Last weekend J and I raced up to Auckland to celebrate Christmas early with the Canadian side of the family. Oh Canadians. They are way too much fun. The jokes, the laughter – and the food! Golly, they know how to eat well. True to Canadian Christmas tradition, I couldn’t resist making Pecan Tarts to take with us. These were a hit, and such fun to make. Those from Canada recognised them immediately (calling them Butter Tarts instead, mind you) and claimed “they’re just like I remember from Canada!” – that’s good!
I have worked with pastry a lot, so decided to change things up a bit and make a biscuit base instead of the usual shortcrust. It was much less fiddly and gave the tarts a beautiful crunch. The trick is definitely to ensure the crust is not too thick. A thin crust will cook all the way through, isn’t too chewy, and allows the pecan filling to be the star of the show.
I had half a bottle of cream remaining (from a lemon-poppy seed cake with decadent white chocolate ganache) which I added to the filling (ah, see I can never seem to just follow a recipe..). I reckon this is what gave it the richness, and I like it. Oh and don’t skimp on the rum.
Really, any nut can be used. I imagine macadamias would be divine, especially if half the sugar was replaced with a light honey. Either way, the trick is to lightly toast the nuts first. I popped them in the oven while I was pressing the dough into the tins, for 10 mins or so, enough to bring out their flavour before they get baked into the filling.
These would be fantastic for Christmas day, especially made in mini muffin pans, allowing everyone to have a bite without stuffing themselves. J’s family traditionally have pavlova – nothing like merging the two cultures and pairing pav with pecan tarts!
Adapted from Scent of Green Bananas
Makes 24 – 26 muffin sized tarts
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsps butter, softened
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt (this is important – it offsets the sweetness and makes the nuts ‘pop’)
1/2 cup cream (optional)
1 Tbsp dark rum
2 cups pecans (toasted)
Preheat oven to 180˚C.
For the crust: Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Incorporate egg, then flour. Pinch off balls of dough and place into each muffin hole. Form crust around sides with your fingertips – the thinner the better, but patch any holes. Set aside.
For the filling: Cream butter and sugar together. Incorporate eggs, vanilla, salt, and cream if using.
Sprinkle uncooked crusts with toasted, roughly chopped pecans. Fill each tart to the top with the butter/sugar mix. Place 1 or 2 whole pecans on top. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden. Cool in pans before removing. Serve warm as is or with fresh homemade yoghurt and chopped toasted pecans.