I’m pretty sure I won’t need many words to convince you that this dessert is holiday-worthy. It looks spectacular, but tastes even better. The crust and glazed walnuts can be made in advance, and assembling the tart is as quick as whipping a cup of cream, making it perfect for a busy day. Its deep maple flavor makes it addictive, but its light texture won’t make anyone feel guilty for indulging.
What I found most intriguing in this tart is the use of crushed unsalted crackers in the crust. I was doubtful at first, but it turns out that they are indiscernible in the baked result: they only help giving body to the meringue crust. While you can make the crust the day you plan on serving it, it’s even better if you can make it ahead and store it overnight in the fridge. Resting gives it a slightly chewy texture that’s especially delightful against the silky whipped cream.
Makes one 9.5-inch [25-cm] tart
For the crust
½ cup [125 ml] granulated maple sugar
½ cup [125 ml] white sugar
3 large egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp [30 ml] dark maple syrup, divided
¾ cup [180 ml] chopped walnuts, toasted
¾ cup [180 ml] unsalted soda crackers (or unsalted water crackers), crushed
1 tsp [5 ml] baking powder
For the candied nuts
¼ cup [60 ml] dark maple syrup
16 walnut halves
For the whipped topping
1 cup [250 ml] heavy whipping cream
¼ cup [60 ml] dark maple syrup
Coarse maple sugar (optional)
Preheat oven at 350°F [175°C]. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9.5-inch [25-cm] tart pan (a pan with a removable bottom is ideal).
Combine white and maple sugars in a small bowl. Put egg whites and salt in a large mixing bowl and beat them together at high speed until soft peaks form. Keep whipping and slowly add the sugar mixture, two tablespoons at a time, until all the sugar is fully incorporated and stiff and glossy peaks form. Slowly mix in two tablespoons [30 ml] of maple syrup (do not overbeat!). Using a spatula, fold in the chopped walnuts, crushed crackers and baking powder. Spread the mixture into the prepared tart pan, taking care to make the sides high and the center thinner, so that there is good indentation to hold the maple whipped cream topping.
Bake the shell for 25 to 35 minutes or until the meringue is golden but not brown. Remove from the oven, and cool completely. Refrigerate the shell at least two hours, or preferably overnight.
To make the candied nuts: Place a sheet of parchment paper over a baking sheet or a large plate. Put the maple syrup in a non-stick skillet and add the walnut halves, coating them with syrup. Heat up the mixture over medium-high heat, letting the syrup bubble up around the nuts. When the syrup is very sticky and the nuts are coated, take off the heat and lift the nuts out of the pan one at a time to transfer them to the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Let cool completely (the syrup will harden as the nuts cool), then store in an airtight container. The nuts can be prepared several days in advance.
To serve: Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Add ¼ cup [60 ml] maple syrup and whip the cream a bit more. Spread the cream in the meringue crust. Top with the candied walnuts, sprinkle with coarse maple sugar if desired, and serve. You can assemble the tart up to 4 hours ahead and store it in the fridge until service.
Recipe Credit: Adapted from Food 52.