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salted caramel apple tart

The time has come! This Tuesday evening is the 2016 Saveur Blog Awards in New York City, and things are starting to get pretty exciting around here. Husbands That Cook has been nominated for the Best-How-To Blog, so tomorrow night we are flying in for the event to attend the ceremony in person. Ryan has a choir concert in the early evening and immediately after the show, we will be driving to the airport to take a red-eye flight to the Big Apple. We have a full week ahead of us and we invite you to follow along on Instagram where we will be documenting all our adventures, including a pasta-making workshop that we will be taking with Chef Tim Cushman of Covina. Over the past year we have met so many new friends and cooking bloggers through social media, many whom live in New York, so this trip will be the first time we get to meet many of them face to face. Oh, and you didn’t think we would depart without leaving you something celebratory, did you? Of course not! In fact, we specifically planned to post something extra special for the occasion. So before we start packing our bags, allow us to introduce you to this terrific tart, a salted caramel apple tart with a toasted hazelnut crust. And with this, Fall has officially begun.

It took two taste tests to turn this tempting tart into a tantalizing treat. The first time around, the crust had an odd flavor, the apples were crunchy and too sugary, and the caramel was grainy and overly sweet. Other than that, it was great… to look at! The flavors were far from ready, but after a few dedicated late-night adjustments that took place in our kitchen after midnight, the tart was perfected and ready to be shared with the world. We were able to fall asleep soundly knowing that the caramel was no longer grainy. In fact, it was extra smooth and creamy, with a perfect balance of sweetness and just the right amount of salt. We slept peacefully, dreaming of thin slices of granny smith apples that had been sautéed in brown sugar and butter, resting ever so gently on the toasted hazelnut crust and nestled under a blanket of silky caramel. When we awoke, we ate our hypothesis for breakfast, and the results were clear from the first bite: our testing was complete.

This recipe is a pleasure to make from start to finish. The granny apple slices cook quickly in a hot skillet which you can even re-use to make the salted caramel. And the toasted hazelnut crust comes together easily in a food processor, and smells heavenly as it bakes. Since this elegant autumnal dessert is served chilled, you can make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until the moment when the clock strikes caramel o’clock. Filled with rich salted caramel and topped with flaky sea salt, this decadent dessert deserves a distinguished display on a dish in your dining room dwelling. Listen carefully…do you hear something? That’s the sound of the clock striking caramel!

Salted Caramel Apple Tart
serves 10 to 12

For the toasted hazelnut crust:
3/4 cup (105g) hazelnuts
1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (113g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled

For the sautéed apples:
1 sour apple, such as granny smith
2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar

For the salted caramel:
2 cups (396g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (118ml) water
1/4 cup (59ml) light corn syrup
8 tablespoons (113g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup (118ml) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (28g) sour cream
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more for garnish

Make the crust:
Heat oven to 350°F. Place the hazelnuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the nuts are beginning to turn golden and smell toasted, shaking the pan halfway through to roll the nuts around a little. Let the nuts cool, and use a washcloth or other rough rag to rub the hazelnuts and remove the loose skins. If any skins stay attached, don’t worry about it: only remove the skins that come off easily. Cool the nuts completely in the freezer for a few minutes. Place the cooled nuts, flour, sugar, and salt and a food processor, and pulse until the nuts are ground and the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the chilled butter pieces, and pulse until the largest pieces of butter are pea-sized. Gather the dough together, then place it into a 9-inch tart pan, pressing the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until beginning to turn golden. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Make the apples:
Core the apple, cut it in half, and slice it as thinly as possible (about 1/8-inch or thinner). Place a skillet over medium heat, and melt the butter. When hot, add the apple slices and the brown sugar, and sauté until the apples are quite soft, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, then lay the apple slices in a single layer in the tart crust. The layer should not be too thick, so you may not end up using all the slices.

Make the caramel:
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Place over medium heat, and bring to a boil, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the caramel has darkened to a medium amber color, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring often. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the butter, cream, sour cream, and salt–being careful as the mixture will bubble and steam vigorously. Stir until completely blended and smooth. Pour caramel over the apples in the crust until the crust is filled to the brim with caramel. (You may have caramel left over that will not fit, but just pour it into a bowl and enjoy it later!) Chill the tart for at least one hour, until firm. Sprinkle the top with a few pinches of flaky sea salt. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve, and enjoy!