Pecan filling is indescribably rich and a regular slice of pie can be overwhelming. When my daughter, Alex, asked how I wanted our pecan pie done, I suggested that she make pecan tarts instead.
A tart is not as deep as a pie and that translates to less less filling with almost the same amount of crust. Less cloying but just as satisfying.
Where does pecan pie come from anyway? Is it an American invention?
The most accepted version of its history is that it was invented in the American South. Who exactly came up with the first recipe is not clear.
Pecans have been grown by Native Americans for thousands of years and it has been a part of their diet for just as long. The recipe for pecan pie is not attributed to them though. Some say the French settlers in Louisiana were the first to make it. The first published recipe came out in 1898 in a church charity cookbook. The contributor? A woman from Texas.
Others say pecan pie is a modern dessert whose popularity coincides with the rise of Karo corn syrup after a Karo salesman’s wife baked pecan pie with Karo.
The curious thing is that not everyone believes that corn syrup is essential to pecan pie. There are cooks who prefer maple syrup while there are others opt for molasses.
As you may have guessed at this point, there is more than one way to bake pecan pie. The addition of chocolate, bourbon, whiskey, pumpkin, apples and salted caramel make delicious variations. Alex has always made pecan pie the old-fashioned way with corn syrup, butter, eggs and sugar. The only addition is rum.
Why is pecan pie such a popular holiday dessert in the United States?
Well, that’s a matter of history rather than any real association between pecans and the colder months of the year.
Here at home, we like pecan tart because it is something that can be baked well ahead of time and kept in the freezer until needed.
For the crust
Make the crust
- In a bowl, stir together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the butter and shortening.
- Cut the butter and shortening into the flour (I do this by rubbing with my fingers) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add ice cold water, little by little, mixing as you go until the dough can be gathered into a ball. The dough should NOT be sticky.
- Roll the dough into a thick disc.
- Wrap the dough in cling film and keep in the fridge.
Make the filling
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Prepare two six-inch tart pans with removable bottom.
- Divide the pecans into two portions. Roughly chop one portion.
- Make the filling. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, light brown sugar, vanilla extract, rum, butter, salt and cinnamon.
Assemble and bake
- Take the crust dough out of the fridge and divide into two portions.
- Roll each portion between two large pieces of baking (wax) paper, starting at the center and rolling outward in all directions. Keep rolling until the dough is less than a quarter of an inch thick.
- Take one of the rolled crusts and lay on a tart pan. Tuck in the sides then press around the edges to remove the excess. Do the same with the second rolled crust and tart pan.
- Spread the chopped pecans on the crust.
- Pour the filling over the pecans. DO NOT fill to the brim.
- Take the whole pecans and arrange on top of the filling.
- Bake at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes.
- Cool the pecan tarts before removing from the pans.
- Serve the pecan tarts warm, at room temperature or chilled.