I’ve got some super strong childhood food memories — many of the packaged variety (i.e., memories of devil dogs, Double Stuf Oreos, Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip ice cream, Pepperidge Farm frozen raspberry turnovers) and a handful, but by no means a ton, of the homemade variety (i.e., memories of my grandmother’s lemon cake and her perfect and very tiny chocolate chip cookies, and my mother’s apple brown betty). Because I did not grow up in a home where the scent of freshly baked pie greeted you at the door, as noted in my chocolate chip cookie post, (I think it’s probably safe to say that a pie has actually never been baked in the home in which I grew up) my memories of the store-bought treats of my girlhood far outweigh the memories of anything baked from scratch. So it should come as no surprise that, although these chocolate-crusted pecan tassies (mini pecan pies) were technically inspired by a food memory of the homemade variety, in this instance “homemade” does not describe a sweet baked-in-my-childhood-home-by-someone-related-to-me. To the contrary. the inspiration for my tassies was a treat made from scratch by a petite Hungarian grandmother living in Chicago.
I’ve had the same best friend since I was eight, and every Christmas, from the time we were in fourth grade until we left for college, my friend’s grandmother would arrive to visit her with a shoe box full of carefully wrapped little nutty, buttery treats. Were they chocolate flavored? No. Did they definitely have pecans in them? Not sure. Were they Hungarian in origin? No one knows. Were they even pie-related at all? Couldn’t tell you. But I loved them, looked forward to them every year, inhaled them whenever I was given the opportunity, and have never forgotten them. Now, I don’t want you to think that I am some kind of pecan pie obsessive (in light of already having posted this pecan bourbon slab pie), or that I am super into miniature-sized desserts (I have already noted on this site that I am very much into jumbo), or that I am not happy unless I am creating recipes with multiple steps that preferably include pie dough. The truth is when I first requested the recipe from my friend’s family, I was picturing the treat with kind of a walnut-y vibe, and I wasn’t even thinking mini-pie-style. But no one was in actual possession of the recipe, and those in the know remembered them as a pecan tassie kind of phenomenon. and so researching such a treat began in earnest.
Okay, maybe not in earnest. A tassie, like a pie, requires a recipe for a crust, as well as one for a filling, and, honestly, the filling came together for me in almost no time, as I’d been helping a friend troubleshoot a recipe for pecan cookies, and I had filling on the brain (particularly one with plenty of vanilla, salt, melted butter, toasted pecans, brown sugar, and no corn syrup). The development of the crust proved just the tiniest bit more labor intensive, as I became obsessed with the idea of a pecan tassie with a chocolate cookie crust (like the crust i had developed for my black bottom coconut cream sheet pie). But after much trial and error, I could not make it work. (Maybe if it was in bar form rather than mini-muffin style?) A little googling revealed that the vast majority of pecan tassie recipes (i.e., all of them) call for a cream cheese based pie crust, such as this pecan tassie recipe from Tutti Dolci, a joy of Baking Recipe, and this Brown Eyed Baker offering. And, don’t get me wrong, I love a cream cheese crust (Rose Levy Berenbaum’s probably being my all time fave), but I wanted to go in a different direction. Martha Stewart’s tassies call for mascarpone, which I found intriguing, but I started wondering about crème frâiche.
I had used it in my scones to great effect, and it added the perfect tanginess to my favorite cobbler of all time. I knew from my guru, Shirley Corriher, that sour cream in a pie crust produces much flakiness, and I was confident that crème frâiche would do the same. And I was right. The chocolate crust encasing these tassies is uber-flaky and mildly chocolate-y (didn’t want the flavor of the crust to be too overpowering) and the perfect pairing with the delectable, slightly sweet and gooey, caramel-y filling. In short, these tassies are powerfully delish, creating food memories (of the homemade variety) for my boys, and ideally reminding Hungarian grandmothers everywhere of a treat from the old country.
Chocolate Crusted Pecan Tassies
For the crust
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter very cold
- 7 tbsp creme fraiche
For the filling
- 2 large eggs
- 1 yolk
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups light brown sugar lightly packed
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 1 1/2 cup toasted pecans finely chopped
- Handful of mini chocolate chips optional
To make the crust
- Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until well combined, about 30 seconds. Cut the butter into small pieces. add it to the processor and process until the butter is quite crumbly and broken up to about the size of peas.
- Add the creme fraiche, in two or three installments, pulsing after each addition, until it is all incorporated. The dough should stick together when pinched between your fingers.
- Dump the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into a disc. Wrap tightly in the plastic and place in the refrigerator for about an hour. A bit less is fine. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 24 cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray. set aside.
To make the filling
- In a large bowl, combine the eggs, yolk, and vanilla and lightly whisk. Add the salt and sugar and whisk again, until fully incorporated. Add the melted butter and whisk again. And finally add the pecans and whisk (or fold) them into the filling. Set aside. I left mine on the counter, but you can refrigerate it, if you'd prefer.
To assemble the tassies
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and form balls, about the size of 1 tbsp, plus 1 tsp. Press the balls into the bottom of each mini cup in your pan. Using your fingers, evenly press the dough up the sides of the cup, til it just extends a bit past the top. The dough should be equally thick along the sides and bottom of the cups. Repeat until all the cups are lined with dough.
- Whisk your filling to re-incorporate it, and place a tablespoon of filling in each cup of your pan. Place about 6 or so mini chocolate chips, if using, on top of the filling.
- Place the pan in the oven for 20 minutes, rotating the pan after 10. Let the pan cool on a wire rack until the tassies are cool enough to handle and use your fingers and a paring knife to remove the tassies from the pan. Transfer them to the wire rack to continue cooling. Tassies will keep Tightly covered on the counter for 3 days.