Sunday Dinner

Mixed Green Salad with Cranberries and Walnut Vinaigrette

Brown Sugar Tart

Each of my three children gets a birthday Sunday dinner and a birthday dinner on their actual birthday.  Mabelle, my youngest child, is turning nine this coming week.  Her two entrees this year are chicken-n-dumplings and steak.  We're going with the former on this crisp October Sunday.

We could not have a dinner tonight without something good to satisfy Mabelle's famous sweet tooth.  This brown sugar tart should take care of the back end of the meal quite nicely.  Brown sugar pie (I just put it in tart form) is a well known Southern dessert.  It's simple, but rich in color and flavor. As it bakes, it puffs up.  Once cooled to room temperature, it falls slightly and the filling hardens into a crisp, meringue-like layer.  With its deep brown sugar flavor and browned butter nuttiness, a slice of this tart is perfect on autumn day.  A dollop of whipped cream rounds out the flavor profile.        

Brown Sugar Tart
serves 8-10

For the Tart Dough
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
9 Tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1 extra large egg

For the Filling
1 pound light brown sugar
4 extra large eggs (whole or 2%)
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
6 ounces unsalted butter, melted and lightly browned

Accompaniment: Lightly sweetened whipped cream

For the Tart Dough
In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, and salt.  Pulse until combined.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour.  Process in short bursts until the butter is the size of peas.  Add the egg and process in long pulses (about 5-7 seconds long) until the dough has started to clump.  Place a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the dough onto the surface.  Using the plastic wrap and the back of your hands, gently press the dough into a disk.  Wrap tightly with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325ยบ F.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  If refrigerated overnight, let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle, flouring the dough and surface as necessary to keep the dough from sticking.  Roll up the dough around the rolling pin and gently unroll it over a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Fit the dough into the edge of the pan.  Roll the rolling pin over the top of the pan to remove the excess dough; set in the refrigerator until ready to use.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon (if using) until smooth.  In a slow, steady stream add the butter, whisking constantly.

Pour the filling into the tart shell.  Set the tart shell on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Transfer the tart to a wire rack and cool to room temperature before cutting.  The filling will fall slightly and the top will become firm like a meringue.  Serve as is or top with whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from A Love Affair with Southern Cooking, by Jean Anderson

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