Classic Pecan Tart
The pecan tree grows wild in many areas of the temperate South. On chilly autumn mornings, you will find kids and grown-ups alike scurrying in their yards, bucket in hand, trying to beat the squirrels to this prized nut. Bourbon and orange zest add subtle flavor to this cherished Southern dessert.
- For the pastry dough:
- 1 1/4 cups soft winter-wheat flour, such as
- White Lily brand, or cake flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup cold solid vegetable shortening
- 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut
- into small cubes
- 3 to 6 Tbs. ice water
- For the filling:
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 Tbs. bourbon (optional)
- 1 Tbs. grated orange zest
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 cup pecan halves, plus 1/3 cup coarsely
- chopped pecans
Cooking time 26mins
To make the pastry, in a bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the shortening and cut in with a pastry blender, 2 knives or your fingers until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the butter and cut in until it forms tiny pea-size balls. Add the ice water a little at a time, stirring and tossing with the pastry blender or a fork until the mixture holds together. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into an 11-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Fold the round into quarters and place in a 9 1/2-inch nonstick or traditional tart pan with a removable bottom. Unfold, then press gently into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the overhang even with the pan rim. Refrigerate until ready to fill.
Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F.
To make the filling, in a bowl, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, eggs, bourbon, orange zest, vanilla, salt, pecan halves and chopped pecans. Pour into the chilled pastry shell and place the pan on a baking sheet.
Bake until the center is slightly soft to the touch, the edges are set and the crust is golden brown, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes, then remove the pan sides and slide the tart off the pan bottom onto a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New American Cooking Series, The South, by Roy Overton (Time-Life Books, 2000).