kabocha tart with walnut streusel
My ESS (English Speaking Society) club planned a late Halloween party last week so I decided to bring a seasonal treat: pumpkin pie. This recipe has been one of my favorites since I first saw it in Fine Cooking magazine. Unlike a traditional pumpkin pie, it’s topped with a crunchy walnut streusel. It has the creamy, pumpkiney custard filling of a pumpkin pie combined with the crunchy nutty topping of a pecan pie (and I never was a fan of the overly sweet and gooey insides of pecan pie anyways).
Real pumpkins are hard to come by in Japan, so this one was actually a kabocha tart; kabocha is a sweet pumpkin-like Japanese winter squash. At home, I always thought of kabocha as a fall and winter vegetable, but I was informed by one of my teachers that it’s actually best in late summer-August is the best time of year for kabocha. In the hot, muggy days of August, I’m not usually in the mood for my favorite kabocha preparation, soy-simmered kabocha, but a plate of kabocha tempura with cold soba noodles sounds like a great treat then.
To make the tart, first I chopped and steamed a large kabocha squash. To make it easier to cut, I tried a tip that I learned from one of the teachers at school: microwave the kabocha for 1 to 2 minutes before cutting, then allow it to cool for a few minutes. It should be easier to cut with a than a raw kabocha. I can’t believe I’ve never thought of this before… of course, microwaving the squash for a few minutes creates steam and softens the flesh, making it easier to cut, but it doesn’t affect your finished dish any because it will be cooked anyways. I steamed the squash until it was tender and then used it in the tart recipe in the place of canned solid-pack pumpkin. Canned pumpkin is more moist than steamed kabocha, so the filling was a little challenging to blend at first, but came together eventually after I began adding the eggs. I made the filling in the blender to ensure that it would have a smooth texture.
To roll out the crust easily and with less mess, I placed the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and floured it generously on the top and bottom. I didn’t realize the parchment needed to be floured when I rolled out the crust for the first tart, and trust me, it was a bit of a sticky mess. The generously floured dough didn’t stick to the parchment and was easy to lift and transfer to the tart pan. This method is a real winner.
Next, to fit it in my oven, I use a 9-inch tart shell instead of the 11-inch called for in the original recipe. To my surprise, this meant that I used only about half of the crust, filling and topping, leaving me with enough to make a second tart this weekend. I was very generous with the amount of filling that I put in my first tart, so I added another egg and some more squash and cream to make a little more filling, but I think the original amount of filling is probably enough to make a second tart if you pay attention to your portioning. In addition to the kabocha substitution, I used brandy instead of bourbon in the filling since I don’t have any bourbon, but I just received a bottle of brandy recently. And although the reicpe calls for a food processor and stand mixer, you can make the crust and streusel almost just as easily by hand and the filling in the blender. The tart is best if it’s allowed to cool overnight or even made a day or two in advance, so I’m saving this one for my weekly Tuesday TV get-together.
Bourbon Pumpkin Tart with Walnut Streusel
Adapted from Rebecca Rather, Fine Cooking 74, pp. 52-53
Yields two 9-inch tarts or one 11-inch tart
For the tart crust:
9 oz (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/2 tsp table salt
5-1/2 oz (11 Tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup heavy cream; more if needed
For the pumpkin filling:
15 ounces kabocha squash, steamed until tender and cooled (see above) or use canned solid-pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp table salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brandy or bourbon
For the streusel topping:
3-1/2 oz (3/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 lb (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
Lightly sweetened whipped cream for garnish (optional)
Make the tart crust:
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, orange zest, and salt in a large bowl on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and combine on low speed until the mixture looks crumbly, with pieces of butter about the size of dried peas, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and cream, mixing on low speed until the dough is just combined. If the dough is too dry to come together, add more cream, a tablespoon at a time. Gently mold the dough into a 1-inch-thick disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to a week; the dough can also be frozen for up to a month.
Make the filling:
Put the kabocha into the blender. Add the eggs and blend, one at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Add both sugars and the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Blend for about 10 seconds. Blend in the heavy cream and bourbon.
Make the streusel topping:
Combine the flour, both sugars, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse briefly to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter has blended into the dry ingredients and the mixture is crumbly. Remove the blade and stir in the walnuts and crystallized ginger.
Assemble the tart:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Take the tart dough from the refrigerator and let it warm up until pliable, 5 to 15 minutes. Unwrap the dough and set it on a lightly floured work surface. With as few passes of the rolling pin as possible, roll the disk into a 13-inch round, about 3/16 inch thick. Drape the round into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom gently fitting it into the contours of the pan. Trim away the excess dough.
Pour the pumpkin mixture into the unbaked tart crust. Scatter the streusel topping evenly over the pumpkin mixture.
Bake until the topping is evenly cooked and no longer looks wet in the center, 50 to 65 minutes. Let the tart cool on a rack for at least 2 hours before serving (or wrap it in plastic and refrigerate overnight; before serving, let it sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours). Serve warm, at room temperature, or slightly chilled, with lightly sweetened whipped cream, if you like.
Sometimes the recipe on the Fine Cooking website is not available for free. Luckily, this recipe has been featured on other programs like one of my favorite podcasts, KCRW’s Good Food. Here’s a link to last year’s Thanksgiving episode featuring this tart (scroll down to find the recipe).