Pecan Pumpkin Tart

The best of holiday flavors combined into one impressive dessert:  Pecan Pumpkin Tart with Ginger Crust.

Pecan Pumpkin Tart fresh from the oven

Oh, September…that month where food bloggers in all 50 states are posting pumpkin spice recipes…muffins, lattes, pies, soups – you name it, someone out there has “pumpkin spice-ified” it for Fall.

Just throw me onto the pile with the rest…


Pecan Pumpkin Tart with Ginger Crust

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Pecans, Pumpkin and Ginger...the best of holiday flavors combined into one impressive tart.


Ingredients

    Crust
  • 2 ½ cups finely crushed ginger cookies ( about 55-60 Anna’s Swedish Ginger Thins, for example)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Pumpkin Layer
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pecan Layer
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup corn syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon ¾ cup pecan pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. To make crust, combine ginger cookie crumbs with butter in a bowl and press along the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart shell. Wrap bottom in aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. To make pumpkin layer, beat together all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. To make pecan layer, beat together all ingredients except pecans in a bowl until sugar is incorporated. Stir in pecans.
  4. To make tart, spread pumpkin layer evenly over crust. Spoon pecan layer over pumpkin. Bake for about 45 minutes  or until center no longer jiggles and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool tart completely. Once cool, transfer to refrigerator until ready to serve.

Flatlay shot of Pecan Pumpkin Tart

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Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Mostaccioli

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Mostaccioli

At dinner tonight, I noticed a female cook working the line. Tall and graceful, with delicate earrings dangling from her ears, she moved thoughtfully, preparing each dish deliberately and unhurried. Her figure skater grace was eclipsed by the customary bravado of her hockey player fellow cooks, and yet, surprisingly, the boys left her to her own methods, without remark. Could she be an owner and thus excluded from the usual kitchen hazing? During my (short- lived) kitchen exploits, lacking the obligatory culinary machismo wasn’t tolerated by the rest of the line. She had the same forearm burns as the boys, turned out the same dishes, but with a tranquility and fluidity not typically found in a restaurant. It was a pleasure to watch her and gave me hope as a female chef.

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Mostaccioli

  • Servings: 32 cookies
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Adapted from Epicurious’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spiced Cookies

Ingredients


– 1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted and skin removed, or toasted almonds, or 9 oz. toasted almond meal
– ¾ cup sugar
– ½ cup all-purpose flour
– 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (divided)
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– ¾ teaspoon salt
– ½ teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/8 teaspoon cloves
– 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
– 3 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
– Grated zest from one orange (about 1 Tablespoon)
– 3 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
– 2 Tablespoons rum or hazelnut flavored liqueur (divided)
– ½ cup confectioners sugar
– 3 Tablespoons water
– 3 Tablespoons toasted nuts or toasted cocoa nibs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a silicone liner and spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a food processor, pulse nuts, sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and spices until finely chopped. Add butter and zest and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add juice and 1 Tablespoon rum and pulse until dough comes together into a ball, but is still crumbly.
  3. Form tablespoons of dough into balls (18-20 grams each) and slightly flatten to about 1 ½ inches, arranging 1 inch apart on sheet pan. It’s important the butter in the dough remains cold prior to baking.
  4. Bake cookies until puffed and slightly cracked, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack until barely warm.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together confectioners sugar, ½ cup cocoa powder, 1 Tablespoon rum and water until smooth. Frost each cookie with a bit of icing and sprinkle with nuts or cocoa nibs. Frosting the slightly warm cookies will ensure icing spreads smoothly. Let cookies stand until icing is set, about 1 hour. These cookies remain soft and improve with age if kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
  6. Variation: reduce salt to 1/4 teaspoon and substitute toasted nuts/cocoa nibs with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Stop Looking! (Tart shell)

Once you find your perfect wedding dress, stop looking!” says Yes to the Dress’s Randy Fenoli (Don’t judge, it’s a guilty pleasure). The same should be said for the ideal tart crust – once you’ve found it, step away from the cookbooks! Wasn’t I done with this process? All that was left was to bake up a batch of the tarts and bring them to the Steakhouse for tasting. My tart shell quandary was solved until… I stumbled upon this month’s Cooks Illustrated recipe for a French apple tart; assuring a tastier and easier shell. Damn you, Christopher Kimball! In my present tart- obsessed hysteria, I couldn’t close the book (literally) on the promise of a perfect shell. This weekend, I placed my list of errands aside and ran a head-to-head battle between the Cooks Illustrated crust and mine. Both recipes came together in under 15 minutes. Both cut easily, cleanly, and with minimal crumbs. My version was sandier, better textured between my teeth. Theirs was buttery – and, I concede, much easier to make. There’s no heavy lifting of mixer from the cupboard – just a bowl and wooden spoon – and no need for almond flour. With the addition of vanilla and lemon zest (special ingredients in my version), it’s a contender, if not the winner. Before I admit defeat, I still needed to ensure the new crust would hold up to the filling test: filled and baked, does the shell collapse upon pan removal? I’ve had a recipe stashed since 1993 for a pumpkin-pecan pie. I decided to use it for my test filling – moist, heavy, dense, and a perfect flavor profile for the season. Instead of making tarts, I took a shortcut, patting the crust into an 8” square pan and making “bites” and omitting the butter sauce. The crust held up nicely.

Pecan Pumpkin Bites

Pecan Pumpkin Bites

Oh lordy! I’m one of those people who love pumpkin pie. When faced with the Thanksgiving pie array, my ranking would be pecan pie first, followed very closely by pumpkin with apple pie in the finish. (Who am I kidding? I like me some pie! Both pumpkin and pecan would make it on the plate, with apple being eaten in secret so I don’t seem a glutton). However, it needs to be the “right” pumpkin pie. I think some pumpkin pies are too firm and sturdy, more like a quiche or Jell-O. If you poke your finger on the surface, it shouldn’t resist or bounce back. It should easily plunge toward the middle with just a bit of surface resistance. On the flip side, it needs to be stable enough to hold up to a knife, not too fluffy or watery. I like my pumpkin pie on the custardy side – somewhere between flan and crème brulee. This recipe captures that texture perfectly.

Pecan Pumpkin Bites Crust

  •  1 1/3 c. APF flour
  •  5 T. Sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 – 1 t. finely shredded lemon zest
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 10 T. Unsalted butter

Melt butter.  Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and zest.  Add butter and vanilla.  Stir until dough forms.

Pumpkin Filling

  • 1 cup cooked pumpkin purée
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten until frothy
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg

Pecan Syrup

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 2 small eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350. Cover an 8” square pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang to help remove crust once baked. Butter foil.   Mix crust ingredients in a bowl and press into pan and up sides. Bake crust for 15 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden. While the crust bakes, combine the pumpkin filling and set aside. Combine the pecan syrup and set aside. Cool crust for 10 minutes. Spread pumpkin filling over crust. Drizzle pecan syrup over pumpkin. Return bites to the oven and bake approximately 60-70 minutes until pecans are brown and filling no longer jiggles. A knife inserted should come out clean. Completely cool bites. Carefully remove bites from pan using foil. Remove foil from sides of bites (you may need a knife to help the sides release). Cut into squares and refrigerate until ready to serve.