Little Nut Tarts

One of my favorite holiday treats is pecan tarts. My mom used to make dozens of them every Christmas season. She made them in mini muffin tins—which is mighty dangerous, since it’s so easy to keep popping the tiny sugary treats into your mouth, one by one, until you’ve lost count of how many you’ve eaten. Not that I’ve done that.

This year, away from family and feeling the isolation of pandemic times, I called my mom for her recipe and made a batch of little tarts to give myself some holiday cheer.

I’ve also been testing out a new knife from Tuo Cutlery, one they graciously sent to me to review. This knife is gorgeous and it cuts through nuts like they are butter.

I’m testing the 3.5” paring knife from Tuo’s Ring Lite series. The round handle is easy to grip and feels secure when tackling classic paring knife tasks, like peeling apples or segmenting citrus fruit. In fact, it’s so comfortable and lightweight I hopped on their website to order a couple more, only to find most of the series is sold out. Bummer! For high quality knives made from Japanese steel, Tuo’s Ring Lite line is super affordable (between $30 and $50 per knife) so I’ll keep returning to see when they are back in stock.

Anyway, back to the tarts!

My grocery delivery order was missing pecans and I don’t have mini tart pans, so I tweaked the tarts a bit. I used walnuts instead of pecans and made use of a regular 12-cup muffin tin for a slightly larger, but still handheld, tart.

I did not miss the pecans at all; walnuts are a perfect substitute. In fact, I may try these with other nuts in the future—I’m thinking almonds or hazelnuts.

Baking the tarts in 12 regular muffin cups was less time consuming than pressing tart dough into 48 mini muffin tins. Plus, they can be served on a plate like an individual pie if you want to make them fancy. But I still like to pick mine up with my hands to eat it, preferably with a steaming cup of tea nearby.

Happy cooking & sipping!

P.S. Many thanks to Tuo Cutlery for sending me a paring knife to review; it has a special place in my kitchen now. At the time of this posting, all Tuo Cutlery knives are on sale in case you’re in the market for a new knife for the new year.

Little Nut Tarts

By Suzanne Klein, Tea Foodie

Makes 12 individual tarts

Ingredients

For pastry crust:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

For filling:

1 1/2 cups walnut or pecan halves

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon melted butter

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Preparation

For pastry crust:

1. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed for a few minutes until fluffy. Add flour and salt and beat until combined.

2. Transfer dough to a work surface (no flour needed) and shape it into a log about 2 inches thick; I find it easier to cut equal pieces of dough from this log shape than from a round ball. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces.

3. Toss each piece of dough into the cup of a standard 12-cup muffin tin. Use fingers to shape dough evenly into the bottom and sides of each muffin cup; the pastry should come almost to the top of the cup. Cover pastry lined muffin tin in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to fill tart shells.

For filling:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Pull out 12 of the best-looking walnut or pecan halves and set aside. In a large skillet, lightly toast remaining nuts over medium heat until fragrant and just starting to brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer nuts to a cutting board to cool, then roughly chop.

3. Whisk sugar, egg, melted butter, vanilla, and salt in a small bowl for about 30 seconds so the sugar can dissolve a bit into the liquids.

4. Divide chopped nuts between all 12 pastry lined muffin cups. Pour about 1 tablespoon filling over top of each; fill the cups no more than three-quarters full or you’ll risk the filling bubbling over in the oven. Top each with the reserved good-looking nut half.

5. Bake until crusts are golden brown and centers are no longer jiggly soft when pressed, about 45 minutes.

6. Let tarts cool completely in the muffin tin before removing; if they are still warm when you try to remove them, the tarts may crumble. The cooled tarts should easily slide out of the muffin cups; use a butter knife to gently loosen if necessary.

7. The tarts will keep for several days on the counter in an airtight container.

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