Monday, February 27, 2012

Bourbon Pecan Tarts

Bourbon Pecan Tarts
I've had several people ask me about the pecan tarts I mentioned in my post on what to think about when you want to use bourbon in dishes. They seem to be a simple version of a favorite Southern dessert - the pecan pie. Well, it's not really a pecan pie in the way we think of it down here. It's actually a lot more similar to a butter tart, a common Canadian dish. And even more similar to a buttermilk pie (one of my favorite desserts). The basic idea is melted butter or margarine, sugar, and egg. The standard version is definitely more of a custard than what we think of as pecan pie. Adding/changing other ingredients is what makes it a more Southern dish - buttermilk or the sweet, rich, and buttery pecan. 

Bourbon Pecan Tart Pastry
We all know the flavor of the pecan (which is actually a fruit, like the fruit of other hickory trees - but we'll stick with calling it a nut) is rich and sweet, and it goes well in plenty of Southern desserts. So changing a typical butter tart into a pecan-based one makes it have an inherently Southern feel. Changing the sugar to brown sugar gives it a richer flavor and a darker color (due to the molasses content of brown sugar) that we more readily associate with pecan pie.

You start with butter, cream cheese, and flour to make an easy pastry. Just place the balls of pastry in a mini-muffin/tart pan and hollow them out.  I use a wooden pastry tool because it makes them all uniform and goes a lot faster. Just roll it in flour so it doesn't stick, and hollow them all out.

Fill the cups of pastry with the filling and bake them. It's pretty much that simple. Just remember when choosing your bourbon that you want to choose one that's sweet to blend with the flavor well, but not overly sweet. Including the bourbon gives it a more complex flavor. Knob Creek is one of my favorites. It's a spirit that's smooth and sweet without being overpowering.

8 tablespoons butter (one stick), softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup flour
1 large egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325°.
Beat softened butter and cream cheese together until well-mixed. Add flour, continuing to mix.
Add a full tablespoon of pastry to ungreased mini-muffin or tart cups. Use wooden pastry tool to  hollow out pastry ball and line sides of cups.
Beat the egg, then mix in the brown sugar, melted butter, and chopped pecans.
Fill each pastry with a little over a teaspoon of the filling - it will expand well.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until filling has puffed up and pastry turns golden-brown.
Cool slightly in cups enough to set, but then remove to place on a cookie rack to cool completely.

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