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Maple Sugar Tartlets

Servings: Makes 8 (3 1/2-inch) tartlets
These delightful tartlets hold just the right amount of gooey maple-pecan filling. Really nice to serve at an office holiday party or serve as one of your desserts for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah.

These also make a lovely afternoon tea treat.

For Pastry Dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz./113g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold water

For Filling:
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark amber or Grade B maple syrup
6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick/3 oz./84g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons granulated maple sugar (see Cooks' Note, below)
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup pecans (2 1/2 oz), finely chopped

Serve with:
Unsweetened whipped cream

Special equipment:
Pastry or bench scraper (optional)
4 1/2-inch round cookie cutter
8 (3 1/2-inch) fluted round tartlet pans
Pie weights or raw rice

Make Dough:
Blend together flour, sugar, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated and dough forms a ball.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all dough together with scraper or your hands and press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Wrap disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

Make Tartlet Shells:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 16 by 14-inch oval (1/8 inch thick). Cut out 8 (4 1/2-inch) rounds with cutter and fit each round into a tartlet pan, pressing lightly to fit into pans.

Transfer tartlet pans to a baking sheet and chill until dough is firm, about 15 minutes.

Line each tartlet shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until edges are pale golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and continue baking until bottoms are golden, about 5 minutes more. Cool completely in pans on a rack, about 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.

Make Filling and Bake Tartlets:
While shells cool, whisk together all filling ingredients except nuts until combined well. Return cooled tartlet shells (in their pans) to baking sheet and divide nuts among shells. Ladle filling into shells, dividing it evenly.

Bake tartlets until filling is just set, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool in pans on rack, about 15 minutes, then carefully remove tartlets from pans. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cooks' Notes:
1. Pastry dough can be chilled up to 2 days.
2. Tartlets are best when eaten immediately but can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Reheat in a 350 degree F/180 degree C oven.
3. Maple sugar is usually sold granulated, but if you find a brand sold as very large granules, pulse the sugar in a blender until it becomes more finely granulated.

Makes 8 (3 1/2-inch) tarts.

Source: Gourmet Magazine
March 2006

Date: October 15, 2006