Friday, June 18, 2010

My Nasty Little Pie Crust Secret

Remember those brownies I told you about the other day?  Have you tried them yet?  If not, get in gear and make them! Yeah, they are that easy.

Because of that, it gave me the time to make another dessert to take with me the other evening.  I made my favorite Individual Pecan Tarts with Jack Black.  Like the ones I used to make when I worked at Watershed here in Atlanta.

First though, I need to make a confession.  I always have a supply of homemade pastry dough in my freezer.  I also need to confess that it really isn't pastry dough at all.  It's shortbread that you press into the pan and pretend you have just made the most incredible pie dough in the world.  No rolling out, no transferring to the pan, no nothing except a little fingertip action.  It turns out flaky and delicious, you will get rave reviews and no one will ever know this is pie crust for dummies. 

Okay, I feel better now that you know the truth.

This pecan tart recipe comes from my dear friend Scott Peacock and you can find it in the book he wrote with the late, great Edna Lewis, "The Gift of Southern Cooking."  Someday, I will tell you the story of how she taught my son Andy to make biscuits and pie crust when he was about twelve.  For now, I will just tell you to raise a glass of Jack Black to her as you add it to the filling for this recipe.  Here's to you, Miss Edna - we are better for having known you.


For the dough:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Put butter in electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment.  Mix on medium speed until softened.  Add sugar and increase speed to medium high.  Mix until well-blended and sugar no longer grates on bottom of bowl.

Reduce speed to medium low and add flour and salt in two parts.  Increase speed to medium when mixture starts to get mealy.  Continue mixing until dough comes together. 

Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into an oval.  Wrap well and refrigerate.  Dough may also be frozen - it will keep for several months.

Butter eight 4-inch tart pans with removable bottoms.   Cut off small pieces of the chilled dough and grate on the large holes of a box grater.  Press dough shavings on bottom and along sides of tart pans.  Make sure to press in well so that dough is thin enough to be crispy but thick enough not to fall apart.  Level top with the blade of a sharp knife.  Chill well before proceeding with recipe.

For the filling:
3 eggs (I use extra-large)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup dark corn syrup (Karo)
1/2 cup white corn syrup (Karo)
3 tablespoons Jack Black Kentucky bourbon
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Whole pecans (approximately 8 per tart)

Preheat oven to 35-degrees.  Beat eggs lightly with a whisk.  Add sugar, butter, salt, corn syrups, bourbon and vanilla.  Whisk until all ingredients are well-blended.

Layer whole pecans decoratively in unbaked tart shells (don't overlap too much).  Spoon filling mixture over each one, filling almost, but not quite, to the top. 

Bake for 15 - 17 minutes or until golden but still soft in the middle.  Remove from oven before you think they are done as they will continue to cook when you remove them from the oven.

Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then gently remove sides of tart pans.  Carefully slide a long, thin knife underneath tarts to remove bottom of tart pans.  Handle gently as these can break easily.  Place on a baking rack to cool completely.

Yield:  8 individual tarts

You can also make this into one 9-inch tart but you will need to increase baking time.  You could also gild the lily and serve these with whipped cream, but I prefer them straight up.

And if you have any dough left over - freeze it, baby, freeze it!  It will then be available to you on a moment's notice and no one will ever know the difference!


  1. do you use this pie crust for all of your recipes? I want to use it for my pumpkin pie ... feel free to email me at I would love to know !

  2. yum can i have some?