A bit of an unusaul tart: Pecan Brie Tart

Think of a tart and you usually think of a sweet, fruit filled creation. However, the history of tarts shows a more savory beginnings. Tarts in medieval times traditionally were meat filled pastries. Over time they transformed into the sweeter fruit and custard desserts we find today.

This weekend I was given a challenge to make a dessert that contained the following three ingredients: butter, whipped cream, and brie. The first two were easy. It was the brie that caused consternation. In the end, I think I came up with an excellent sweet and savory tart. Here is what I did. This recipe will make four, four inch individual tarts.

The tart shell

Having never made a tart before, I went in search of a quick and easy tart shell recipe. I settled on David Lebovitz’s adaptation of Paule Caillat’s tart dough recipe. Caillat teaches the art of French cooking in Paris. Her recipe is a little unconventional as she begins by browning the butter and the dough is mixed while the fats are hot rather than cold as is typical. This recipe will make enough dough for a 9 inch tart pan. I used four smaller 4 inch tart pans to make individual tarts.

Ingredients

90 g (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
150 g (5 ounces) flour

Preheat the oven to 410º F.

In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, such as a Pyrex bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.

Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges.

When done, remove the bowl from oven (and be careful, since the bowl will be hot and the mixture might sputter a bit), dump in the flour and stir it in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a spatula.

Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your and, and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks.

Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork about ten times, then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and if there are any sizable cracks, use the bits of reserved dough to fill in and patch them.

Let the shell cool before filling.

The filling

Ingredients

8 oz good quality brie (I used a triple cream brie)
½ cup finely chopped pecans
½ cup brown sugar (packed)
3 ounces whiskey (I used Templeton Rye)

Directions

Cut brie into 4 equal wedges and place in tart shell.

In a saucepan, heat pecans, sugar and whiskey over medium heat, stirring until bubbly. (I chose Templeton Rye because I thought the nutty, buttery flavor of the whiskey would add to the flavors of the brown sugar and pecans. I was right.)

Reduce heat and simmer for 1 minutes or until thickened.

Working quickly, spoon pecan mixture over Brie.

Bake in 375?F oven for 10 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Because my challenge called for whipped cream, I simply whipped some heavy cream and added a dollop on top of the tarts. They would have been just as delicious without the whipped cream.

A note on whipped cream. For the life of me, I cannot understand why people buy Cool Whip when in under five minutes you can have real whipped cream without unpronounceable chemicals. All you need is to make sure your cream is very cold and a good quality whisk. It also helps to chill the bowl a few minutes too so it is also cold. Poor the very cold cream into the chilled bowl and whisk away. You will be amazed at how quickly you will have a very light and airy whipped cream.

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