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Pumpkin, pecan, rum tart has complex flavors

Vera Dawson
newsroom@vaildaily.com
Eagle County CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Vera DawsonA crisp crust cradles a tier of pecans, brown sugar and butter that provides strong flavor and texture to this tart.
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.

Bored with the same, old pumpkin pie? Look no further ” this tart will change all that; it’s still pumpkin, but a lot more interesting. A crisp crust cradles a tier of pecans, brown sugar and butter that provides strong flavor and texture. This is topped by a thin, velvety layer of pumpkin custard, lightly seasoned, smooth on the tongue, with a hint of dark rum. A caramel-rum-pecan sauce crowns the dessert, making an overall impression of complex tastes and luscious textures.

The tart comes together in four distinct steps (crust, pecan layer, filling and sauce), three of which take less than 10 minutes each to prepare. I complete the process over a two-day period, making the crust and the sauce one day and finishing it the next.

If you make the crust ahead, wrap it airtight, in the pan, after it has cooled completely and store it at cool room temperature. The rest of the preparation can be done the morning you’re going to serve the dessert (it’s best the day it’s made) or up to 24 hours ahead. If you make the tart ahead, refrigerate it, lightly covered (don’t make the covering airtight it or condensation may form on the top) until it’s time to present it.

The sauce can be made up to three days ahead and refrigerated until serving time.

Bring it to room temperature or heat it slightly before using. Though it’s optional, the sauce adds a lot to the dessert, both in looks and in taste, and is very easy to prepare; I think it’s well worth the minimal effort it requires.

If I need to speed things up, I toast the pecans in a microwave rather than the oven. I place them in a single layer on a microwavable plate and heat for 2 minutes at power level No. 7, until they are aromatic and slightly colored.

Make in a 9- or 10-inch tart pan or in a nine-inch pie pan

Ingredients

Crust

Use your favorite sweet tart dough recipe or e-mail me for my recipe. You may even use a commercial crust in a pinch, though it won’t be as tasty.

Pecan Layer

1/3 cup of toasted pecans, finely chopped

1/3 cup of fresh (no lumps) brown sugar (dark or light), packed

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces

Filling

1 can of pumpkin puree (15 or 16 ounces), NOT pumpkin pie filling

1 cup of packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature (place in a bowl of warm tap water to bring to room temperature, if necessary)

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ginger

A pinch of allspice or cloves

A pinch of salt

A pinch of ground nutmeg

2 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla

1 1/2 cups of heavy cream

1/3 cup of sour cream or plain yogurt (pour off any liquid on the top before measuring)

3 tablespoons of dark rum

Sauce (optional)

1/2 cup of commercial caramel ice cream topping (I use Smuckers)

2 tablespoons of dark rum

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of toasted pecan halves

Make and pre-bake the crust according to the directions accompanying your recipe. Cool the baked crust.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the center position.

Make the pecan layer: Combine the finely chopped, toasted pecans, the brown sugar and the softened pieces of butter in a small bowl. Stir with a fork or mix with your fingers until well combined and no pieces of butter are visible. Sprinkle this mixture evenly all over the bottom of the cooled tart shell, keeping it about a quarter of an inch from the sides of the crust.

Make the filling: Place all the filling ingredients (from the pumpkin through the rum in the list above) in the bowl of a food processor and process for two minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. Or, place them all in a large mixing bowl and whisk vigorously or beat with an electric mixer, for 2 to 3 minutes, until very smooth and slightly thickened. Tap the bowl on your kitchen counter to burst any bubbles.

Place the tart pan on a baking sheet lined with foil to catch any drips and pour the filling over the pecan layer, stopping at one-quarter of an inch from the top of the crust. You may have some filling left over. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 300 degrees and bake just until the filling doesn’t jiggle or only jiggles slightly in the middle when the pan is gently shaken (about 20 to 25 minutes for a nine-inch tart, 10 to 20 minutes longer for a pie). You may want to cover the crust with strips of aluminum foil while the filling is baking to prevent it from over-browning.

Remove the baked tart from the oven and set it on a rack to cool completely. When cool, refrigerate until time to serve. Serve it at room temperature or chilled. A sharp, thin-bladed knife cuts through the layers nicely.

Make the optional sauce: Combine the caramel topping (warm it in the microwave, in its jar, if it’s hard to remove from the container) and the rum in a bowl and stir well.

Give it a taste and add more rum or more caramel topping, if necessary, to obtain a pleasing flavor. Stir in the toasted pecan halves, coating and distributing them well. Store in the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature or warm it before drizzling a tablespoon or so of the liquid and spooning some of the pecans over each piece of the tart at serving time.

This recipe draws from ones found in Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking” and from King Arthur Flour.

Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at veradawson@aol.com.


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