Learning 2 Bake from Scratch – XXXIV

Pecan Tarts

I still haven’t found The Joy of Cooking, which contains “my” award-winning pecan pie recipe. So, off to the Intertubes I went. William’s Sonoma had a tasty-sounding maple syrup pecan pie, so that’s what I used:

1 rolled-out round basic pie dough
2 cups pure maple syrup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.

Line the pastry shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or raw short-grain rice. Bake for 20 minutes, then lift an edge of the foil. If the dough looks wet, continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes, until the dough is pale gold, for a total baking time of 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the maple syrup to a boil and boil for 8 to 10 minutes to reduce. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof measuring pitcher. The syrup should be reduced to 1 1/2 cups. If necessary, return the syrup to the saucepan and continue to boil until sufficiently reduced. Let cool to room temperature before proceeding.

In a bowl, stir together the eggs, brown sugar, reduced maple syrup, salt, melted butter and vanilla until well mixed. Add the pecans and stir well. Pour into the partially baked pie shell, making sure the pecans are evenly distributed.

Bake the pie until the center is slightly puffed and firm to the touch, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until just slightly warm, about 45 minutes, before serving. Makes one 9-inch pie; serves 8.

Clearly, I did not follow that exactly, since I made tarts instead of a pie.

A non-tart related addition: Roast the pecans; it brings out more flavor. Just be sure not to over-roast them. Like bacon and garlic bread, they go from “not done” to “on fire” very quickly.

What went wrong?

The tart crusts were too small. I can almost hear Erin McDowell saying, “I told you not to fill more than 2/3rds full.” Since they’re so small anyway, I filled nearly to the top, which caused the mixture to boil over, which caused them to stick – even in a non-stick pan. That filling is gooey when hot and solidifies as it cools. I de-muffin-panned the first batch while they were still warm. I waited until room temperature for the second batch. It was difficult both ways.

I cut the crusts using a wide-mouth canning jar lid. That’s not big enough for a standard muffin-pan tart. I’ll look around for something wider (I’ve got to have some sort of glass that will work) before attempting this again.

I think I overcooked them a bit. It’s hard to do the jiggle test on a muffin pan.

The par-baking also had issues. For the first batch, I forgot that one is supposed to line the crust before dumping the weights (beans, in this case) in. They stuck in the crust and I had to pry them out. It didn’t hurt anything, but it was annoying. The second batch I lined with aluminum foil; that worked much better. I also par-baked the second batch hotter: 425. The oven instruction manual says the convection fan adds 25 degrees, so I did the first batch at 400. The outside was dandy, but the inside, with the beans stuck into it, seemed a bit under-done, so I bumped it up.

They taste delicious.

BTW: If you count, that tray has ten tarts. Muffin pans make 12. The other two succumbed to the forces applied while prying them out. I just ate the fragments.

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