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Archive for Wednesday, November 17, 1999

ELEGANT PECAN TART PUTS TRADITIONAL HOLIDAY PIES TO SHAME

November 17, 1999

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Every time we travel to southeastern Missouri to visit my husband's aunt and uncle we return with several pounds of pecans. Pecans grow easily there, and Uncle Bob gathers them by the five-gallon bucket, shells them and gives them away. If you appreciate pecans as I do, it's worth the trip.

When Thanksgiving time rolls around, I tap into the bags of Missouri pecans I've had stashed in the freezer and use them in pies. Although pumpkin is the holiday standard, pecan pies are the ones I make first and, generally, they are the ones that disappear first.

I like to use whole halves of pecan, laid across the top of the pie filling, rather than the crushed pecans mixed into the filling, which some recipes call for. The larger pieces are more attractive, for one thing.

A pecan pie also can be made more aesthetically pleasing if you add a step and strain the filling before you pour it into the pie shell. The cloudy foam that develops during mixing will remain behind in the strainer and the filling will be a clear light brown.

If most pecan pies taste too sweet to you, you can solve the problem by using a refiner's syrup, such as Lyle's Golden Syrup, instead of dark corn syrup.

Also, by using a tart pan, instead of the deeper pie pan, you achieve a thinner dessert and the crust helps balance the strong flavor of the filling. You also can lay the pecans into the bottom of the crust and still see them after you pour the filling on top. This saves you from having to set pecans into the filling of a full-sized pie.

These recipes for a pecan tart and cream cheese crust are from "The Pie and Pastry Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum (Scribner), a cookbook I turn to frequently for dessert ideas. You will need a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

This recipe includes a chocolate drizzle for the top of the tart, which may be omitted. Also, if this crust recipe is too labor intensive and time consuming, any other crust recipe may be substituted.

Flaky Cream Cheese Crust

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into a clear light brown.

If most pecan pies taste too sweet to you, you can solve the problem by using a refiner's syrup, such as Lyle's Golden Syrup, instead of dark corn syrup.

Also, by using a tart pan, instead of the deeper pie pan, you achieve a thinner dessert and the crust helps balance the strong flavor of the filling. You also can lay the pecans into the bottom of the crust and still see them after you pour the filling on top. This saves you from having to set pecans into the filling of a full-sized pie.

These recipes for a pecan tart and cream cheese crust are from "The Pie and Pastry Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum (Scribner), a cookbook I turn to frequently for dessert ideas. You will need a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

This recipe includes a chocolate drizscraping the sides of the bag. Set the bag aside. Sprinkle the mixture with the water and vinegar, tossing lightly with a rubber spatula. Spoon it into the plastic bag.

Holding both ends of the bag open with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Remove from refrigerator and let sit for 10 minutes until the dough is workable. Roll it into a circle, and insert it into the tart pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 25 minutes and remove from oven. Remove the parchment and weights, prick the dough in several places with a fork and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Pecan tart

1 pre-baked crust for 9.

This recipe includes a chocolate drizge egg yolks

  • cup refiner's syrup or dark corn syrup

mixture with the water and vinegar, tossing lightly with a rubber spatula. Spoon it into the plastic bag.

Holding both ends of the bag open with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Remove from refrigerator and let sit for 10 minutes until the dough is workable. Roll it into a circle, and insert it into the tart pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 25 minutes and remove from oven. Remove the parchment and weights, prick the dough in several places with a fork and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Pecan tart

1 pre-baked crust for 9.

This recipe includes a chocolate drizfed and golden and just beginning to bubble around the edges. The filling will shimmy slightly when moved. Allow the tart to cool completely on a rack, about 45 minutes, before unmolding from the pan by setting the tart on top of a coffee can or other round flat surface and letting the outer ring fall away.

To make the chocolate drizzle: In a small microwave-proof bowl, place the chopped chocolate. Heat the chocolate until melted, stirring every 15 seconds. Pour the cream on top of the chocolate and stir until smooth. It should drop thickly from the spoon.

Pour the mixture into a sealable quart-size freezer bag and cut a very small piece from one corner. Drizzle lines of chocolate back and forth over the top of the pecans.

-- When she's not writing about foods and gardening, Gwyn Mellinger is teaching journalism at Baker University. You can send e-mail to her at mellinger@harvey.bakeru.edu. Her phone number is (785) 594-4554.

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