"The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, All of a summer day: The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts And took them quite away!"
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, ch.11, 'Who Stole the Tarts?'.
Whenever I think of macadamia, I automatically think of Australia and Hawaii. That's because during my younger days, friends or relatives who had travelled to these faraway lands (when I was young, the world seemed bigger) frequently brought us back chocolate-covered macadamia candy as gifts from their trips. As an adult, I learnt that macadamia nuts are actually native to Australia, but were imported to Hawaii where they thrived. They are apparently also now grown in New Caledonia and Indonesia.
When I bought my big bag of macadamia nuts (unshelled....urrghh), I knew I wanted to make tarts with them. The buttery-flavored nuts would be soft enough to cut through with a knife and would be perfect as a tart filling. On its own, though, I felt it wouldn't give enough of a kick and all of you who visit here often would know that I'm all for tastebud-titillation when it comes to anything I bake. Macadamia always tastes heavenly with orange or chocolate but as usual, I resisted the temptation to go with the norm. It was my James Dean-rebel gene exerting its dominance in the kitchen yet again.
So I think of Rosewater, and flashes of Indian sweets (gulab jamun), Turkish Delight and air bandung (pink rosewater-flavored, sweet drink) cross my mental palate. The possibility of a floral, buttery, nutty-flavored tart seemed more tempting and was definitely more my style. Subtle but memorable. No mere coincidence then that my life is reflected in many of my baked goodies...
Rosewater lending a floral note to the pastry and filling.
When it comes to making an undeniably tasty crust, I like to use the rather nutty, low-gluten and easier-to-digest spelt flour. Although my crust is not butter-less (fat chance!), it is eggless as spelt makes the dough stickier to work with. And I incorporated just enough Rosewater in the dough (as well as the filling) to enable you to detect the floral note as you bite into the tart. I'm partial to eating flowers, what can I say?
Shelling brings me no joy.... but oh, anything for the buttery nut!
Apart from the nailbreaking session with the macadamias, this was probably the one of the easiest tarts I have ever made - and I don't say that lightly because I've made many easy tarts. Cooking and prep times are also minimal, so this is a good one to impress guests for when they drop by darnedly unexpectedly.
The custard filling rises in the oven but falls and wraps itself around the nuts upon cooling.
It's a known fact that incorporating macadamia nuts into a heart healthy diet can reduce cardiovascular disease risks. Macadamia nuts have higher levels of monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil compared with other tree nuts. I had actually piped melted, white chocolate over several of these tarts but I'm not showing you them so that we can all keep to the perception that these mini-tarts are indeed, healthy. ;-)
Makes: 9 mini-tarts (2½ inches wide)
Spelt Rosewater Crust
250g spelt flour
125g cold butter, cubed
2 to 3 tablespoons Rosewater*
(*you can get this at Asian culinary stores)
Macadamia Cream Filling
200g whole macadamia nuts, shelled
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 ½ tablespoon Rosewater
1. Make the crust first: in a bowl, rub the cold butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the center of the mixture, gradually add Rosewater and knead the flour into a pastry ball.
2. Preheat oven to 180C. Divide dough into 9 balls, take one and press onto the base and sides of a mini-tart pan (1-cm deep) to form the crust. Repeat with the rest of the dough balls. Prick the base of the crust with a fork several times to release hot air while baking.
3. Place tart pans in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
4. In the meantime, prepare the custard cream filling. Whisk the brown sugar, cream, corn syrup, egg and Rosewater for about a minute until well-combined.
5. After 10 minutes, remove the semi-cooked spelt crust from the oven. Arrange a layer of macadamia nuts on the base of each crust and carefully pour the custard cream on top of the nuts, filling it until you just cover all the nuts.
6. Bake at 180C for 15 minutes until custard is just set. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack for about 10 minutes. Mini-tarts can be served warm or cool with ice-cream or whipped cream.