food, gifts

Chocolate Pecan Tassies

It's the holiday season, people, and that should send at least one important message:  Bring on the Christmas cookies!

Most of the families I know who celebrate Christmas have a stack of cards detailing the cookie recipes they've been making for generations every year at this time.  Our stack includes several cookie classics handed down from great-great-grandmas as well as new favorites that have been added over the years.

In recent years, I've taken to baking cookies to gift to friends and family for the holidays.  This year I'm not gifting anything perishable since our wee one could arrive any time between now and Christmas; instead I chose items I could make well in advance.  While I'm waiting, though, there's nothing to stop me from making some of our favorites to enjoy at home.

Pecan tassies are present at Christmas every year when we visit my mom's side of the family in Iowa.  Aunt Kris, who makes a mean cookie and brings countless varieties, makes this favorite of mine.  While the classic can hardly be improved upon, I couldn't help but test out a variation.  I'm an unabashed lover of chocolate, especially in Dixie Pie.  If you're not familiar with this paragon of pie, it's a southern classic that combines traditional pecan pie with chocolate.

In this bite-sized version, I used the recipe I developed for pecan tassies and kicked it up with bittersweet chocolate and bourbon.  Oh, yes.

These little mouthfuls of deliciousness begin with a crust made from ground, deeply toasted pecans.  Butter and cream cheese make the perfect flavor additions, with flour and a pinch of salt rounding it out.  The best part about making these tiny pies is there's no rolling pin involved!  You simply press little balls of dough into the pans.  While tassies are traditionally made in mini muffin tins, I made these in my beloved petit-four pans which turn out to be about 1 1/2 times the size of a mini muffin.  Both methods work beautifully.

The dough cups are then sprinkled with bittersweet chocolate and more toasted pecans, then filled with a bourbon-spiked gooey filling and baked until golden brown.

The verdict?  We loved this variation!  The chocolate is subtle enough that it doesn't compromise the pecan pie flavor and, while purely optional, the bourbon adds lovely bright and smoky notes.  The crust is soft yet stable enough to hold up for several days, making this an ideal treat to gift this season.  That is, if they last long enough to leave your house.

I hope you try these this holiday season.  If you're an Instagrammer, remember to use the tag #blairfromscratch to share your results!

Chocolate Pecan Tassies

makes 2 dozen min-muffin-sized tassies or 1 1/2 dozen petit-fours

For the Crust:

  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans*
  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) cream cheese
  • 3 oz. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • pinch coarse salt

Grind the toasted pecans in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Add the cream cheese and butter and process until thoroughly mixedAdd the flour and salt and pulse just until combined.

Divide the dough into 2 dozen balls (if using mini-muffin pan) or 1 1/2 dozen balls (if using petit-four pans.)  A small portion scoop works great for this.  Press the balls into ungreased pans, making sure to cover the bottom and sides of each vessel.

For the Filling:

  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, either high-quality chips or a chopped bar
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon bourbon or rum (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 350.  Divide the chocolate pieces and chopped pecans evenly among the prepared crusts.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.  The butter will remain in small bits; this is fine.  Use a teaspoon to divide the filling evenly among the crusts.

Bake until the edges of the crust begin to turn golden, about 15 minutes for mini-muffins and 18 minutes for petit-fours.  Allow to cool completely in the pans on wire racks before unmolding.  Tassies can be stored in an airtight container between layers of parchment paper at room temperature for 5 days.

*Note: To toast pecans, spread them evenly on a sheet pan and place in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, until deeply golden and fragrant.  IMHO, toasting is not optional -- the flavor is leagues better!