This brings me to conclude a couple things:
1) The crust should be precooked but probably in a tart pan. 
2) This was probably more intended to be made as individual tarts by using a muffin tin and pressing a bit of crust in each cup later topping with the filling.

At any rate, feel free to experiment.  Here is the recipe for what I ended up with in this posts images:

1 c. Butter
1 c. Brown Sugar
2 c. Sifted Flour

Caramel Filling:
4 Eggs
1 tsp. Salt
2 c. Brown Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Baking Powder
4 tbsp. Flour

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2) To make crust cream together butter and brown sugar.
3) Add sifted flour and stir until combined
4) Press into a greased 9x13 baking pan
5) Bake for 20 minutes.
6) To make the filling cream together eggs, salt, brown sugar, and vanilla
7) Add baking powder and flour and stir until combined.
8) Pour filling over crust and bake for 20-30 minutes more.
9) Cool, remove from pan, and cut into 1 inch squares.

Makes approximately 3 dozen

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