Tiny Tarts. I admit I love the nutty name as much as the nutty flavor. You’d think “pecan” would be the operative word, but no, the diminutive size gets top billing.
This recipephany goes back to our first visit to the postcard-perfect Canadian seaside resort of St. Andrews in the ‘70s. We stayed at our friend Julie’s family home, a charming Cape Cod cottage that served as a dining hall for officers stationed at a nearby fort during the War of 1812.
Julie’s mother Kathleen was a superb, versatile baker, ahead of her time with high loaves of molasses oatmeal and other whole grain breads. When she treated us to these delicate Tiny Tarts along with New Brunswick’s own King Cole Tea, I was enthralled by the short cream-cheese pastry, the ethereal brown-sugar pecan filling, and of course the alliteration. There was none of the gooeyness of pecan pie, and the crust and filling melted together with the first bite. I thought of the British military who crunched on their shortbread or digestive biscuits in the house, clueless as to the delight the all-American pecan would bring to the table more than 150 years later.
I make these at Christmastime, maybe because of a subliminal “Tiny Tim” message. But they are good in the summer or any time, as they bake up fast and dress up fresh fruit or ice cream.
P.S. Thank you, Kate, for your comment about how these “butter tarts” turn out to be a truly Canadian dessert!
I recommend a nonstick mini muffin tin like this:
The tiny pastry shells require no rolling. You take a small clump of dough and spread it with your fingers to coat the inside of each well. The recipe says you should chill the dough, but I usually don’t.
I’ve made a few adaptations. I add molasses to regular sugar instead of using brown sugar (I don’t believe in brown sugar, but that’s another story), double the vanilla, and garnish with pecan halves.
Kathleen’s Tiny Tarts
- 3 ounces cream cheese
- ½ cup butter or margarine
- 1 cup sifted flour
- Let cream cheese and butter soften, mix with flour. Chill 1 hour.
- Divide into 24 small balls and place in ungreased small muffin tins. Press to bottom and sides to form crusts.
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup brown sugar (I substitute white sugar and about a tablespoon of molasses)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (I double to 2 teaspoons)
- Dash salt
- ¾ cup broken pecans
- 24 additional pecans halves to decorate tops*
- Preheat oven to 325°. Beat egg, sugar, vanilla, butter and salt until smooth. Add broken pecans. Dip into tins with teaspoon. Top with pecan halves.
- Bake at 325° about 30 minutes.
They freeze beautifully.
*The original recipe called for dividing the 3/4 cup of broken pecans and putting half into the filling and sprinkling half on top.