Salted Cashew Caramel Bars

I’m going to make this post short and sweet (and maybe a little salty?).

Once again I’ve been inspired to bake by the Boston Public Market.  While picking up some produce at Siena Farms the other week, I couldn’t help but be lured by their sesame cashew bites made by Sofra, a Middle Eastern cafe and bakery established by Ana Sortun.  These little treats were layered with shortbread, caramel, sesame seeds and salted cashews and were every bit as addicting as they sound! Luckily they freeze well if you want to try to keep yourself from eating the entire package in one sitting!

While still dreaming/drooling over these delectable squares, I was asked to bring a dessert to a work potluck.  After a quick google search for “caramel cashew squares” I found a recipe on serious eats that fit the bill.  Even better, they could be made ahead of time and refrigerated which was perfect for my busy schedule.

While they weren’t quite as good as the Sofra version, I left home with an empty tupperware container…always a good sign!  I have a feeling there might be a request for them at next year’s potluck!

Salted Cashew Caramel Bars (from serious eats)

For Base:

2 cups (about 10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (about 7 ounces) sugar
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Topping:

1 1/2 cups (about 10 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, roughly cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups salted roasted cashews

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 13- by-9 inch baking pan with foil. Grease foil with butter. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy and light in color, about 4-5 minutes. Beat in egg, then vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture in two additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl each time.

Place dough in prepared pan. Using either floured hands or a piece of plastic wrap, press dough evenly into the bottom of the greased baking pan. Let chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Bake crust until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove crust, but keep oven on. Let crust cool completely. While crust is cooling, make filling.

Place sugar in a nonstick saucepan over medium high heat. Let stand until bottom layer of sugar begins to melt, then start stirring, continuing to stir until sugar has turned light brown in color and smooth in texture. Pour in heavy cream, being careful of it splattering. Stir constantly until mixture is smooth again, about 5 minutes. Turn down heat and stir in butter, vanilla, and salt. Take mixture off heat and stir in cashews. Pour mixture into pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Let mixture cool for at least two hours or until set. When firm to the touch, cut into bars. Bars can be kept in the refrigerator for easier cutting.

Heirloom Tomato, Pesto, and Goat Cheese Tart

My birthday was a few weeks ago and for it, the city of Boston gave me the best present ever: the opening the the Boston Public Market!  For those unfamiliar, the Boston Public Market is a year-round, indoor market consisting of 37 local vendors offering coffee, donuts, cheese, meat, flowers, prepared foods, smoked fish, local produce and more.  It is the most local market in the US…just a 1/2 mile walk from my apartment!

I have probably been at least 5 times since it opened and some of the vendors are starting to recognize me (Hi Boston Smoked Fish Company!).  However, given my recent hectic work and travel schedule, I haven’t been able to cook or bake to take advantage of the amazing fresh produce offered.  This Saturday I finally had a free day in Boston and decided to let the market guide me through a lazy afternoon in the kitchen.

The gorgeous display of bright heirloom tomatoes at Siena Farms immediately caught my eye (along with fresh corn and peaches).  I quickly remembered the leftover homemade pesto in my freezer and after stopping at Appleton Farms for some fresh goat cheese, my dinner quickly materialized!

I have long had a love affair with rustic tarts- both for their simplicity and deliciousness- and decided to try my hand at my first savory tart.  I used my favorite pie/tart crust minus the sugar and then spread a layer of homemade pesto on the bottom.  Next, I layered several different varieties and colors of sliced heirloom tomatoes, sprinkled with olive oil and sea salt to bring out their flavor.  Finally, I topped the tart with the fresh goat cheese before baking it in the oven.

This was the perfect savory, summer tart to take advantage of the Boston Public Market.  Steamed sweet corn, peach crisp (a la mode), and a refreshing glass of rosé rounded out the meal!  I can’t wait to have leftovers in my call room today! (No rosé of course…)

Heirloom Tomato, Pesto, and Goat Cheese Tart

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
16 oz (2 stick) cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
4-5 Tbs ice cold water
several tablespoons Pesto (homemade or store-bought), enough to cover bottom of tart
4-5 medium-large heirloom tomatoes, cored and slices
olive oil, to taste
sea salt, to taste
4-6 oz goat cheese
1 egg
splash of water

Make the pastry dough by blending the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and pulsing until it resembles peas. Add 1 Tbs of water at a time while pulsing until the mixture forms into a dough.  Turn out into a disk on plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat over to 425 degrees F.  Lightly flour a large surface and roll out tart dough into a large circle until it is about 1/4 inch thin.  Transfer dough to parchment lined baking sheet (rimmed is preferable in case tart leaks).  Spoon pesto over dough, leaving a 3 inch rim of dough.  Layer the tomatoes in concentric circles.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt to taste.  Top with pieces of goat cheese.

Fold dough over the edges, using the parchment paper to help, and pinch the corners together to seal it.  Make an egg wash my beating the egg with a splash of water.  Brush over the exposed edges of the dough.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, until crust is browned and tomatoes start to bubble.  Remove from oven and let cool for at least an hour.  Serve at room temperature with more pesto if desired.