Nutcracker Sweet

Baking and cooking from scratch forces you to slow down.  To put out a successful product, you need to take a breath, be in the moment, and pay attention.  

I know I bang it like a drum every single year, but during the holidays we do need to step back, slow down, regain our composure, and be deliberate in our actions and interactions.

Maybe me, more than any of you, Gentle Reader.

This week, I had a plan.  This would be the week that I shared the annual Christmas cookie recipe.  I was on top of my business.  I was a holiday role model.

Eagle-eyed readers, or indeed anyone with a memory just a tad longer than a hummingbird may have noticed a little flaw in my big plan.

Because, my cookie column ran a few weeks ago.  A.FEW.WEEKS.AGO.

So, this week I offer a totally scratch made pie.  With four components that aren’t dificult, but to be successful, you must be present in your own mind and kitchen.

As for me?

I’ll be busy checking to make sure I paid the light and cable bills.

Thanks for your time, and have the happiest of holidays.

Contact debbie at

Pecan Caramel Apple Tart


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup plus ½ of 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

¾ cup roasted pecans

¾ cup (1 & ½ sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces


Preheat oven to 425°.

Mix flour, sugar, and pecans  in food processor until pecans are finely ground. Add butter. Cut in with short pulses until mixture forms clumps.

Prepare 9-inch tart pan by lightly spraying with cooking oil spray. Press dough onto bottom and up sides of pan. Pierce crust all over with fork. Freeze 15 minutes.

Bake crust at 425°(400° if using dark colored or non-stick pan) until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Transfer crust (leave in tin) to rack and let cool. When crust has cooled, fill.

Apple Filling

¾ cup gran. sugar

¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

12 gratings of nutmeg

½ tsp. salt

4 pounds apples, cored, peeled and sliced

4 Tbs. butter

2 Tbs. cornstarch

2 Tbs. brandy

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup water

Mix sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and nutmeg.  Toss with apples. 

Heat butter in skillet until browned. Add apples, cover and cook until apples soften and release juices.  Uncover and continue to cook until pan is almost dry and fruit’s browned around the edges. 

Meanwhile, whisk liquids and cornstarch together and stir into apple mixture and bring to boil. Remove from heat.  When completely cool, pour into crust.

Caramel Topping

¼ cup milk

12 Kraft caramels

¼ cup chopped toasted pecans

1 teaspoon flaky salt

Combine milk and caramels and heat in microwave until caramels melt, then let cool.  Drizzle cooled caramel mixture over apple filling and top with toasted pecans.  Sprinkle top with sea salt

Cream topping

8 ounces cream cheese , room temperature 

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract  

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt  

2 cups heavy cream  

WHIPPED CREAM: Place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 ½ minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 ½ cups).

Pipe on top in decorative manner.  Refrigerate for 2 hours before service, and keep refrigerated.  Pop out of tin and place on cake plate for service.

Serves 8-10.

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