This is a killer recipe! Some of you know that I'm a little OCD in the kitchen (wish that would seep into other areas of my life!!). I researched and tweaked and fussed and retweaked for what seemed like an eternity before I was satisfied with these, but they were definitely worth the effort (and let me say this, I have a whole new appreciation for cookbook authors after this project!). The masses absolutely devoured these little treasures, so I hope you'll give them a try sometime.
To begin the recipe, let's make this very easy crust. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine room temperature butter and cream cheese; blend using the flat beater attachment (or better yet, use the fabulous BeaterBlade!). When butter and cream cheese are combined, add salt, cocoa, and flour; combine. Dough will be soft, but easy to handle.
Spray a mini muffin pan with an oil/flour baking spray. Roll dough into 24 balls and place into muffin pan. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, or until it firms up enough to not be too sticky to work with.
Press dough into muffin indentations using your fingers or a pastry tool dipped in flour. Pop the dough back into the fridge if it starts getting too soft, and also while making the filling.
Because these mini tarts are so tiny, be sure to chop your pecans into very small pieces.
Combine butter, cane syrup (or corn syrup), salt, and confectioner's sugar in heavy bottomed sauce pan over med-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for one full minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer hot sugar mixture to a glass measure and pour or spoon mix into prepared pan, being very careful to not fill them more than 3/4 full (so you don't have a hot, bubbly mess on your hands).
No matter how hard you try, you'll probably have some filling bubble over the sides of the tarts during baking. If this happens, you can easily trim away any excess caramel with a pair of kitchen scissors. Allow the tarts tarts to finish cooling while we make the glazed pecans and Mascarpone frosting.
Okay, let's do the glazed pecans first (incidentally, you can do this with just about any kind of nut). Have you ever tasted Lyle's Golden Syrup? It's a sugar cane syrup that has the most wonderful caramel flavor and color. Look for it in your baking aisle. If you can't find it... you can substitute corn syrup or honey.
In a heat proof bowl, mix the granulated sugar and sugar cane syrup together. Microwave on high for 10-20 seconds until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is very liquidy. Quickly pour over nuts and toss to coat.
Place the nuts in a single layer on a silicone baking mat and toss them into the oven for 15 minutes; tossing once half way through the baking.
Use a fork to separate glazed nuts after removing them from the oven. Allow to cool completely before using. Can be made a day or two ahead and stored in an airtight container. Don't place on the mascarpone frosting until just before they are served (the moisture in the frosting will liquefy the glaze).
For the Mascarpone frosting, combine room temperature Mascarpone cheese, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla extract by hand. Pipe swirls of the frosting on tarts that have been allowed to cool completely; refrigerate. Just before serving, top with glazed nut and serve immediately.
Mini Pecan Tarts Topped with Mascarpone Frosting and Glazed Pecans
makes 24 mini tarts
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
pinch of fine sea salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder for color (optional)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup (or corn syrup)
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans
1 tablespoon Lyle's Golden Syrup (can sub corn syrup or honey)
1 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
pinch of fine sea salt
To Make the Pastry Crust:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the flat beater, combine the butter and cream cheese.
Slowly add the salt, confectioner's sugar, flour, and optional cocoa powder; combine.
Divide into 24 equal portions, roll into ball shape; place in a greased mini muffin pan.
Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes before pressing dough into the mini muffin cups using fingers or a pastry tool dipped in flour; chill until ready to bake.
To Make the Filling:
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine everything but the vanilla extract; bring to a boil for one full minute.
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla; pour mixture into prepared pastry, filling no more than 3/4 full.
Place mini muffin pan on a half sheet pan to catch any drips that might spill over.
Bake at 350F for 25 minutes; remove from oven and cool for 25 minutes before removing from pan.
When cool enough to handle, trim excess caramel with kitchen scissors if needed (while the caramel is still pliable).
To Make the Mascarpone Topping:
Mix ingredients together by hand.
Pipe or spoon onto completely cool tarts.
To Make the Glazed Pecans:
Preheat oven to 325F.
Combine sugar cane syrup, salt, and granulated sugar in a heat safe bowl and microwave on high for 10-20 seconds until sugar dissolves and mixture is very liquidy.
Immediately pour over pecans and stir to combine.
Place pecans in a single layer on a silicone lined half sheet pan (greased foil or non-stick foil will also work).
Bake for 15 minutes, tossing half way through baking.
Remove from oven and use a fork to separate the pecans; cool completely.
Note: The pecans can be glazed up to 2 days in advance. Store in an airtight container. Top mini tarts with glazed pecans just before serving (DO NOT place the glazed pecans on early or the glaze will absorb moisture from the mascarpone topping, causing it to melt and turn goopy.