The Dordogne valley produces more walnuts than any other region in France. Walnut trees are everywhere and it is quite disheartening to drive down the road in the autumn and hear the sound of the fallen nuts as they are crushed by your tires. Such a waste. Commercially, they grow 4 varieties of walnuts in the Dordogne region and we always look forward to loading up with a few bags of shelled nuts and a few tins of walnut oil on each trip.
If you find yourself in the Dordogne region in the fall, I would highly recommend a tour of one of the walnut farms where you can watch them process the nuts into many different final products.
Bags of nut in the shell, or conveniently “shelled” walnuts are available in many places. Walnut oil is great on salads, my Walnut-Honey Dressing recipe really showcases this fine product.
Walnut liqueur is another great regional product that I get to incorporate into my recipes in the Dordogne valley. I like to add it to all of my walnut desserts like this walnut tart and I also make a frozen walnut parfait that features this fine liqueur. I use it to flambé walnut and pastry cream filled crêpes, and it’s also great over vanilla ice cream or sipped on it’s own. If you are recreating these recipes in the U.S. where it is difficult to find walnut liqueur, you can substitute either Amaretto (almond liqueur) or Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur).
I use non-stick tart pans with removable bottoms for these tarts. I find that the 4-inch tart pans are the perfect size for appetizers or desserts, especially if they are quite rich like these walnut tarts. The removable bottoms are very handy for quick and easy removal of the tarts from the pans. They are available on Amazon in 6-packs and are very reasonably priced.
Walnut TartCourse: DessertCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Medium
1 batch sweet pastry dough (recipe below)
3 cups walnut halves
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons walnut liqueur (optional, or use Frangelico or Amaretto)
- Sweet Pastry Dough
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 Tablespoons ice water
- Roll out the pastry dough to 1/8-inch thickness, using flour as necessary to prevent sticking. I use 4-inch tart molds with removable bottoms for these tarts, as they are quite rich. Spray the molds lightly with vegetable spray. Cut the dough into 4-inch circles and press into the molds. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425-degrees F.
- Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and lightly toast them in the oven for 5 minutes.
- Heat the heavy cream in a small sauce pot or in a microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.
- Add the sugar and water to a medium-sized (at least 3-quart) heavy sauce pot and place over medium-heat. Bring to a boil and use a pastry brush and a small bowl of water to wash down the interior sides of the pan and prevent sugar crystals from forming. Do not stir the sugar mixture, but occasional swirling will allow for even browning of the sugar. Cook until it is amber in color.
- Pour in the heated heavy cream, it will boil rapidly which is why you always want to use a large pot. Once the pan is calm, add the walnuts, butter and liqueur to the pot, and continue cooking, stirring for 2 minutes.
- Divide the walnut mixture between the tart pans and sprinkle the top with a light coating of granulated sugar. Place the tart pans on a parchment lined baking sheet (to make it easier to clean if the tarts overflow) and cover the tarts loosely with aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated 425-degree F. oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325-degrees F., remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown color.
- Cool the tarts at room temperature for at least 45 minutes before removing them from the pans. Serve the tarts warm or at room temperature.
- Sweet Pastry Dough
- Mix together the flour, sugar and salt.
- Add the butter, and gently work into the dough, using a Pastry Cutter, until the butter is reduced to the size of rolled oats.
- Add the egg yolk and water and mix until just combined.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.