If you’ve taken a stroll around the internet recently, you’ve probably noticed that food is pretty hot right now. Generally, I’d say people are always pretty keen on food, but these days, everyone’s talking about it. Everyone has a food blog (or follows a few)—and good lord, have you SEEN foodgawker? What with all this internet gluttony, it never occurred to me that my love for food really separated me from the public at large.
But here’s the thing—I’ve been food crazy since the day I was born. According to my mom, all that was required to get quart-sized baby-me (yes, quart-sized—I was a tubby kid, and I’m pretty sure I exceeded pint-size in the womb) out of my crib in the morning was to offer me slices of bananas and cheese. (Let’s be honest—I’d still get out of bed on the promise of bananas and cheese.) Slighly tubbier toddler-me once told my aunt that my favorite thing to eat was “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” And I’m pretty sure I was the only 20-year-old living in a kitchenless dorm whose cookbook collection rivaled the size of her textbook collection.
And today, that love carries on. Nothing makes me happier than playing in the kitchen and sharing my concoctions with others. Sometimes these concoctions are delicious (apple cake!), and sometimes it’s a wonder my friends come back to my house (Joe, I’m really sorry about those scrambled egg whites). I hope to share only the best with you; I hope you’ll enjoy my culinary adventures as much as I do.
Why don’t we start off with something appropriately festive for the holidays? I suggest my very favorite Bourbon pecan tart, based on a recipe from an old issue of Cooking Light.
(Sweet potato and pumpkin pies sold separately.)
This isn’t your typical pecan pie (i.e. a layer of nuts topping three inches of nothing but corn syrup). If that’s your thing, I salute you, but that’s where my sweet tooth draws the line. This tart is more sleek, more understated; heavier on the pecans, lighter on the filling. And the small amount of Bourbon makes all the difference in the world. It cuts the sweetness of the corn syrup and gives the whole thing an absolutely magical depth of flavor. Even if you don’t drink, you’ll love what the Bourbon does for this pie.
And if you want to use some of that Bourbon to make yourself a quick Manhattan to sip while you bake, that’s totally fine, too.
For this application, you can use any Bourbon you choose, but I’m not messing around here.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that I use pre-made crust for this tart. I’m a big advocate of making things from scratch whenever possible, but it’s difficult to argue with the convenience of neatly rolled sheets of dough. And in this recipe, the crust is definitely not the star player, so don’t feel guilty about the hour you’ll save. You can use that hour to cut out little pie crust leaves, if you feel so led.
Using a removable-bottom tart pan gives the final product a very elegant look, and also makes for a wider, shallower tart. If you don’t have one, you could try a normal pie plate, but just be aware that your pie may be thicker, and you might need to adjust the baking time.
If you do use a tart pan, be aware that they sometimes leak. Line a pan with foil and put it on the rack below the tart to catch any spills. Trust me, you don’t want to end up scraping sticky filling off the floor of a hot oven… or scraping dried filling off an unlined cookie sheet that you left in the sink for a few hours. Oops.
One more thing… you’ll probably have some crust scraps left over, and some extra pie filling, too. I trust you know what to do with it.
Bourbon Pecan Tart
based on Cooking Light
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup corn syrup
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons bourbon
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla etract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup pecan halves
½ package refrigerated pie dough
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine first 10 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in pecans.
Roll dough into a 13-inch circle; fit into a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray. Trim excess crust using a sharp knife (or just roll your rolling pin along the pan’s edge).
Pour sugar mixture into prepared crust. Add extra pecan halves to fill in any empty spaces. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely.