You should know I’ve fallen hard for Amy Chaplin. She’s the author behind At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen, a cookbook that has proved infallible thus far. I love every single thing I’ve made from her beautiful book and if I had to choose only one cookbook to cook from for myself, it would be this one. Yes, I love Gjelina with an almost equal passion, but I eat mostly vegetarian when I’m by myself and AHWFK is the slightest bit more practical for everyday cooking. Sweet corn soup, french lentil stew, sweet potato quinoa muffins, plum millet muffins, kale slaw, cauliflower millet mash, and of course, this date pistachio praline tart. The only recipe that’s been a disappointment was the adorable beet white bean poppyseed tartlets, and they weren’t bad, it’s just they were missing something, like crunch. One day I might try again. Amy’s recipes do require some specialty ingredients that might not already be in your pantry, but they are worth it. Once you make a recipe, you’ll want to make it again and again, so whatever you buy won’t go to waste. Alternatively, it’s possible to make some substitutions for more common ingredients if specialty ingredients aren’t an option.
Anyways, back to the stunning date pistachio praline tart… A while ago, I had some Michigan people over to help me eat the chicken pelau I was making for a previous ideas post. Since I can’t have people over for dinner and not serve them dessert, I made these to go along with dinner. More accurately, I made the flatbreads from Rick Stein’s golzeme, smoky spiced eggplant dip, pelau, kale-fennel salad from Gjelina, the beet white bean poppyseed tartlets (as a single tart), this date pistachio praline tart (as tartlets), and the kabocha squash olive oil chocolate chunk bread from Gjelina. Does that seem excessive? Maybe, but not everything was bound to be a winner and I wanted to be sure no one went hungry.
This dinner party of mine happened to fall on a weeknight, so to prepare somewhat in advance, I made the crust for both tarts the night before and stored them (wrapped) in the refrigerator. I made the flatbreads and dip so that people would have something to nosh on while waiting for the pelau, since I didn’t want to start the rice until everyone arrived (not all of my friends are punctual). In the process of dashing home from work to get everything ready for dinner, I accidentally swapped the two crusts, putting the savory tart crust into my 9-inch springform and the sweet crust dough for this tart into the 6-cavity tartlet pan. Luckily, the two crusts look (and smell) quite different, so I realized my mistake before filling either shell. It’s possible that cooking the beet tartlets as a large tart contributed somewhat to its lack of success, but I feel that cooking the date pistachio praline tart as tartlets was a genius move. I baked them for roughly the same amount of time specified for the 9-inch tartlet and they came out perfectly.
This recipe looks a little long and complicated, but read it over once or twice and you’ll find that it requires very minimal work. The food processor whizzes the crust together for you, and the filling is mostly a heat-and-leave-it endeavor. While the filling and crust are cooking/cooling, shell the pistachios, place in a gallon-sized plastic Ziploc, and crush with a rolling pin.
I’m too cheap to buy whole vanilla beans, even though I’ve read plenty of arguments in their favor, so I added vanilla bean paste to the filling instead. Another modification I made turned out to be in the jam department – I couldn’t find any sugar-free jam in my refrigerator and I still had some red currant strawberry jam leftover from my chocolate cassis cake. You should feel free to adapt this recipe as your pantry requires. Don’t have coconut palm or maple sugar? Just use light brown sugar in their place. The taste won’t be exactly as exotic, but the tart will still be amazing.
I had some qualms about the filling. There’s no explicit mention of mashing or pureeing the filling once cooked, and as my filling seemed rather chunky, I decided that might be an oversight. I opted to mash the pasty dates into a somewhat smooth mixture with the aid of my potato masher and silicone spatula. I also let my filling cook an extra 20-30 minutes because it took that long for all the liquid to cook off (I’ve modified the recipe to reflect that time). After cooking, I let the filling cool about 30 minutes before adding it to the tart shell, but that’s mostly because that’s how long it took me to shell all the pistachios I needed. Instead of helping me shell, Nick and Tom just stood around drinking beer and eating cheesy flatbread and eggplant dip. I guess I asked for that outcome.
These tartlets were a huge hit with everyone. People were divided over whether they preferred the kabocha squash bread or these tartlets, but both were outstanding. These tartlets are just a little more special than squash bread. The cardamom flavor infused into the filling by the discarded pods really comes through, especially when eaten warm. I feared the coconut in the crust would be problematic since Tom swears he hates coconut, and that fear is why I made the squash bread too, but he loved these. In fact, I’m pretty sure he said they were his favorite thing I’ve made. And I’ve fed Tom a lot of dessert.
Amy Chaplin’s date pistachio praline tart is the ultimate showstopper dessert. The flavors are rich and comforting and perfect for the coming cold weather months. Not only is it exceptionally delicious and reasonably simple to make, it’s gluten-free (check your oats are gluten-free or replace them with a gluten-free flour) and lactose-free (if you skip the decadent addition of butter to the filling). It’s also “refined sugar-free” so it should appeal to guests of every stripe.
- ½ cup toasted almonds
- 1 cup dried, unsweetened*, shredded coconut
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar*, packed
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ¼ cup coconut flour
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 5 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- ¼ cup brown rice flour
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cup pitted dates
- 1 cup water
- 5 cardamom pods
- pinch (1/8 teaspoon) sea salt
- 2 3-inch strips orange zest
- 1 vanilla bean**
- 2 tablespoon mirin or white dessert wine
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons raspberry preserves
- optional: 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 teaspoons maple sugar
- 4 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- pinch (1/8 teaspoon) sea salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup raw pistachios, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. If making a single 9-inch tart, line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the sides. If making tartlets, lightly oil the base of each tartlet well.
- In a food processor, grind the almonds, coconut, coconut flour, palm sugar, oats, and salt until fine (about 45 seconds). Transfer into a medium mixing bowl and stir in the rice flour. Slowly drizzle in the coconut oil while stirring with a fork (or your fingers) to evenly incorporate the oil until the flour mixture is moistened.
- Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract to the dough, stir to combine. The dough should be moist, but not sticky.
- Press the crust evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Do not press the crust up the sides of the pan.
- Bake for 18 minutes in the preheated oven, rotating halfway through, until the crust is just golden on top. Leave the oven on.
- While the crust is baking, start making the filling.
- Add the dates, water, cardamom pods, salt, and orange zest to a small (2-quart) saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise down the middle, scrap out the seeds into the saucepan (use the tip of a small knife) and then add in the pod to the pot.
- Bring the filling mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until it begins to simmer. Cover the pot, drop the heat to low, and continue simmering for 20 minutes or until the dates are soft.
- Add the mirin to the pot and continue cooking, now uncovered, for another 10-30 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated. The dates should be pasty at this point.
- Remove from the heat. Remove and discard/compost the cardamom pods, orange peel, and vanilla bean pod. Stir in the raspberry jam, vanilla extract, and butter (if using).
- Spread the filling mixture of the parbaked crust.
- Stir the maple sugar, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla together in a medium bowl until smooth. Add the chopped pistachios and stir to coat them in the liquid. Evenly sprinkle the topping over the date layer.
- Bake the tart or tartlets for about 20 minutes, until the nuts of the tart surface are slightly golden and shiny.
- Remove and allow the tart to cool for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, optionally topped with Greek yogurt, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.
- Store any leftovers, sliced, in the freezer and revive in a 300 F oven until warm.
**Instead of using a whole vanilla bean, add 2-3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or extract.