i have never understood pecan pie but i realize that it is a popular dessert with many people. for me, the rich and sugary filling is too much to handle. i can stomach about one maybe two bites before i am done with it.
when i saw this recipe on smitten kitchen - i was intrigued. i like walnuts (i eat them raw all the time) and this sounded less sweet and rich than a typical pecan pie. it needed to be tried.
i have made a couple different pecan pies over the years - mainly because members of my family enjoy it. they turned out well and everyone seemed to enjoy them. but after i made these walnut tarts, i knew i would never have to make another pecan pie again.
my godmother is a fan of pecan pie. for christmas last year, i made gifts for everyone. i knew these tarts would be a hit with her and i was right!
the shortbread crust is a perfect buttery container for the filling. the filling is not overly sweet - i would venture to say that it is more spicy than it is sweet. the original recipe called for aniseed which i am not a fan of - so i substituted cinnamon and a bit of apple pie spice. the result was wonderful - the cinnamon, orange zest and apple pie spice give these tarts a spicy warmth unmatched by pecan pie. the best part is the filling bubbles up in the oven and overflows to cover the pastry in a gooey caramel.
i believe that pecan pie and non-pecan pie fans will agree - these walnut tarts rock!
adapted from bon appetit, may 1999 via smitten kitchen
1 recipe Sweet Tart Shell (recipe below), unbaked
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
zest of an orange
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp apple pie spice
1 3/4 cups walnuts chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 370Â°F. Cut pastry dough into six pieces, and roll out each one to a 6-inch circle. Transfer to a lightly-buttered 4 1/2-inch-diameter tartlet pan with removable bottom. Press crust onto bottom and up sides of pan; trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in and press, forming double-thick sides. Repeat with remaining dough disks and 5 more pans and prick them all over with a fork.
Freeze crusts for 30 minutes. Lightly butter six pieces of foil and press them tightly against frozen tart shells. Bake crusts for 10 minutes before taking them out, carefully removing the foil, pressing down any pastry that has bubbled up gently with the back of a spoon and baking them for an additional 7 minutes, or until lightly golden at the edges. Take them out of the oven and let them cool.
Increase oven temperature to 400Â°F.
While the crusts are cooling... Stir cream and next 7 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil until mixture bubbles thickly and color darkens slightly, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in walnuts then salt.
Place crusts on baking sheet lined with foil. (do NOT skip this - clean up would be awful) Divide filling among crusts. Bake tartlets until filling bubbles thickly and crusts are golden, about 25 minutes. Cool tartlets in pans on rack 5 minutes. Remove pan sides while tartlets are still warm. (don't wait too long on this otherwise they will be very difficult to get out of the molds)
Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. (i think they are even better the next day)
sweet tart crust
from dorie greenspan - baking from my home to yours
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in - you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. when the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change. turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
you can work with the dough as soon as it's processed. just press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. don't press too hard- just enough so the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but don't press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture.
freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
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