To get to Nebraska Knoll you follow the road that crosses Miller Brook and swoops sharply right into Nebraska Valley. The first house you pass is Joe and Becky’s on the left. Look to see if their sheep have lambed. You may glimpse a chicken or rabbit in the yard. Notice the skis lined up on the porch, a syrup pan set up in the garage with the smoke stack poking outside. They tap the maples across the road by Miller Brook.
Becky is famous in these parts for remembering and celebrating birthdays. To fˆête her on her May 5th birthday, Maple Trout Lilli lavished her time and talent on creating this exquisite tart:
CREAMED MAPLE WALNUT TART (Becky’s Birthday Tart)
Remember the days of maple walnut combo… in ice cream, particularly? Well this recipe was adapted by someone who missed that good old New England flavor combination and decided to recreate those special flavors unique to our area. Pastry crust is fine but this unusual shell is more than just a holding pen for its filling. Think of the possibilities with strawberry season fast approaching.
½ cup granulated maple sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup maple syrup, divided
¾ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
¾ cup unsalted soda crackers, crushed
1 teaspoon baking powder
16 intact walnut halves
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a rectangular tart pan. A large round one will work too. But regardless of its shape, it’s best to use a removable bottomed pan.
Combine white and maple sugars in a small bowl. Put the egg whites and salt in a large mixing bowl and beat together at high speed until you get soft peaks. Keep whipping them as you slowly add the sugar, two tablespoons at a time, until the cup of sugar is fully incorporated into egg and you’ve got glossy peaks. Slowly mix in two tablespoons of maple syrup. Fold in the chopped walnuts, crusted soda crackers and baking powder. Spread the mixture into the prepared tart pan, taking care to make the sides high, so that there is good indentation the middle to hold the maple whipped cream for service.
Bake the shell 25-35 minutes or until the meringue is golden but not brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Refrigerate the shell at least two hours (preferable overnight if you’ve got the time).
Meanwhile put ¼ cup maple syrup in a non-stick skillet and add the walnut halves, coating them with syrup. Heat up the mixture on medium letting the syrup bubble up around the nuts. When the syrup is caramelized and very sticky and the nuts are coated, they are sufficiently candied. Lift the nuts out of the pan one at a time and let them cool separately on lightly buttered parchment. Store in airtight container, until ready to use.
When you are ready to serve the tart, whip the cream to soft peaks. Add 4 tablespoons of maple syrup and whip the cream a bit more. Spread the cream in the meringue cavity. Top with candied walnuts and serve. This does keep well in the fridge for several hours.
Enjoy and Happy Spring!