I’ve used the same pecan company, Pearson, for more than a decade. For many years, Mary Pearson and I never met, but we talked often on the phone. Funny thing is, she actually lives right down the street from my cousin. When we finally did meet, sweet Mary grabbed my cheeks and said, “You are real!”
These petite pies are a holiday staple and keep well in an airtight container for a week or so. To bring out their flavor after they’ve been in storage for a few days, simply pop them in a 350°F oven for a few minutes, and they will taste freshly baked.
- 1/2 Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 Cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 Teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 Large egg
- 3/4 Cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 Teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 Cup chopped pecans
- 2 dozen perfect pecan halves, for decoration
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set out a nonstick mini muffin tin or grease a standard mini muffin tin.
- To make the crust, in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add the flour and salt and continue to beat on low speed until a dough forms. Divide the dough equally into 24 balls, each about the size of a gumball. Press the balls of dough into the muffin cups, using your thumb to press the dough against the sides to form a shell. Set aside.
- To make the filling, combine the egg, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a bowl. Sprinkle ½ to 1 teaspoon nuts into each shell. Top with a teaspoon of the egg mixture. Place a pecan half in the center.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Then decrease the temperature to 325°F and bake until set, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove to a rack to cool.
Brilliant Technique: Bourbon-Soaked Pecans
- I generally like my bourbon in a glass with ice, but it does belong in the kitchen, as well. Smoky, sweet bourbon enhances the flavor of the rich, fatty pecans, taking a simple home-style holiday favorite to Brilliant.Place the pecans in a bowl, cover with ¾ cup bourbon, and let soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain the bourbon-soaked pecans through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the bourbon for another use. (See first sentence.) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread out the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, shaking once or twice, until toasted and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Watch closely to avoid burning the nuts. Proceed with the recipe. Sip and savor.
For basic Tassies, press a cream cheese pastry crust into muffin tin wells and then fill with a sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and pecan mixture. For “brilliant” ones, bathe the pecans in Bourbon. The smokiness of bourbon marries with the sweetness of pecans, elevating them “into something my grandmother wouldn’t have thought of,” laughs Willis.