Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pecan Tarts -- The BEST of the BEST!

The fall has FLOWN by and it's time to start making those Christmas treats! I can't believe how swiftly the autumn has come and gone, but with the weather we've had this week in Central Virginia, I know that winter is coming in fast! Even though we are ALMOST empty nesters, there always seems to be lots to do around the house and in the kitchen.

I used to bake hundreds of cookies -- yes, literally hundreds -- when my kids were younger. That was back in my Room Mother/Sunday School Teacher/Children's Choir Director/Cub Scout Mom days. In those days there was ALWAYS an occasion to pass out Christmas Cookies, often 2 or 3 a week! While I miss those days, I honestly DON'T miss those marathon baking events! I must have spent hours in the kitchen. At our house, just because you spent all afternoon making cookies, that did not eliminate the need to cook dinner! On days like that, I was always grateful for the big batches of spaghetti sauce or bags filled with "taco meat" that I'd made and frozen for those busy, busy days.

This year, I've asked each person in the family to name one treat they consider their favorite and the most important to usher in the season. The oldest son spoke up first, and since he has a December birthday, he got first consideration. While I've already made pans and pans of "Nuts and Bolts" (that's amped up chex mix for you non-southerners) this weekend I made his favorite, Pecan Tarts.

I got this recipe from a family friend many years ago. I've made it every Christmas since receiving it. While the tarts are a little trouble to make, you are rewarded with rich, crumbly pastry filled with nutty, sticky pecan goodness. Truly, they are well worth the trouble. You'll need at least 2 of those mini-muffin tins to create these treats. Four is better, so you can get one batch in the oven and make up another one, ready to bake. You'll need lots of these treats, I promise!

Pecan Tarts
For the Dough:
1 stick salted butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese ("Lite" is fine) softened
1 cup flour
Mix these ingredients together, until all the flour is incorporated and the butter and cream cheese is evenly distributed. Make the dough into a flattened, round disk. Chill in the frig for 20 - 30 minutes to firm up the dough so that it's easy to handle. Make 24 small balls and press each one into a mini-muffin cup that has been sprayed with non-stick vegetable oil. Gently press each ball into the muffin cup to form a shell, using your fingers to press the dough up the sides of the cup so that it just reaches the top. Set aside while you make your filling.
Pecan Tarts, ready for the oven.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
For the Filling:
3/4 c. chopped pecans
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
In a bowl, stir together all the ingredients until well mixed. making sure there are no "clumps" of brown sugar. Put a heaping tsp. of the filling into each muffin cup, so that the filling is just below the line of dough at the top of the cup. Don't overfill them, or you'll have a sticky mess on your tins and they'll be harder to get out of the pan. 
Bake the tarts for 20 - 25 minutes, until a crust forms on the tops of the tarts. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Loosen each tart gently with the tip of small, pointed, sharp knife. Let tarts cool completely on a cooling rack or  on wax or parchment paper before storing in air tight tins. Will keep up to 30 days if stored in a cool area in a well sealed container. Makes 24 tarts. 

Pecan Tarts, ready to eat! 

1 comment:

Thistle Cove Farm said...

love nuts and bolts and those pecan tarts look quite delicious!