Walnut and Coffee Caramel TartPosted: September 25, 2016
Coffee and Walnut is one the best flavour combinations you can enjoy.
Of course, it helps if you’re a coffee fiend like myself. The tannins in, and astringency of, the walnut skins both help to balance out any sweetness and also complements the bitterness of the coffee. If, also like me, you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, it is a delicious step back from too much sweetness.
Mary Berry’s Coffee and Walnut Cake recipe is the best cake version of this classic combination. As part of the audition process for season two of The Great British Bake Off, groups of applicants were summoned to a test kitchen and asked to bake Mary’s Coffee and Walnut Cake under filming conditions, to determine both real-time cooking ability and whether you could whisk eggs and answer questions at the same time.
Mary Berry’s Coffee and Walnut Cake is also the cake that I bake for others to enjoy: for the school summer fete, to thank a neighbour for removing a tree that was damaging our fence, for my dentist to apologise for missing an appointment, for the lads at the garage for going that extra mile. It’s the kind of cake that doesn’t sound very interesting, but when tasted, invites a wave of nostalgic memories of traditional tea-times.
This recipe is a variation of this classic flavour combination, in the form of a tart: sweet walnut pastry, coffee and walnut frangipane, a layer of coffee caramel over walnut halves and decorated with candied walnuts.
The original recipe wasn’t such a coffee/walnut feast. In fact, it didn’t have any coffee in it at all. I played around with adding it here and there and eventually came up with this variation. The appearance also required attention, which isn’t exactly one of my strengths. In this year’s Bake Off, Mary Berry has found a word to describe bakes of less-than-ideal appearance: they are being referred to as ‘informal’. The first iteration of this recipe was definitely informal – see below. It didn’t help matters that I decided to cut it whilst still warm.
During the filming of the Bake Off, I’d apparently told Mary Berry that “I don’t do dainty”. Whilst I’ll be the first to admit that this tart still isn’t dainty, I’ve tried to make it a step up from ‘informal’, out of my desire never to earn reproach from the imaginary Mary Berry that will forever be looking over my shoulder, i.e. made an effort to make the pastry thinner, allowed the caramel to cool down before cutting into the tart, less icing sugar, more candied walnuts.
In a week where Mary Berry decided to leave the Bake Off, I’d like to acknowledge my very great affection and respect both for her and her gentle encouragement to always make an effort to finish things nicely.
Walnut and Coffee Caramel Tart
If you’re not a fan of coffee, you can leave it out altogether – it will still be delicious.
Walnut Sweet Shortcrust
150g unsalted butter
85g light muscovado or soft brown sugar
80g walnuts – ground fine in a food processor.
125g plain flour
1 large egg
1 large yolk
- Grease and line a 20cm tart tin with baking parchment.
- Blitz the butter, sugar, walnuts and flour in a food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Whisk together the egg and the yolk.
- With the food processor running, gradually add the egg, little by little, until the mixture comes together into a ball. NB There is moisture in the walnuts and the butter, so you might only need a little of the egg. Do NOT be heavy-handed adding the egg, as this pastry is rather a challenge to work with when made well – too wet and it verges on nightmarish.
- Roll the pastry thinly (5mm) and use to line your tart tin. It is very fragile, so you’re unlikely to be able to drape it into your tin in a whole sheet. The good news is, it is very forgiving if you just want to patchwork it.
- Put your pastry-lined tin in the fridge or freezer to chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Trim any excess pastry from your tin, line with parchment and baking beads/rice and bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove parchment and bake for a further 5 minutes to firm up the inner surface of the pastry.
- Set aside until required.
- Reduce oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
100g light muscovado or soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
100g walnuts, finely ground in a food processor
60g warm, melted butter
2 tsp instant espresso coffee powder
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and foamy.
- Gently fold through the ground walnuts, coffee powder and the melted butter
- Pour mixture into the blind-baked pastry shell and bake for 15-20 minutes until set and lightly browned.
- Set aside to cool.
150g walnut halves
- When the tart has cooled, arrange the walnut halves neatly over the top.
150g caster sugar
100g crème fraîche
1 tsp instant espresso coffee powder, dissolved in 1tbs hot water
- Put the sugar and water into a pan over medium heat. I prefer my non-stick frying pan for this task.
- Allow the sugar to dissolve, then turn up the heat and allow to boil until a golden caramel colour is achieved.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream, butter and coffee.
- Pour the caramel over the walnut halves. I found it best to spoon a little over each nut, to ensure an even coating, then to drizzle the remainder into any gaps.
- Allow to cool, then chill in the fridge until required.
8 walnut halves
100g caster sugar
- Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to a boil.
- When the sugar begins to caramelise, add the walnut halves and stir over medium head until coated.
- Lift the sugared nuts from the pan with a fork and set onto parchment to cool.
Dust lightly with icing sugar and top with the candied walnuts.