SHARON ONA (this article was first published November 26, 2012)
The first Santa Anas of the season came and went last weekend. It’s officially the holiday season. It was 90 degrees and the strong dry winds from the east created the most beautiful crisp, clear blue sky, pushing dust and clouds out to sea. This was once my favorite time of year. It marks the changing seasons with a blast of warm weather right around the holidays. Now, it means allergies and sleepless nights as gale-force winds rip noisily through the foliage outside my bedroom window. I hope we can reconcile our differences, the Santa Anas and me. I really miss enjoying my favorite time of year.
Strong winds and hot weather are never conducive to spending time in the kitchen, but now that the winds have died down, the temperature has dropped, and my sinuses have decided that I am not the enemy, I resolved to make something decadent, seasonal, and worthy of a holiday spread.
Chef Suzanne Goin, co-owner of Tavern here in Los Angeles, has included this Pecan and Chocolate Tart as part of her holiday menu at the restaurant. It is divine and couldn’t be simpler to prepare.
Pecan and Chocolate Tart with Bourbon Whipped Crème Fraîche
This tart is a tradition-forming mix of caramel, crunchy pecans, and melted chocolate. Be sure to let it rest for 30 minutes before serving.
1 Pâte Sucrée disk
All-purpose flour (for dusting)
1 ½ cups chopped pecans plus 1 ½ – 2 cups pecan halves
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup sugar
½ cup dark corn syrup
½ cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ cup crème fraîche
2 teaspoons bourbon
An 11-inch-diameter fluted tart pan with a removable bottom
Roll out Pâte Sucrée disk on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/8-inch-thick round, dusting with flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Transfer crust to tart pan; press onto bottom and up sides of pan. Trim dough flush with edge of pan. Chill for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°. Spread out chopped pecans in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned and aromatic, 8-10 minutes.
Place butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Cook, swirling pan a few times, until butter browns and smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Discard vanilla bean.
Whisk sugar, both corn syrups, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in warm brown butter, then eggs; whisk to blend. Spread chopped pecans in an even layer over prepared tart shell. Scatter chocolate over. Place pecan halves in concentric circles over chopped pecans and chocolate. Pour filling slowly and evenly over nuts.
Bake tart until filling is just set in center, 45-50 minutes.
Transfer tart to a wire rack; let cool for at least 30 minutes. DO AHEAD Tart can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Beat cream, crème fraîche, and bourbon until soft peaks form. DO AHEAD Bourbon whipped crème fraîche can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill. Rewhisk before serving.
Remove pan sides. Cut tart into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature with bourbon whipped crème fraîche.
Adding egg yolks, cream, and sugar transforms a standard crust into something almost cookie-like. Freeze the second crust for later use.
Makes 2 crusts
3 large egg yolks
¼ cup heavy cream
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Whisk egg yolks and cream in a small bowl; set aside. Pulse flour, butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor until a coarse meal forms. With machine running, gradually add cream mixture; blend just to combine (do not overwork dough or crust will be tough).
Transfer dough to a large work surface. Knead just to incorporate, 4-5 turns. Divide dough in half; shape each half into a 1-inch-thick disk and wrap in plastic. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD Crust can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out. Crust can also be frozen for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before rolling out.