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We’re big fans of tarts as a dinner party finale—they’re versatile, elegant, and easy to make ahead. Plus, they're downright tasty. But, compared to towering cakes or flaming puddings, tarts can feel like a little bit of a snooze. Which is why we were excited to see Top Chef judge and accomplished chef Gail Simmons' show-stopping solution in her latest book, Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating: A hazelnut-maple treat with a dramatic finish.
Simmons first tasted the iconic Canadian tarte au sucre when visiting her grandparents in Montreal.
"If it was early spring, our trip included a stop at one of the many traditional cabanes à sucre—sugar shacks—small cabins where sap tapped from sugar maple trees is boiled into some of the finest amber syrups in the world. There we indulged in treats like maple sugar and tire d’erable—a taffy-pop hybrid made by drizzling and freezing thickly boiled maple sap over icy-cold fresh snow, then turning it around a popsicle stick. All of that, while utterly delightful, could not steal the thunder from the pièce de résistance: rich, sticky tarte au sucre. We’d share a slice on site and often buy a whole tart to bring home."
Flavored with sweet brown sugar and maple syrup, slices of the rich, sticky tart are traditionally served with a splash of chilled cream (although it tastes amazing on its own). Simmons suggests making the tart a day ahead of parties, then keeping it covered in the fridge. For a striking finish at the end of the meal, she brings the tart to room temperature, then pours the cream on top at the table.
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- Up to 4 tablespoons ice water
- 1 cup maple sugar
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/3 cup chilled heavy cream, plus 1/2 cup for serving
What's your favorite holiday showstopper? Cake? Puddings? Pie? Share in the comments!