Makes 30 small tassies
Tassies are tiny tarts, very typical at a party such as a shower. This cream cheese dough is easy to work with and is just pushed into tiny tins. Other pie doughs may be substituted. This dough can be used for larger pies and tarts if rolled between pieces of plastic wrap, as it sticks easily. How many it makes is dependent on the size of the tins, which vary from small fluted ones to mini-muffin ones, and none are uniform. — Nathalie Dupree
For the pastry dough:
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour, preferably soft-wheat
For the pecan filling:
1 large egg
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed (use 3/4 cup for a sweeter filling)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chopped pecans, divided
Beat the cream cheese and butter in a small bowl with an electric hand mixer or in a food processor. Stir in the flour and chill briefly until the dough is easy to handle. Divide into 30 equal balls. Chill the balls for 30 minutes.
Move each ball to a tiny, lightly greased fluted mini-tart pan or miniature muffin cup placed on a rimmed baking sheet. Press the dough with fingertips or a tart tamper (a wooden dowel with a different-sized rounded edge at each end) against the bottoms and side. Place the baking sheets with the pans in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the filling. If any tassies crack after refrigeration, press a small amount of dough on the crack to cover.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat together the egg, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a mixing bowl until all the lumps are gone. Place half the pecans into the dough-lined pans and carefully spoon in the egg mixture, taking care to keep the filling below the sides of the dough, thus preventing it from slipping under the dough and caramelizing, making it difficult to remove the tassie. Dot with the remaining pecans. Bake 25 minutes or until the filling is set. Cool 5 minutes on a rack, but be sure to remove the tassies from the pans while they are still warm as the sugar will have caramelized and may stick to the pan.
To remove from pan, turn upside down onto one hand and move to a plate. If they are reluctant to come out of the tin, insert a small thin knife into the side of the pan and give the tassie a boost.
These will keep several days closely wrapped or 3 months in the freezer. They defrost quickly at room temperature or may be heated on a baking sheet while still frozen.
Variation: Chocolate Pecan Tassies
Add 1/3 cup chocolate chips to the recipe, putting half into the tins with half of the pecans. Dot the filled tins with the remaining half of the chips and nuts.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 14 cookbooks, including the James Beard award-winning “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.