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Classic Pecan Tart

The pecan tree grows wild in many areas of the temperate South. On chilly autumn mornings, you will find kids and grown-ups alike scurrying in their yards, bucket in hand, trying to beat the squirrels to this prized nut. Bourbon and orange zest add subtle flavor to this cherished Southern dessert.

Ingredients:

For the pastry dough:

  • 1 1/4 cups soft winter-wheat flour, such as
      White Lily brand, or cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup cold solid vegetable shortening
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut
      into small cubes
  • 3 to 6 Tbs. ice water

For the filling:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tbs. bourbon (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup pecan halves, plus 1/3 cup coarsely
      chopped pecans

Directions:

To make the pastry, in a bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the shortening and cut in with a pastry blender, 2 knives or your fingers until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the butter and cut in until it forms tiny pea-size balls. Add the ice water a little at a time, stirring and tossing with the pastry blender or a fork until the mixture holds together. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into an 11-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Fold the round into quarters and place in a 9 1/2-inch nonstick or traditional tart pan with a removable bottom. Unfold, then press gently into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the overhang even with the pan rim. Refrigerate until ready to fill.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F.

To make the filling, in a bowl, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, eggs, bourbon, orange zest, vanilla, salt, pecan halves and chopped pecans. Pour into the chilled pastry shell and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Bake until the center is slightly soft to the touch, the edges are set and the crust is golden brown, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes, then remove the pan sides and slide the tart off the pan bottom onto a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New American Cooking Series, The South, by Roy Overton (Time-Life Books, 2000).