Servings: 2 dozen tartlets
36 tablespoons unsalted butter (4-1/2 sticks), diced, + extra for greasing the pans
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon anise extract
1 teaspoon canola oil
1-3/4 cups powdered sugar
6 whole eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon imitation brandy extract
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar, to taste
3-1/4 cups pecan powder, (10 ounces)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 dozen small Black Mission figs, the quantity varies with the size of the fruit
1 cup maple syrup, warm
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
For the pecan tart shells:
In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. In another bowl, place the powdered sugar. Sift all the dry ingredients, separately.
Using a handheld mixer, whisk 2 eggs with 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar until you get a pale, yellow foam. It'll take about 5-6 minutes. The consistency should be very airy. Add 1/2 teaspoon each vanilla and anise extracts. Stir well using a spatula. Set aside.
Lightly oil the bowl of your food processor with a silicone brush. Add the flour, 1/2 cup of pecan powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and remaining powdered sugar. Blend for a few seconds, then add 2-1/2 sticks of cold diced butter. Pulse the mixture until it forms crumbs of butter and flour. Add the egg mixture. Pulse another 3-4 times until it forms a dough. Do NOT over-mix. Transfer the dough onto a pastry board lined with a sheet of parchment paper. Place a silicone mat (or parchment paper) on top of the dough like a sandwich. Using a rolling pin, even out the dough to about 1/2 inch thick. Create 24 (2-1/2-inch) disks of dough and 24 (8-inch by 1-inch) rectangles. Chill in the refrigerator while making the parchment paper molds.
Create the same 24 (2-1/2-inch) disks and 24 (8-inch by 1-inch) rectangles with parchment paper. Line 24 (2-1/2-inch) round mini-molds with the parchment paper disks and top with the disks of dough. Line the rectangles of dough with the parchment paper rectangles and place both along the sides of the molds, using the parchment paper as a liner against the wall of the molds. Patch together the dough from the side of the mold with the dough from the bottom to form a cup (see tips). Fill the gaps with the remaining dough if needed. Prick the dough with a fork.
For the pecan cream:
Using a handheld mixer, whisk 4 eggs with about 1/2 cup of sugar until you get a pale, yellow foam. It'll take about 5-6 minutes. The consistency should be very airy. Add the remaining vanilla and brandy extracts. Set aside.
Cream 2 sticks of butter (at room temperature) with the remaining sugar. Pour in the egg mixture. Add the remaining pecan powder. Mix until the batter is smooth.
Trim the top of the figs a bit and cut them in half. Place about 1-1/2 tablespoons of pecan cream in the center of each tart shell. Top with 4 fig halves. Place the fig tartlets on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 375°F, then lower the temperature to 350°F for another 25 minutes. Before glazing the tartlets, broil for about 3 minutes to get a nice golden crust. Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle each tartlet with 2 teaspoons of warm maple syrup, for a nice glossy look.
Let the tartlets cool for a few minutes. Remove the shells from the molds. You can serve them warm with a scoop of maple pecan ice cream and a nice cup of hot tea or a glass of cardamom-flavored Arnold Palmer.
FYI: 1 cup of butter = 16 tablespoons = 2 sticks of butter.
I know it's a lot of butter but don't forget you're making 24 tartlets.
To make a flaky dough, it's important to use cold diced butter.
You can either buy ready-made pecan powder, or make it yourself. Remember to get a little more than 10 ounces of whole pecans to get the correct amount of powder. Grind the roasted* pecans with a food processor or spice grinder. Make sure you stop before it turns into pecan butter. I use the VitaMix Dry Blade Container. The result should be a fine mill.
Little reminder on how to roast nuts*: To release all the flavor and oil of the nuts, I like to roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 325°F before using them. The only nuts that I dry roast on the stove are pine nuts. They are smaller, cook more quickly and are much easier to watch and manipulate on the stove top.
To make sure the dough is perfectly shaped like the molds. I patch each corner of the molds using the tip of a chopstick .
I think it's best to make the pecan tart dough a day in advance. Store it in the refrigerator overnight. The dough will be easier to roll and won't be crumbly.
Rolling the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper (or on 2 silicon mats) prevents the addition of extra flour on the rolling surface, which can change the texture of the dough.
I use 2-1/2-inch individual round tin cake molds. I found them at Daiso, the Japanese version of a 99-cent store. They were $1.50 a pair. Otherwise, you can always make 3 large tarts.
Parchment paper is very convenient when you use molds that aren't non-stick. If you're extra cautious, grease the molds with butter before lining them with parchment paper.
I use McCormick anise extract. If you don't have any, you can use star anise seeds, dry roast them and grind them finely in a mortar and pestle.
You can make these fruit tarts with any other fruits and nuts, such as plums, peaches, mandarins, strawberries, pears, figs etc... -depending on the season. Be creative!
Hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is right around the corner. This maple pecan fig pie could be the dessert you serve for the holiday season.
Check out my other desserts.