I often taste pecan pies when I am a judge on a US food show. I love the addition of bourbon whiskey to a regular pecan pie as it gives it a really big kick. You can of course leave this out if you are giving it to people who don’t drink alcohol or to kiddies. Unlike so many American pie crusts, I don’t include shortening in my pastry recipe, because I find that butter gives it a richer taste.
To make the pastry, put the flour into a food processor with the butter and blitz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then add the egg yolks and salt and blitz again until the dough forms a ball. If the mixture still looks a bit dry then add the ice-cold water, but add 2 tablespoons at the very most – you want a soft dough that is not sticky. If you are doing this by hand then just add the egg yolks and then, using a knife, stir the mixture until it comes together, adding the water if necessary.
Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and bring the pastry together with your hands by squidging it together into a ball. Wrap the ball in cling film, flatten it a little bit and pop it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. This helps the mixture of stretchy proteins (gluten) in the pastry to relax, making it easier to roll out the pastry. It also stops the pastry from shrinking in the oven.
Take a little ball of excess pastry, dip it in flour and use this to gently ease the pastry into the corners. Another tip is to dip the handle of a wooden spoon in the flour and use it to very gently push the pastry into the tin. Spend some time lining the tin if you can, as this really does make a difference once the tart is cooked.
Be really gentle with the pastry, because if it is stretched at all then it may shrink or ‘sink’ in the tin while it cooks in the oven – it will still taste great, but it will not be even in size.
Once you have lined the tin, pop it back into the fridge for 15 minutes to let the gluten relax a little more.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the pecan nuts on a baking sheet and
Once the pastry has relaxed for a second time, remove it from the fridge and using a very sharp small knife, cut off the excess pastry. Cut a piece of baking parchment into a circle, about 35cm in diameter. Scrunch it up so that it will sit in the tin, then open it up and use it to line the pastry. Fill it with ceramic baking beans, dried pulses or rice, making sure that they come right up the sides. Place the tart on a baking sheet (this makes it easier to move the tin around) and
Carefully remove the beans and baking parchment. Separate one of the eggs and set aside the yolk. Then brush the base of the pastry with the egg white to form a seal for the filling. Pop the pastry case back in to the oven for another 5 minutes, or until the base is firm and the pastry feels sandy to the touch, and then take it out of the oven and set it aside.
As the pastry cooks, make the filling. Put the butter, sugar, golden syrup, maple syrup and salt together in a pan over a medium–high heat, bring it just to the boil and then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 3–5 minutes over a very low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon whiskey and vanilla and then leave it to cool down to body temperature. Add the eggs and reserved egg yolk one at a time, whisking well between each addition, and then fold in the roughly chopped toasted pecan nuts.
Pour the filling over the top to fill the pastry base. Arrange the 100g of whole pecan nuts into a lovely pattern on top.
Place the tart back on the baking sheet and
Once baked, remove the tart from the oven and leave to cool slightly. Serve warm with ice cream or crème Chantilly.
© Lorraine Pascale, 2017. Images: © Myles New, 2017.