Browned Butter Pecan Mini-Tarts are a pecan-lover’s dream. What we have here is a pecan-studded, brown butter-based filling contained in a buttery cookie crust. Drizzle melted chocolate over the top for a candy-bar-like treat. Since the tarts are small, and you don’t have to cut slices with a knife, portion-control is judiciously accomplished for you. Tailor-made for a party or Thanksgiving.
My dad used to say, “The higher they go, the farther they fall.” He was typically referring to somebody super excited about something one minute and lower than a snake soon thereafter.
I had a similar up-one-minute-down-the-next problem with these Browned Butter Pecan Mini-Tarts. See the picture below. Like a normal pecan pie, the filling would puff up while baking akin to a marshmallow in a Mason jar when vacuum-packed. Unfortunately, as the tarts cooled and the filling deflated, they looked like an alien had nibbled out of the middle. Granted, the same thing happens to full-size pecan pies, too, but the effect is more pronounced in a small tart.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, I figured out a solution!!
Increasing the amount of pecans provided additional infrastructure that kept the soft filling from collapsing in the middle as it cooled. I learned this accidentally after observing the first tart shells I filled had more pecans and therefore, did not deflate as badly as the tarts filled last with fewer pecans and more of the sweet syrup mixture.
Heads-up about the tart cookie crusts:
If you have never made mini-tart cookie crust before, they can be a little tricky for beginners. I highly recommend you put your hands on some silicone tart molds that are individual, not connected like muffin pans. They are much easier to manipulate.
As I was saying, practice ahead of time. Tart shells are best made ahead anyway and should be stored in the freezer. If you are a visual learner, check out the picture tutorial on this post for Pumpkin Pie Mini-Tarts. You can also use commercial tart crusts if you can find them. Commercial tart sizes vary widely.
Here’s one more way to use your vacuum-pack machine: Got half a lemon, lime or orange left over (from this recipe, for example)? Vacuum-pack it in a Mason jar for a few extra days of freshness, even up to a week or more, which is better than you’ll get with plastic wrap or just placing into a jar (depending on the freshness of the lemon to begin with). I keep my favorite vacuum-packing device handy for little jobs like this. Honestly, I use it, along with the wide-mouth jar attachment every single day.
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Browned butter provides the base for this pecan-lover’s dream dessert.
- 1-1/2 cups unbleached flour
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), chilled
- 1 egg yolk (from a large egg)
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream or half and half
- Go here for a picture tutorial.
- Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor. Cut butter into 8 slices and add to flour, pulsing several times until mixture resembles oatmeal. Add egg yolk mixed with cream. Pulse until all ingredients are moistened. Then allow machine to run a few seconds until dough starts to stick together. (Add additional drops of cream if dough seems too dry.) Press dough into a roll like refrigerated cookie dough. Wrap in plastic and chill 30 minutes.
- Spray molds generously with Baker’s Secret or something like it. (Baker’s Secret is an aerosol spray that mixes flour and oil.) If using silicone molds, no greasing is necessary.
- Slice roll of dough into 15-16 pieces. Using a rolling pin, flatten dough between two pieces of plastic wrap into a circle slightly larger than tart molds. Press into mold with fingers, being careful to keep thickness consistent. Use a knife to trim off any extra at the top. I usually have enough scraps to make another tart or two. Freeze for at least 30 minutes, overnight, or up to a month.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Brown butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. This will take a few minutes. You don’t have to stir it constantly but you must keep an eye on it. Pull off the heat when butter starts to turn brown and gives off an amazing aroma. You’ll know it when you smell it.
- Stir sugar into hot butter until it dissolves. Add corn syrup, salt, vanilla, and lemon juice and stir. Then add eggs and whisk gently into butter mixture until combined and smooth. Add pecans.
- Pour about 1/4 cup of filling into each unbaked, frozen tart shell.
- Bake in oven at 375 degrees until browned and set. Mine take about 25 minutes but time may vary depending on the size of your tarts.
Decorating with Chocolate (optional):
- Place 1/4 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips in a small zippered plastic bag. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute, 15 seconds or until melted. Snip off the tiniest corner of the bag. Squeeze chocolate out of the hole over the pie in the design of your choice. If you want to squirt the leftover chocolate in your mouth, go ahead. It’s our secret.
Keywords: mini-pies, pies, pecan pies, showers, weddings, parties, snacks