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Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

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Serves 8 to 10

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 125

From its dramatic straight sides to its bourbon-spiked caramel and crunchy pepita toppings, this gorgeous tart makes plain pumpkin pie pale in comparison. The recipe’s length may make it look daunting, but its various elements can be made in stages.

For the pumpkin seeds
  • Cooking spray
  • 1-1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 3/4 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-1/4 oz. (1/4 cup) raw hulled pumpkin seeds
For the crust
  • 6 oz. (1-1/3 cups) all-purpose flour, more as needed
  • 6 Tbs. fine cornmeal
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 oz. (8 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
For the caramel
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
For the filling
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. canned pure pumpkin purée
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
Candy the pumpkin seeds

Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment and lightly coat it with cooking spray.

Combine the corn syrup, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Add the pumpkin seeds, stir, and spread in a single layer on the prepared sheet. Bake, stirring halfway through, until golden-brown, about 7 minutes. Cool on a rack until crisp, about 5 minutes, and then break into small clusters. (The seeds can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead; keep in an airtight container at room temperature.)

Make the crust

Pulse the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal.

Combine the egg, egg yolk, and 1 Tbs. ice water in a small bowl. Add the egg mixture to the processor and pulse until the mixture just comes together, adding more water, 1 tsp. at a time, as needed, up to 2 Tbs. Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and use the wrap to help gather the dough into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

On a floured work surface with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 13-inch circle.

Carefully transfer the dough to a 9-inch springform pan, gently pressing it into the bottom and up the sides of the pan without stretching it. Tear any high areas of the dough so that the height is about 1/2 inch below the rim of the pan; the edge should look ragged. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork at 1-inch intervals, line it with aluminum foil, and fill to the top with dried beans, gently pressing them against the sides. Bake until the edges are firm, about 15 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil and beans. Return the crust to the oven and bake, rotating the pan once and popping any bubbles with a toothpick, just until the bottom is firm, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes. Leave the oven on.

Make the caramel

In a 2-quart saucepan, cook the brown sugar, butter, and salt over medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts and begins to darken around the edges, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the cream (some sugar will seize) and simmer, whisking occasionally, until smooth and thick enough that the whisk leaves the bottom of the pan visible, 7 to 9 minutes. Whisk in the bourbon and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the whisk leaves the bottom of the pan visible again, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof measuring cup. Pour 1/3 cup of the caramel over the bottom of the cooled crust and spread it evenly with a small offset spatula. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to set the caramel. (Leave the remaining caramel at room temperature.)

Make the filling and bake

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1-1/2 minutes. Add the egg and then the egg yolk, beating until well combined. Add the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the half-and-half. Slowly pour the filling into the crust. Bake until the filling has puffed slightly and its surface no longer appears wet, 35 to 40 minutes. (It’s OK if cracks form; they will be covered later.) Cool on a rack until the filling is completely cooled and firm, about 1 hour.

Finish, chill, and serve

If the remaining caramel is no longer pourable, warm it in a microwave in 20-second bursts, whisking between bursts, until pourable, about 80 seconds total. (Alternatively, reheat it gently over very low heat.) Drizzle the remaining caramel over the custard and spread it evenly. Arrange the pumpkin seeds around the edge of the tart, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

To serve, run a thin knife around the edge of the tart and remove the side of the pan. Transfer to a serving plate and serve chilled.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 460; Fat (g): fat g 30; Fat Calories (kcal): 270; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 17; Protein (g): protein g 7; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 42; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 210; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 155; Fiber (g): fiber g 2;

Photo: Kate Sears

I made this for a Christmas lunch and REALLY impressed my friends! It was the best desert I have ever made, and that includes my Mom's best recipes! Thanks for my new special party recipe.

Made this yesterday for a Christmas party. The filling and the caramel were great, did have to simmer the caramel sauce a bit longer than the recipe stated, as other reviewers had noted. The crust was horrible. Used the fine cornmeal, it was tough and dry. Not good. Next time will just use my regular pie dough recipe, or maybe a gingersnap/graham cracker crust. I did use dark brown sugar in place of the light brown sugar. will make again, just a different crust.

Yum! I made a double recipe since I was going to a big Thanksgiving dinner and everyone loved it! I used pre-made refrigerator pie crust and skipped the pumpkin seeds to save time, and the results were totally amazing! I did cook the caramel longer than suggested.

I loved this pie! I made it twice - one for a Thanksgiving potluck the weekend before Thanksgiving and then again on Thanksgiving! Yes, there are a lot of steps - but they aren't difficult and it is definitely worth it! Both times I made it, the caramel took at least twice as long to thicken, if not more, but that's generally what happens with caramel so I wasn't worried. I also used maple syrup instead of corn syrup on the pepitas the second time I made it and thought they were much better candied with maple syrup! Lastly, I didn't have time to chill it when I made it the first time, so it was gooey and warm and DELICIOUS! I did chill it the second time but didn't think it was as good - so try it warm! But enjoy it either way!

This pie really is fantastic! I made it for Thanksgiving to rave reviews. I followed the previous reviewer and used semolina instead of corn meal in the crust. Also my caramel took more than twice the time, but I just patiently waited for it to thicken. Only change I would make next time is to double the candied pumpkin seeds and sprinkle them across the whole pie.

We really enjoyed this - the flavors were excellent and the variety of textures really added to the dish. In answer to some of the other reviews here - our caramel never darkened as in the picture, but it did thicken properly. I will say it took about twice as long as the recipe stated, but the instructions to have it clear the bottom of the pan were accurate. Our caramel also separated at room temperature, but a quick rewarm and rewhisk solved that and it was fine after being chilled. We liked the crust - did not detect any graininess as others have described. We followed the instructions to the letter and we rewarded with an impressive addition to our Thanksgiving table.

I just made this recipe as written and had no issues at all. Preparing caramel is similar to preparing risotto in the respect that it takes some labor, love, time, and patience. This is a time consuming but wonderful recipe, i hope to make it a yearly tradition! -made it gluten free (added extra GF flour and to compensate for high altitude, xantham gum). It turned out perfectly.

It's in the oven right and smells delicious, so my hope is it will taste delicious! I did have an issue with the caramel as others have mentioned...but I generally have trouble with caramel so it may be more user-error than recipe error...I tried it as written the first time, but it was soupy and way too strongly flavored with the bourbon (1/4 cp seems like a lot?)...I re-did the caramel, this time doing a much smaller amount of cream and skipping the bourbon altogether. The caramel came out well and hoping it will set correctly on the crust and top of the cake. Anyway Im hoping it will still come out delicious, and the 3 star rating could very well be because of my inability to cook caramel correctly! But give it a try anyway, overall pretty easy, just a lot of steps.

After reading all of these reviews, I was second-guessing my decision to make this recipe; however, I went ahead and made it and glad that I did!! Hopefully this review will help out a few bakers out there! First of all, I decided to make this in a 10” fluted [nonstick] tart pan. I made the caramel a day ahead of time, to clarify, the bourbon amount seemed a bit much, but gave a nice flavor, I think some might be turned off by the aroma of the bourbon once it is made, it is pretty strong, but the taste isn’t nearly as strong. I used a stainless steel pot to make the caramel, and allowed the brown sugar and butter to cook a bit longer to achieve the darker look, be careful not to overcook it though. *make sure your pot is clean and dry, to avoid crystalizing the sugar/caramel, which is why it may separate. When adding the cream, whisk it in slowly and consistently, I think this makes a huge difference. As for the dough, LOVED it, I am going to use it for other savory tarts, but can see how many do not like the ‘grittiness’ if anything, use semolina or masa flour. I did par-bake the shell, which shrunk about a 1/4" to 1/2” in, just a heads up! With regards to the filling, I did double the filling recipe since I used a larger pan, I had some left over, next time, I will not double the recipe, but rather, do 1 ½ times the recipe. As a professional pastry chef, I would recommend this recipe to anyone that asked, it may seem intimidating, but take your time and trust your instinct. The ingredients are spot on as far as measurements.

I thought I was going crazy on the caramel sauce until I read the reviews. After looking at other caramel recipes, I believe you got the sugar and the cream backwards. Should be 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup cream. That was an expensive mistake as we made this twice. Finally went to the store and bought caramel sauce in a jar. It was nice and brown. Heated it with a bit of bourbon. Someone should check the measurements of your recipes.

Decided to make for thanksgiving. The Carmel did not thicken. It separated. Iooked up Carmel sauce and they all start out with sugar and water not sugar and butter! I was very disappointed in the way the recipe turned out. Plus the print was so small I had to look up the recipe on line to make sure I had the correct amounts!

Decided to make for thanksgiving. The Carmel did not thicken. It separated. Iooked up Carmel sauce and they all start out with sugar and water not sugar and butter! I was very disappointed in the way the recipe turned out. Plus the print was so small I had to look up the recipe on line to make sure I had the correct amounts!

This is one of the best pumpkin pie recipes, if not the best I have ever tasted. One of the things I have seen mentioned in other reviews is regarding the crust. I have two tips for that: 1) instead of corn meal, I have used semolina (which is in fact very fine corn meal) and it doesn't come out grainy at all. Two: I haven't baked the pie crust ahead of time, I have just poked holes in the crust, once in the pie pan, and baked it with the pie as if baking a regular pumpkin pie. Doing that the second time I made it, made the crust a lot less dried out or overdone. It was flaky and delicious. As for the filling and the caramel part, I LOVE them both! I think the filling is a perfect mix of flavors (although I like adding a bit more ginger and nutmeg) and I think the bourbon flavor in the caramel is to die for. Yummy yummy pie.

Wow, I read all the reviews for this. And I have to say that I am really surprised about what people are saying. I made this for a group really close to me, and they all loved it. I followed all the directions and it came out perfectly. I did change one thing. I didn't use the cornmeal, I just added a few tablespoons of white flour.

After reading the comments I decided to go with a ready made graham cracker crust and used it for a party to preview to see if I wanted it for Thanksgiving. I took suggestions, cut bourbon in half, and my caramel took longer to get good color, but overall everyone loved it. I liked the caramel and loved that I didn't have to use candy thermometer. Having it for Thanksgiving.

Really not that good-Crust did not go over well-too grainy with the corn meal-WAY too much bourbon-I used half of what the recipe called for after reading the reviews and it was still too powerful a taste..hardly any pumpkin flavour-Caramel made it edible but would not waste my time and energy on this one again.

Really not that good-Crust did not go over well-too grainy with the corn meal-WAY too much bourbon-I used half of what the recipe called for after reading the reviews and it was still too powerful a taste..hardly any pumpkin flavour-Caramel made it edible but would not waste my time and energy on this one again.

Amazing... Made into small tartlets vs a larger tart. This tasted as if it came from a French Patissiere - one of the best dessert recipes on Fine Cooking. Wow...wow...wow.

Forgive me, but does the crust require one full egg (yolk + egg white), plus another egg yolk? Or just one full egg? Thanks.

I tried this as practice for Thanksgiving. It was time consuming first time around but you can actually make the glazed seeds quickly and ahead of time, same with the caramel. My caramel was light in color, I made it again and let it get darker before adding the cream. I only used 1/2 the bourbon and thought it was the right decision. I didn't like the crust's texture with the corn meal, I will change it. The filling was delicious. I devorated the top as pictured, but then added glazed pecans and pastry leaves and pumpkins, very pretty.

I made this for a dinner party and one of the guests said it was the best pumpkin pie he had ever had. I would agree. Plus it looks amazing when you present it.

I have been enjoying "auditioning" the pumpkin recipes from this issue and was really looking forward to the bourbon caramel pumpkin tart. This was a disappointment. First, the crust was tough. I've made many pastry crusts the last several months, so I don't feel as though I failed the recipe. Rather, I feel as though the recipe let me down. Second, there is way too much bourbon in the caramel. In addition, my caramel didn't thicken or turn dark as in the photo. In fact, I even made a second batch to see if I could improve on the first. I decreased the bourbon by more than half, and the caramel was still quite boozy. This dessert will not be on my Thanksgiving table.

This is the best dessert I have made in a very long time, and I do a lot of baking. Loved it.

I made this recipe with a few modifications. I made a sweet Pate Sucree for the shell, and switched out the Bourbon with a Dark Rum. It came out perfect, my wife brought it to work for her pot luck and they loved it. I'm reading the comments and I don't understand how some thought that this recipe was time-consuming, it was pretty straight-forward and a breeze to make. I'm going to make it again, but this time I will omit the alcohol all together. It's not really necessary, and takes away from the true flavor of the caramel. Still, It's a great recipe. Thanks!

Made this today and it turned out great! It received excellent reviews from my guests. The only change I made was using dark brown sugar instead of light...it turned out exactly like the picture.

Made this yesterday (Canadian Thanksgiving). OK, the caramel did present problems- the fat separated and the flavour was too boozy and the colour was too light. I fixed this by replacing the brown sugar with white, melting the butter with the heavy cream and salt, then melting the white sugar (separately) with 2 tbsp of water and cook this over medium heat (swirl the pan, don't stir) until the sugar caramelizes and turns a deep golden brown. Watch carefully, once the sugar begins to caramelize it turns amber quickly, if left it burns in no time. At this point remove the pan from the heat and SLOWLY pour in the cream mixture, whisking all the while then return to medium heat and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add booze and cook another 3 minutes or so. I used a candy thermometer and it registered 200F when I removed it from the heat. I left this to cool in the pan and then poured it on the cooled tart. Extreme temp fluxuation causes caramel to separate. I added a little less bourbon and replaced it with a splash of vanilla extract. Allowing the caramel to cook after adding alcohol is important, it allows those harsh boozy flavours to cook off. The crust was just Ok, I would do a graham cracker or traditional pie crust next time. The filling is delicious. I did not candy my nuts- just used toasted, salted pumpkin seeds. Less work. Overall, a fun replacement for pumpkin pie!

I too made this for Canadian Thanksgiving. I feel I'm a fairly accomplished baker, and this *is* incredibly time-consuming. Ultimately, I found the mix of flavours conflicting and harsh (from the Bourbon). If (and that's a big if!) I were to make it again, I'd simply forego the liquor in the carmel, or substitute a nice, smooth Canadian Rye or a Single Malt Scotch.

Made this for Canadian Thanksgiving ... yes, it was a lot of work (although not nearly as hard as the magazine made it sound!). Turned out very well -- my caramel wasn't as dark brown as the pic in the magazine -- is there a tip for darker caramel? Also, it's hard to find bourbon in Canada, so I used Jack Daniels instead. At any rate, it was a big hit and looked beautiful!

I made this yesterday and followed all instructions carefully. The flavor is excellent and the crust turned out very nice. I was disappointed however to find white cloudy spots of ? fat all across the surface of the caramel with larger amounts around the pumpkin seeds. The caramel and seeds had been at room temp for hours and I did chill the pumpkin filling in the fridge for 1 hour before putting it together. The caramel was dark and glossy when I poured it. I can still eat this and enjoy it, but would not serve it to company. If I can figure out what I did wrong, I would definitely serve this for a holiday meal.

This was delicious. I cooked crust, caramel and pie though all longer than instructed. This was a very time consuming recipe but totally worth the effort!

I made this dessert for company, as a trial run for Thanksgiving. The taste is wonderful and my husband and guests liked it. However, I had problems getting the crust into the pan without it tearing and after it baked the crust seemed too dense. So I'm not sure if it was something I did wrong or just the personality of the crust. My carmel didn't get as dark as the picture and I followed directions to the T.

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