Whenever I think about favorite cookies, Pecan Tassies are on the list. There is something about these mini pecan pie-type cookies that make them absolutely addicting. I have never been able to eat just one!
They are simplicity at its best – flaky cream cheese crusts filled with sweet and gooey nut filling. I have been making these tassies for so long I lost count of how many dozens of these have come from my oven.
Flurry of activity
During my childhood in the 60’s in the Coal Region, it was tradition for my family to visit each other throughout the Christmas season. Starting the week before Christmas and continuing into New Year’s Day, cousins, aunts and uncles, neighbors and close friends descended on each others homes nightly where drinks, snacks, and cookies awaited loved ones who came to visit.
One of my neighbors in the tiny town I grew up in could always be counted on to bring out a cookie tray filled with my favorites. Among them were guaranteed to be these pecan tassies. These mini “pies” fascinated me; they were perfectly kid-sized and, oh, how yummy.
Although my Mom made many of the classic cookies we have come to associate with Christmas in the Coal Region, she never made these. They remained a special treat only obtained during the flurry of holiday house hopping we enjoyed.
Taking matters into my own hands
One day while flipping through a community cookbook my Nana (grandmother) had, my eyes fell on the holy grail — a recipe for pecan tassies! Why the heck did my Mom not make them? We’d have an in-house supply for munching instead of having to go elsewhere. The recipe was right there!
Well, this 12-year-old kid was going to remedy that. I would make them myself. And make them I did. Repeatedly. For Christmas, Easter, birthdays – all throughout the year. My folks and Nana and Pappy gobbled them up whenever they were around.
Now, decades later, not a Christmas goes by where a batch of these are not on my “must have” cookie list. As always, I still love them. It’s a good thing my husband loves them, too, or I would be “forced” to eat them all so none were wasted!
Not just nuts
Over the years, I broadened the spectrum of what I used this versatile crust for and created many “tassie” variations. I have filled them with purchased lemon curd and Solo brand canned fillings such as almond, cherry, apricot and prune to name a few. For a little something extra, I often add a bit of bourbon to the pecan filling mixture.
Making life easier
The recipe is easy, there are no unusual ingredients – but forming those little crusts sometimes is a bit frustrating. For years I formed balls of crust (I like using a mini cookie scoop), dropped them in a muffin cup, then patted and formed the crust in each individual cup using the tips of my fingers and thumbs. This meant constantly turning and rotating the muffin pans as needed and often resulted in “hole-y” crusts. As my rheumatoid arthritis started to affect my dexterity and frustration with this step grew, I found and started using a wooden mini tart tamper.
Tricks to using a tart tamper
At first I was not sure I found the tamper that much more helpful until I learned a couple tricks: dip the tamper generously in flour each time before tamping a ball of dough, and wiggle the tamper around gently when attempting to lift it from inside the tamped dough “cup” which helps it release cleanly. I am now able to turn out a batch of these tassies with minimal effort.
I just smooth any ragged or uneven edges at the top of the cups using my index finger if I am fussy and want a uniform look or insure the filling doesn’t leak over the side of the crust. The more you use the tamper, the more you get the hang of it and become proficient at forming uniform crusts.
Streamlining the baking process
I like using non-stick mini muffin pans, either 24 cup or 48 cup so I get all of the batch baked at one time. These pans also help when dividing the filling and nuts evenly among the crusts because I don’t have to worry about running out of filling (or having some left over) like I often did when baking only a dozen at a time in smaller pans.
I still lightly spray the non-stick cups with baking spray just to help the cookies release in the event a little of the sticky filling leaks out or over the crust.
I add all the chopped pecans in the recipe right to the filling; some people prefer to reserve some chopped pecans to sprinkle on the top of the filling before baking, others top each tassie with a additional pecan half or even a maraschino cherry half (well drained!)
Why not bake up a batch of these easy-to-create, luscious little morsels today for inclusion on your holiday cookie tray!
Pecan TassiesCourse: DessertCuisine: General, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy
Bite-sized, flaky cream cheese crusts cradle ooey-gooey pecan pie-like filling.
6 ounces cream cheese ,softened
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter ,softened
2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
- Pecan Filling
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup medium chopped pecans
2 whole eggs, large
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter ,melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
OPTIONAL: 2 Tablespoons bourbon
- In a small bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth; blend together flour and salt, then gradually blend flour and salt into cream cheese mixture until well incorporated Refrigerate, covered, 1 hour or until firm enough to roll.
- Meanwhile Prepare Filling
- For filling, in a small bowl, mix egg, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and salt until blended. Add bourbon if using. Stir the chopped pecans into the mixture until well blended.
- Preheat oven to 375°. Shape dough into 48 1-in. balls; press evenly onto bottoms and up sides of greased mini muffin cups.
- Spoon filling into each crust about 2/3 full (evenly divide the filling across the 48 cups).
- Bake 15-20 minutes or until edges are golden and filling is puffed. Cool in pans 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.
- To freeze for later use
- Cool cookies completely. Place in freezer-safe containers placing wax paper between layers. Before serving, thaw in covered containers.
- This recipe can easily be down-sized to make 24 tassies by dividing all ingredients used by half. Form, fill, and bake per original directions.