I present to you this prize of my recipe collection with what can only be described as…guilt.
My mother recently asked what I’d be posting in the lead-up to Thanksgiving. I knew she had pie on her mind, because that is the topic of the hour at any given time in our house, starting at the outset of November. You’ll find her at the kitchen counter making lists for Thanksgiving, and most of that list will be dedicated to her pies.
We factor nearly a pie per person at our Thanksgiving table, and we’ll have much pie leftover, which is exactly the point. I’m finally coming to understand that Thanksgiving dinner is more about leftovers than it is about Thanksgiving dinner. Leftover pie for breakfast (and lunch and dinner, too) the day after Thanksgiving is a sacred ritual at our house. Bathrobe, cup of coffee, piece of pie. Conversation will be about which pie was best. My mom loves to tell the story of how at breakfast, her own mother, Alice, would push a piece of pie across the table to my father, whom she adored, and say: "A little piece of pie won’t hurt anything."
Now. Chocolate-caramel pecan tart is better than good. It is amazing. Everyone who I have ever watched take a first bite gasps and talks with their mouth full to say, "Oh!," "Oh my GOSH!," and closes their eyes to take in the luscious flavor of caramel, salty toasted pecans, and chocolate.
A pecan tart is not, however, pie. It is a tart. There is a difference. According to my mama, it's a big difference whose gap is so wide it cannot be crossed. Why not a pie?, was my mom’s question when she heard the word “tart.” You’ve never done a pie for them, actually, she said.
What in the….She was right; I scoured my back-posts and see that no, at that point I had not posted about pie. I do love to bake pie, I promise you that, and have been making them with my mom’s spectacularly good crust for a lot of years. I like her flaky pie crust far better than any tart crust I’ve ever eaten. Pie is one of my mother’s great legacies of the kitchen, a love passed from her own mother to her, precious like the diamond lavalier necklace worn around Grandma’s tiny neck on her wedding day and now resting in Mom’s velvet-lined jewelry box for similar special occasions. How could I not post about pie, especially at Thanksgiving?
Forgiveness was found, though, when I told her which tart we’d be making. She knows how good it is, and remembers that we often had this tart at one of our favorite Chicago restaurants, Mon Ami Gabi, over the years when she and my dad would visit my sister and me, and then on her own in the many years since he died. I loved the tart so much that I published my first piece of “food writing” for it when I wrote years ago to Bon Appetit magazine’s R.S.V.P. department and asked if they could get the recipe. They did, and they published it. I’ve adapted the recipe to work with ease in the home kitchen, and use my own tried-and-true push-in (no rolling pin required!) tart crust recipe that includes almond meal for a flavor boost. The tart is perfect for a labor-intensive meal because it can be made a day ahead.
The thing made me a kind of a dining rock star back at Mon Ami Gabi, where one of my dinner companions, my dear friend Ed, once told the waiter just who he was waiting on. I blushed, but only for a moment, because then the chef came out and told me the Bon Appétit column was taped to the wall in their kitchen, and here you go, a slice of tart on the house. I admit that happened more than once because from then on they knew who I was when I came a-eating dinner there.
Usually I took my tart to go, though, to eat for breakfast the next morning. —Maureen Abood
Test Kitchen Notes
This tart is very decadent -- it would be ideal in petit four-size doses, as a wedge is a commitment for even a hardcore sweets lover. I liked the crust and especially appreciated the 'no roll' method -- a pretty foolproof way to press out a perfect tart crust. The filling, chocolate caramel (with chopped nuts) topped with chocolate, is more candy than pie. This tart would be an attractive addition to the Thanksgiving spread -- an indulgence only suited to the holidays. —Allison Bruns Buford
- Serves 8
- For the crust
1 2/3 cups
unbleached, all-purpose flour
chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
large egg, lightly beaten
- For the filling and topping
light corn syrup
heavy whipping cream
high-quality milk chocolate, such as Callebaut or Ghirardelli, chopped
chopped pecans, lightly toasted
high-quality bittersweet chocolate, such as Callebaut or Ghirardelli 70% bar, chopped
heavy whipping cream
- For the crust: Blend the flour, sugar, and almonds in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Pulse the machine to cut the butter until a coarse meal forms. Add the egg and blend just until dough sticks together when pinched. Dump the dough onto a piece of waxed paper or plastic. Gather the dough into a ball with the paper; flatten into a 1-inch thick square, wrap, and chill 1 hour.
- Line the bottom of a 9 1/2- or 10-inch round, removable-bottom tart pan with parchment paper. Cut the dough into 1-inch slices. Lay the slices in the bottom of the pan and push them together, closing all fissures completely. Line the edges of the tart with slices of dough placed horizontally around the fluted edges. Press this dough into the bottom of the crust, closing all fissures, and into the fluted rim. Refrigerate for one hour.
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 17 minutes. You will notice that the crust is somewhat puffed up; press down on the crust with the flat bottom of a glass to flatten it.
- For the filling and topping: In a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar and corn syrup, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring and boil the mixture until the syrup turns golden brown, swirling pan occasionally, about 4 minutes. Stay attentive because sugar burns easily and swiftly once it starts to brown.
- Stir in 1 cup whipping cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over the heat until any caramel bits dissolve. Remove the mixture from the heat.
- Place milk chocolate and honey in medium bowl. Pour the hot caramel over the chocolate and let the mixture rest for a couple of minutes while the chocolate melts. Whisk until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the chopped pecans. Pour the filling into the baked crust. Chill until set, about 4 hours or overnight.
- For the topping: Place the chopped bittersweet chocolate in small bowl. Bring remaining 1/3 cup cream to boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate; let the mixture rest for a couple of minutes while the chocolate melts. Stir until smooth. Pour the warm chocolate mixture evenly over the tart, spreading with an offset spatula. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, or up to 1 day.
- To serve, remove the tart from the fluted ring. Use a flat metal spatula to lift the tart off of the metal tart pan bottom. Place on a serving platter, cut the tart into wedges with a sharp knife, and serve.