PECAN TART with BOURBON & VANILLA
Indigenous to North America, pecan trees grow prolifically in the southern states with the United States producing nearly 200 million pounds per year, or 80% of the world's pecan harvest. Often mistaken as a nut, the pecan is actually a fruit with single pit surrounded with a husk that takes nearly ten years before beginning to bear fruit. Native Americans first recognized the importance of pecans as a nutritious food source and taught early settlers to gather this energy packed fruit for sustenance during the long, harsh winters. It is quite fitting that the annual pecan harvest is just in time for America's Thanksgiving. The buttery, nutty, sweet taste of the pecan may be one of the few things served at this traditional feast with serious cholesterol lowering power. Add a bit of Kentucky bourbon and this is truly an all-American dessert.
Christopher Kimball's pie dough is soft and easy to mold. It my be difficult to transfer to the tart pan, no fear--simple push torn pieces wherever needed until the crust is a uniform thickness all around. It will come together quickly and trust that it will make no difference in terms of the finished beauty of the tart.
FOR THE FILLING
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
70 perfect pecan halves
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil spray
CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL'S FOOLPROOF DOUGH (enough for two crusts)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka, cold
1/4 cup cold water
FOR THE FILLING
1. In medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stir constantly for 1 minute.
2. Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon, and vanilla.
3. Let the mixture cool for about 7 minutes and then stir in the chopped pecans.
4. Whisk the beaten eggs into the filling until smooth.
FOR THE TART SHELL
1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds, and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up until 2 days, alternatively freeze disks until ready to use..
3. Remove one crust from refrigerator and let warm until pliable and divide into two pieces.
4. Transfer one piece of the tart crust to a heavy gauged tin steel tart pan with removable bottom that has been sprayed with vegetable oil--1/2 of the disk is enough for a 14" L x 4.5" W tart pan. Press the dough evenly around the pan with your fingers. It may fall apart, do not panic,--remember this is foolproof.
5. Place the prepared tart pan in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
7. Place the shell on a half sheet baking pan and bake in the center of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the tart shell is lightly golden brown. Remove crust from the oven.
8. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
1. Leave the pre-baked tart shell on the half sheet baking pan and pour the filling into the prepared crust until crust is covered to within 1/4" of the top (there will be left over filling).
2. Put the filled tart in the oven and bake for 10 minutes (if the half pieces of pecan still sink when lining them up, cook for 5 minutes more).
3. Place 70 whole pecans in the remaining filling and toss to coat.
4. Remove the partially baked tart from the oven. Carefully line up the whole pecans like soldiers standing at attention in rows of 5, slightly overlapping each new row.
3. Place the tart on the lowest oven rack and bake for 40 , or until the tart is set.
4. Remove the tart from the oven and put it on a cooling rack until the tart may be loosened and removed from the pan safely.
SERVES 8 - 10