Friday, February 23, 2007

Pecanios, or Maple Pecan Tartlets

These pecan tartlets are one of my favorite winter sweets to make, so I'd better publish this recipe before the weather gets too balmy. They're easy to make, and unlike traditional pecan pie recipes, don't require any corn syrup, which we can't buy in France or Switzerland.

I use a flexible silicone tartlet mold for these, though I'm sure you can make them with regular muffin molds. The advantage of the shallow tartlet form is the ease with which you can fit the dough in the indentations: cut out dough with a circular cookie cutter, place the circle of dough on the indentation, push down gently with your thumb, done.

You can see the black tartlet form I used at the bottom of this pile of molds (from an earlier post on my fixation with silicone molds). Click to enlarge the photo.

Recipe: Pecanios (Maple Pecan Tartlets)
Source: I believe these were inspired by a recipe from Bon Appetit, though I made some changes.

Ingredients for the shells
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar or less
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 packet vanilla sugar (or 1 tspn vanilla extract)
- 1 3/4 to 2 cups cake flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt

Shell preparation
Cream butter to soften; add brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix together the flour and salt; blend into the creamed mixture.

Roll out the dough thinly, then chill it, as described here and here. Or proceed as you normally would for cut-out cookies. The thinner the dough, the better, or these tartlets get heavy.

Cut with cookie cutters into circles. Place circles in little tartlet molds (or cupcake molds). Chill while you prepare the filling.

Ingredients for the filling
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup maple syrup = 90g
- 1 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 packet vanilla sugar (or 1 tspn vanilla extract)
- 2/3 to 3/4 cups chopped pecans

Filling preparation
Preheat oven to 180°C. Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Mix in pecans. Spoon into unbaked shells. Bake tartlets until set, about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.

Update March 4th: I followed Kai's suggestion and named these "Pecanios..." Thanks for the idea!

Monday, February 19, 2007


My mother does not have a sweet tooth. (I, as some may have noticed, do. That is why I was driven to experiment with baking from a young age.) There is only one sweet treat which makes her lose all self-control: chouquettes. These cream-less cream puffs, sprinkled with large granulated sugar crystals, are often displayed in a basket near the cash register in French boulangeries. My mother has been known to finish a 100g bag of chouquettes on her five-minute drive home.

A while back I made some chou pastry for gougères, and was not entirely convinced by the recipe (too hard and crunchy). I then tried the following recipe with better results, and having located some of this granulated sugar I was able to make chouquettes. They're quite easy to make. Mom, come visit, I'll bake you a batch!

Recipe: Pâte à choux
For making cream puffs or eclairs or chouquettes or profiteroles (or gougères if you omit sugar and add cheese).

Source: Larousse du chocolat, Pierre Hermé

- 13 cl water
- 13 cl whole milk
[I only had "demi-écrémé," which I believe is 2%]
- 1 tspn sugar
- 1 tspn salt
- 110g butter
- 140 flour
- 5 eggs

For chouquettes:
- granulated sugar
["Sucre perlé." In France you might be able to buy some in large supermarkets, I bought mine at G. Detou.]
- Optional: egg wash made of egg yolk diluted with a little water or milk

Preheat oven to 190°C.

Pour water, milk, sugar and salt into a medium-sized pot. Mix well, and add the butter. Bring to a boil while stirring with a wooden spatula. As soon as the liquid boils, pour in the flour in one movement. Rapidly stir with the spatula until the dough becomes smooth and homogenous. Continue stirring for 2 or 3 minutes, so that the dough dries out a little and no longer sticks to the sides of the pot.

Without waiting, pour the dough into a big bowl. Break an egg in a little bowl and pour it into the dough. Mix it in well. [I used my hand mixer at this point]. Add the rest of the eggs in one by one in this way, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.

Continue to mix the dough vigorously, lifting it now and then. It is ready when it falls in the shape of a ribbon [Not sure what that means].

At this stage the dough must be baked without waiting*. Pour it into a pastry bag with a largish smooth tip [size 10 in France, or 1 cm wide?] and form the shape(s) you wish on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
*[I'm not sure why this is specified. I left a large portion of dough at room temperature, sealed in my plastic piping bag, and formed chouquettes a few hours later. They came out fine.]

For chouquettes, form individual balls the size of a walnut? 4 cm in diameter?, not too close together so there's room for them to swell. You can brush them with egg yolk mixed with a little water or milk[optional, Hermé doesn't mention this]. Then sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake them for 5 minutes in a closed oven, then 15 minutes with a wooden spoon inserted in the door to keep it open a crack. Let the puffs cool on a rack. (For eclairs it would be more like 18 to 20 minutes after the first 5 minutes).