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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Alpha Bakers: Frozen Pecan Tart

I am not a tart fan. I think they are really pretty and I like making pretty things because I get to take picture of it (note what motivates me to bake!) but I don't enjoy eating it because they are usually way too sweet. So my motivation to bake this tart are for our bake-a-long (I get to cross one more recipe off the list) and because it looks pretty in the book. I ventured out wanting to make this as perfect as can be. .... and just from that sentence you should already guess that something bad will happen.

My first step on making this was to take a photo of the India Tree Muscovado sugar. In the past, whenever Rose required muscovado sugar I substituted with dark brown sugar. This time, I was buying something from amazon last month and needed 1 more thing to get past the $35 bill that would get me free shipping, so I thought I treat myself and splurged the $9.68 for 1 lb of sugar. Anyway, my husband was next to me washing dishes when he noticed that his wife was taking a photo of a bag of sugar. He looked at me quizzically - wondering what on earth I was doing. So I started explaining to him that this is a special sugar that Rose likes and it comes from Mauritius. He made a comment that it is the farthest place you can get your sugar and we are polluting a lot to get a measly 1 lb over here and then $7 in the price is probably the price of transport which makes it the cheapest sugar in quality. I told him that this is the first time I use this sugar and it was because of curiosity (I didn't tell him it was also partly because of the $35 shipping since that purchase was to buy one of his Christmas presents). I do not intend to use this sugar every time. I also mentioned that our favorite apple is the Fuji apple which comes from New Zealand and that is equally far. So we started then our conversation turned into how sad it is that our food comes from far away and how much we pollute by doing so. And there must be a way to get good eating apples locally but we have not been able to find them. Even in the summer in farmer's market most of the fruits are from California. Funny how conversation started from taking a single photo!

This is a pretty easy recipe. It is not quick and easy because there are multiple steps including some waiting time for the dough to be refrigerated or frozen. But it really should be quick and easy because you can split the steps over a couple of days.

My attempt at this is not really quick and easy and that is because of my own fault. As you probably noticed by now I like to make smaller portions of recipe. I always just did the math by dividing everything in 1/2 or whatever percentage I want (12% lekvar last week haha). It usually works out pretty well. This time my method backfired. For this tart, I have a 7 inch tart pan, so I made 1/2 recipe. If I were smarter I should have measured the volume of the 9 1/2 and the 7 inch tart pan and figured out the math percentage that way. But my mind was stuck on 1/2 recipe and forgot that for tart or pie dough I need more than 1/2 recipe for a 7 inch tart pan. To get the 1/2 recipe tart to fit the 7 inch pan I had to roll it out thinner than 1/8 inch thickness and didn't get the dough higher than the sides of the pan. It shrank in the oven and did not look very good. So I made the dough again.

Attempt # 1

The crust is easy to make. I like to use my hands mixing the dough instead of using the food processor. It's easier, less dishes, and it makes my hand smells so good afterwards.

Flour, sugar, salt mix together and add butter.

Coarse meal.

After adding 1/2 egg yolks and heavy cream.

And this is about the time I realized that I used the wrong sugar for the dough. I used the muscovado instead of the turbinado sugar. Oh well, I decided to proceed anyway.

Instead of using plastic wrap, I placed the dough in a glass container for the 1/2 hour refrigeration.

The rolled out dough was too soft, so I put them in the freezer for 5 minutes to firm it up a bit.

I could not follow the written instructions on how to put the rolled out dough on the pan. I wanted to understand it so I read it twice but only got myself confused. Thankfully Rose reference a step-by-step photo instruction on a different page and it all made sense (thank you Rose!).

Draped dough. I use the bottom of my flour container to suspend it.

Place the bottom of the tart pan over it. Please make sure your tart pan is not dirty from your buttery fingertips.

Place the tart ring over it.

After the acrobatic flip, ta-da. The crust didn't make it to the 1/8 inch - 1/4 inch above the pan.

It baked for 20 minutes with the beans weight and another 5 minutes after that. And it shrank! Terribly!!! Look at the sides. It looks bad. So I started over.

Attempt #2

I used the correct sugar (turbinado) this time and made 2/3 recipe. See how the dough is lighter in color with this sugar vs. muscovado.

I got enough dough to push it a bit higher than the pan.

One thing that's interesting is the dough with the muscovado sugar rolls easier and it drapes better. I had more difficulty trying to fit this dough into the tart pan.

It was already late in the day when I finished this step so I freeze the tart overnight to bake the next day.

Next day... the tart parbaked for 20 minutes.

Make the filling

Combine all the ingredients except vanilla in a pan.

After cooking under medium heat for 7 minutes.

After straining. I got almost 1 cup.

Arranging the pecans.

After slowly pouring the filling.

Add more pecans for a tighter fit, as instructed.

And damn it, I forgot the vanilla! (cussing in my head, cussing out loud is reserved for really catastrophic event, - surely to happen in the future).

I have some issues with the instruction for the baking of the completed tart. It said to "bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the filling is puffed and golden and just beginning to bubble around the edges." I baked it for 15 minutes, checked it. It doesn't puff and it is beginning to bubble in the middle circle where the 5 pecans are. Is it golden? Well, the whole thing is brown. It looks as brown as before. So I baked another 5 minutes and check. This time the whole thing is bubbling. Not just around the edges. I'm guessing it means it's done so I checked for temperature now.  My instant thermometer (which after 6 years of faithful service now decided to start dying, the numbers fade in and out), was only slowly creeping about 150'F, not anywhere near the temperature it's supposed to be. What now? I returned the tart to the oven and baked for another 5 minutes and at this time it looked almost set, maybe too much now? So I took it out of the oven and it goes to the cooling rack until cool enough and then freeze for 2 hours.

With all the crust "drama", how did the tart taste? Hubby had 1/2 a slice and he said it is excellent. I ate the other 1/2 slice and did not like it as much because it's too sweet. But then later in the evening I had another small slice from the freezer and I love it even though it's a bit sweet. It taste like a really good homemade candy. The filling has a good texture (I didn't overbake it, phew!). I think the golden syrup really makes the taste special. I am glad this can be frozen for several months because we plan on eating a small piece at a time.

Alpha Bakers is a group of bakers who are baking through The Baking Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum's latest cookbook. Come check out the rest of the group at Rose's Alpha Bakers.


  1. Jenn, I cannot believe your patience... Making the dough twice? You lady are a better baker than I. I thought it was sweet too - not as sweet as the traditional pecan pies, but still sweet, I fixed that problem up by adding 3 tablespoons of Cognac and oh boy, it was perfect. I served it with pistachio ice cream and everyone raved that it was so good. I made the full tart and we are down to only a 1/4 tart left over, which I'm sure that my husband will polish off as a midnight snack tonight. It paids off having family in town so you can get rid of sweets.

  2. Hi Jenn! Your photos are such a pleasure to see. I oped to use a regular pie crust. I had it in the freezer already, so I rolled it out and used it instead of the tart crust. It was delicious but my pie didn't cut easily when frozen. However, my family was delighted with the results anyway! Oh well, I am ahead for the next pie, I still have a couple of batches of crust ready in the freezer!! Best wishes for the new year! --Michele

  3. I can feel your pain Jenn although the final result was successful by the look and sound of it. I like the Christmas theme of your photos.

  4. you have a lovely frozen pecan tart pie your pictures are lovely can you please stop by and check out my post and have a happy new year.

  5. Lol - had to laugh at your baking motivation (photography). I totally get it!! Excellent photos, as usual. I really like the look left by using your tall tart pan. I enjoyed your comment about mixing the dough by hand because it makes your hands smell good... I think the same thing when I chop onions and garlic! I laughed out loud when I read what you did after realizing you forgot to add the vanilla. Again, I totally get it. Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment.

    Patricia @ ButterYum

  6. Hi Jenn, your tart looks delightfully elegant! If I had been at your holiday table, I would have very excited to get my piece.

  7. ב''ה

    I like how your crust (and tart) came out.

    Enjoyed sugar conversation with your husband. :)

  8. Your photos are just absolutely gorgeous! So artful and lovely!! Your tart is beautiful too, of course. And the conversation with your husband was really funny. It is sad how far food travels, isn't it?!

    I'm dying to know - what did you do with the first tart shell? Anything fun?

    You had asked on my post where I got the leaf cookie cutters. I added the link to my post, but here is the direct link from Amazon: They are adorable.

    1. The first tart shell gone eaten as snacks!

  9. Jenn, I love your tiny little tart and your tiny little saucepan! You are so dedicated to remake the crust. I don't have that kind of patience. So what did you think of the muscovado? It is sad, how much pollution goes into shipping products from all over the place. We try to eat as locally as we can here, too.

    1. Thanks ECL. I just went to the kitchen to eat 1/2 tsp of light brown sugar and 1/2 tsp of muscovado to answer your question! The muscovado taste better - it's more molasse-y (in a good way). I'm gonna have to restock dark brown sugar and do another comparison.

      I can't really tell if the pecan tart taste better with muscovado than with another sugar, though since the tart tasted awesome I guess it does help. Though after I run out of this muscovado I will probably go back to regular dark brown sugar.

    2. I love that you taste-tested the sugars! If I had to order it I probably wouldn't use Muscovado all the time myself. Luckily, there's a couple places around here I can get it.

  10. well done Jenn and pretty it is! love the holiday card featuring the tart!

    1. Thank you Rose! The holiday card went out in an email to family and friends, :)).

  11. Hi Jenn!! I am skipping this tart just because i think it would be too sweet. But now i am having second thoughts because you said that it is sweet but after frozen, it is not too bad. But I'm still worried. I don't want to spend so much money on pecans and then it is too sweet for everyone.

    1. Hi faithy. Why don't you make a smaller pie, like I did. Or even smaller? Then you don't spend so much money on the pecans and it won't feel wasteful if no one likes it. I think the nice thing about it being frozen is that you can eat just a small piece at a time if it ends up being too sweet. I only have half a slice every day, kind of like eating candy. A treat!

  12. Oh..sorry..i hit the published button too quickly. I wanted to add that i like that your tart has more crust! I love more crust in any pies and tart. :D

    1. Thank you. It wasn't intentional. My small tart pan is a little over an inch in height.

  13. Jenn: So great to see photos of you on Rose's blog! Lucky you to get to meet her in person. I also make notes in my books on the dates and occasions for which I bake, loved the shot of your table of contents! Wishing you the best--Michele at

    1. Thanks Michele. It was very exciting (and nerve-wracking) to meet Rose and Woody! Hopefully you get to meet Rose someday. She is really nice and very knowledgeable. I could listen to her talk the whole day.

  14. I am not an Alpha or Beta Baker but know your name from Rose's forum page. Your pictures are very good and I love the way you write about your experiences baking. We have something in common in that we have both met up with Rose! I too found her a lovely person, very easy to speak to and charming. I would have considered joining the Bakers but we find it difficult to obtain 'cake' flour here in the UK, or any bleached flour so that is my reason for not joining this time. I enjoy reading about everyone's experiences though. Jeannette.


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