Shjuanna Connelly of Walterboro asked a few weeks ago about a tart that one of her co-workers at the old Winn-Dixie on Folly Road used to make. She described a filling of nuts and golden raisins with a sprinkling powdered sugar on top.
We're almost positive she's speaking of pecan "tassies" although this Southern goodie goes by other names, too. There are variations on the filling — sometimes pecan, sometimes lemon, with and without raisins — but the pastry is usually composed of just three ingredients: cream cheese, butter and flour.
The origin of the name "tassies" is debatable, but there are a couple of theories. One reference attributes the name to the French word "tassee," a small pocket, pouch or cup. Another says "tassies" are old Scottish for "little cups."
"We always had these tarts for family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas," writes Ramona LaBrasca of James Island. "Although making the tart shells is very time-consuming, they are well worth the effort."
Ramona says the tarts keep well. "We always stored them in layers in large holiday tins."
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons margarine
1 small package cream cheese
2 cups cake flour
4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 tablespoons margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup raisins, golden or dark
1 cup chopped pecans
Grease and flour tart pans (they may be sold as mini-muffin tins).
For shells: Using a pastry blender, cream the butter, margarine and cream cheese. Slowly add the flour until it is well-mixed. Shells may be made immediately or the dough may be chilled.
Pinch off a small ball of dough and fit it in the pan. Use your fingers or a tart tamper to press it to make the shell. Be careful not to make the shells too thick.
For filling: Combine all ingredients until well-mixed. Fill tart shells 3/4 full.
Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Remove to cooling racks. After another 10 minutes sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Jean Townsend of Johns Island says that when she worked on Seabrook Island years ago, Elaine Owens, the wife of one of the contractors, would bring these tarts to their Christmas parties. Here the name changes again, and there are some minor differences in the filling: vanilla and stiffly beaten egg whites.
1/4 pound butter (1 stick)
1 (4-ounce) package cream cheese
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain flour
1/4 pound (1 stick) melted butter
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks beaten
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chopped raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
For crust: Have butter and cheese very soft; cream butter and cheese; add flour to make a stiff dough. Divide dough into 48 equal pieces. Grease tart pans well and press dough in to form crust.
For filling: Mix butter and sugar; add egg yolks, nuts, raisins and vanilla. Add beaten egg whites. Fill uncooked tart shells with 1 teaspoon filling.
Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Also thanks to Mary Balderson of Summerville, whose recipe used brown sugar instead of regular and golden raisins instead of dark. But the concept is the same.
More on pecans ... I heard from Eloise Gatch of Walterboro, who e-mailed, "I am sending a recipe I think all the readers would like to have . It is for No Sugar Pecan Pie. I have tried it and it is good. This is for the people who are diabetic. You use the no-sugar breakfast syrup instead of Karo syrup."
No Sugar Pecan Pie
5 teaspoons sugar substitute for baking
1 cup sugar-free breakfast syrup
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup pecan halves
Pie dough for a single 9-inch crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the eggs with the sugar substitute. Stir in the breakfast syrup and the melted butter. Stir in the pecan halves. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the pie dough. Pour in the pecan pie filling mixture. Bake for 25 minutes with the edges covered with foil. Remove the foil from the edges and bake for 25 minutes or until you can insert a knife and have it come out clean. Cool and cut into 8 pieces to serve.
From the mailbag
Speaking of holiday fare, this recipe comes from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. It's a different take on Waldorf Salad, and it's gorgeous on the plate:
Blueberry Waldorf Salad
1 cup fresh or thawed and drained frozen blueberries, divided for use
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups (about 4 ounces) baby spinach
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, cored and thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, cut into 1 1/2-inch matchsticks (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup pecan or walnut halves, toasted
To prepare dressing: In a blender container, combine 1/2 cup of the blueberries, oil, marmalade, lemon juice, mustard and salt; blend until a smooth, thick dressing forms.
In a bowl, toss spinach with apple slices, celery, pecans and remaining 1/2 cup blueberries. Arrange equally on four serving plates. Just before serving, blend dressing again until smooth, drizzle over the salads. Serve immediately.
This timely and appealing recipe arrived from Nestle USA. Naturally, it called for Nestle products — Carnation and Libby — but other brands will do just fine.
Pumpkin Flan with Gingersnap Crust
Yields 8 to 10 servings
1 cup granulated sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 cup pure pumpkin
5 large eggs
1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 24 cookies)
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place sugar in small, heavy-duty saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until melted and caramel in color. Quickly pour into 9- or 10-inch deep-dish pie plate; swirl around bottom and side to coat.
Place sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, pumpkin and eggs in blender; cover. Blend until smooth. Pour over caramel (pie plate will be very full). Place pie plate in large roasting pan; fill pan with water to 3/4-inch depth. Carefully place in oven.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out almost clean. Remove flan from water; place on wire rack to cool completely.
Combine gingersnap crumbs and butter in medium bowl; pack mixture onto cooled flan (the gingersnap mixture should not be made in advance). Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. To serve, run knife around edge of dish. Invert serving plate over dish. Turn over; shake gently to release.
Who's got the recipe?
--A caller from North Charleston requests recipes for slow-cooker beef stew or pot roast.