I love the holidays.
I live for the lights, the music, and whimsy – minus the crowded retailers and impossible parking. And the baking, oh the baking. The holidays are a time when my oven is constantly bringing life to cookies and cakes, pies and tarts, breads and candies.
There was a time that I snubbed my nose at pecan pie. It just wasn’t, well, my thing. That gooey center just beneath a layer of pecans just didn’t look appetizing to me. Until about a year ago when, suddenly, I wanted to discover this sugar-filled, nut-topped holiday staple. However, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I firmly decided to embark on making my own pecan pie rendition.
I was in a restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee – Terra Mae Appalachian Bistro. That was, hands down, one of my favorite dining experiences, and this restaurant now holds a special place in my heart. As we reached the dessert course, I ordered what our waiter called “pecan pie on steroids.” It was placed before me in all its chocolate and pecan glory, and as I devoured the decadent dessert, I felt myself inspired. I wanted to create something – a tart, yes! – that embodied a melding of chocolate and pecan.
After a great deal of experimentation, my dark chocolate pecan pie tarts were born. They were a huge hit at our Thanksgiving celebration, and they will be taking center dessert stage again as we gather at the table in late December. The crunch of pecans meets the warm chocolate and sugar filling in a tart whose bite is a festive celebration of the season – in your mouth.
Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie Tarts
Makes 24 tarts
- 2 1/2 cups organic flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon pink sea salt
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 1 cup unsalted butter – should be well chilled and cut into small squares
- Egg wash – one beaten egg yolk combined with one tablespoon water
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- One large egg
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter – melted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup brown sugar – packed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- A pinch of sea salt
- 1 1/4 cup pecan halves
- 1/2 cup 60% cacao dark chocolate, thinly chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine salt, butter, and flour in your standing mixer using the paddle attachment. Mix for approximately one minute until well blended. Gradually add the ice water into the mixture and blend until just combined. Be careful not to over blend. You will see small dots of butter in the mixture.
- Remove dough from mixer. Blend together with your hands. Separate the dough into two balls – one for the first batch of tartlets, one for the second. Place the one dough ball in the refrigerator and the other on an amply floured work surface.
- Roll the dough on your work surface into a circular area. Should be very thin.
- Using a circular cutter or even a 1/2 cup measuring cup, begin cutting small circles in the dough.
- Transfer each circle to a fluted mini tartlet pan and press in. To make 24 tartlets, your fluted pan should have 12 sections.
- Once the pan cavities are filled dough, set them aside.
- In a large bowl, combine corn syrup, egg, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Blend well.
- Mix in brown sugar, cinnamon, sea salt, pecans, and chopped dark chocolate. Stir until well combined.
- Place a small amount of filling in each tart cavity. I averaged three pecan halves and batter to each cavity.
- Bake uncovered for 28 to 30 minutes or until filling is set and puffed.
- Allow tarts to cool in the pan for five minutes before removing to a cooling rack for further cooling.
Repeat process for additional 12 tarts – as if you could resist.