Lemon Lime Tartlets & Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tartlets — A {ModBak} Twofer

With two weeks left to go in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge, I found myself with four recipes remaining. The kids are out of town, and we decided to have a low-key day today, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to play a little catch-up. I decided to knock out three recipes at once. The lemon lime tartlet and chocolate caramel pecan tartlet recipes each make 24 tartlets, way too many to have around with just J and me to eat them. Since each recipe calls for the tart shells to be prebaked, I figured I would bake the shells together and then fill them.

As for the third recipe, well, that’s the tartlet shells for the chocolate caramel pecan tartlets. The recipe calls for shells made with chocolate nut dough, and since this is the first recipe to use that dough, I hadn’t made it yet. The lemon lime tartlets are made with sweet tart dough, which I’ve made for many of the recipes in this section.

I mixed up both doughs early in the day and let them chill in the fridge for a few hours. For the lemon lime tartlets, I rolled out the sweet tart dough, cut it into circles, and pressed each disk into a mini muffin pan. Then I did the same with the chocolate nut dough.

I chilled the dough in the pans for about an hour, then baked the shells in a 350°F oven for 12 minutes. Although I pricked the dough well with a fork before baking, the shells puffed up to the point where there was no room for filling. While the shells were still hot, I pressed the center of each one with a small ladle to make room for the filling. I cooled the crusts in the pan for a few minutes, then removed them to a cooling rack. A few of the bakers in the Challenge noted that their tartlet shells stuck when they baked them in mini muffin pans. Knowing this, I had sprayed my pan lightly with spray oil, and my shells came out beautifully.

While the tart shells were cooling, I toasted coconut for the lemon lime tartlets, then made the filling for the chocolate caramel pecan tartlets. (I didn’t have to make the lemon lime filling, as I had leftover lemon and lime curds in the fridge from making ice cream.) The chocolate filling isn’t particularly difficult, although it does require quite a few steps and dirties a lot of pans and bowls. The caramel is made in one pan while the cream is heated in another. These are combined, then scraped into a bowl to cool. Chocolate, which has been melted and cooled in another bowl, is then added to the caramel-cream mixture, and butter and nuts (which have been toasted in a separate pan) are added last.

After making the filling and shells, assembling the tartlets was a breeze. I spooned the chocolate caramel pecan tartlet filling into the shells and topped each one with a toasted pecan.

For the lemon lime tartlets, I had planned to mix my lemon and lime curds, which I had made and stored separately, but Nick cautions against overstirring the curd, lest it become too liquid. I tested this by putting a spoonful of each into a bowl and mixing them. Sure enough, the curd broke down and become too watery to hold up in the tart shells. So I filled half the shells with lemon curd and the other half with lime curd, then topped them with toasted coconut.

My wife and I enjoyed these tartlets for a late-evening snack. We loved the flavor of all three of the tartlets, although we did discover that it was best to eat the chocolate ones first, as they tended to taste a little bitter after eating the curd-filled tartlets.

These were delicious tarts, and I will definitely make them again. However, unless I’m making them for a finger-food event, I would be inclined to do them as full size tarts, rather than tartlets.

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Bourbon-scented Pecan Tart {ModBak}

Having just made sweet tart dough, the first recipe in the Sweet Tarts and Pies section of The Modern Baker, I obviously had to make something to go in it. Looking through the book, this recipe immediately caught my eye. First of all because I love pecan pie and this recipe, with its hint of bourbon, sounded really good. Also, I knew I had almost all the ingredients I needed to make it. And the one I didn’t have? Well, it’s always nice to have an excuse to buy a bottle of Maker’s Mark, isn’t it?

If you’ve never made a pecan pie or tart before, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is. I began by heating dark corn syrup and sugar over medium heat.

After the sugar mixture came to a boil, I took it off the heat and added butter and let it melt without stirring.

While the butter was melting, I whisked eggs, salt, and bourbon in a bowl, then I slowly whisked in the syrup.

Nick cautions against overmixing at this point, which would cause the filling to be cloudy instead of clear. He also says to allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes, then skim off the foam. I did this, then stirred in the pecans and dumped the whole thing into the tart pan.

 

If the filling resembles the proverbial 10 pounds of taters in a five-pound sack, it’s because I made a nine-inch tart crust (the recipe calls for an 11-inch pan) but didn’t scale back the filling. I thought I would have some filling left over, but I was able to squeeze it all in the pan without any overflow.

I baked the tart in a 350°F oven for 35 minutes, until the filling was set and little bubbles were breaking on the surface. I took the tart out of the oven and allowed it to cool — more or less — in the pan.

Oh, who am I kidding? As soon as that bad boy was cool enough to handle without burning myself, I got it out of the pan and onto a plate.

And it wasn’t long after that until I was slicing into it for a taste.

Boys and girls, this is what happens if you cut a pie while it is still too warm

 I wrecked that beautiful tart, and I didn’t care. I had to try it. And let me tell you, it was worth it. This was easily the best pecan tart/pie I have ever tasted. The filling was sweet, rich, and buttery. But what really set it apart was the bourbon.

There is only a tablespoon-and-a-half of bourbon in the whole tart, and you might be tempted to skip it if you don’t drink bourbon or have any on hand. That would be a huge mistake. Without the bourbon, this would be just another delicious pecan tart. The bourbon — which is very subtle, more of a sense than a taste (I can see why Nick calls it “bourbon-scented”) — elevates this tart to a class of its own.  It adds richness, depth, and an aroma that will keep you shoveling this rich tart in your mouth long after you’re full.

Unless you have a strong aversion to bourbon and rich desserts, I guarantee you will love this recipe. But a word of caution: if you bring this tart to your next holiday meal, you’d better bring two. And you should probably plan on bringing it every year.