This pecan tart marries a love for Southern pecan pie to an ardor for French pastry. This darling of the Thanksgiving table is at once humble, yet more sophisticated, than its Georgia cousins. Best part: Greater pastry to filling ratio means more crunch in every bite.
To make the dough, it’s best to get everything ready before you start. Sift the flour, salt and sugar together; cut the butter into small chunks and store in the coldest spot in the fridge until ready to go; beat egg with 3 tablespoons of cold water; and keep a small bowl of ice water with a tablespoon measure on hand. Now you’re ready to begin.
Simply pull the butter out of the fridge and cut it into the flour mixture using a pastry blender. When the mixture looks a little like sand mixed with marble-sized butter chunks, add the egg mixture. If the dough doesn’t come together in one mass, add a little more water, a teaspoon at a time until it does. Take the whole dough and smear it on the counter once or twice to bring it together, then gather into a ball and flatten to a disk. Cover and chill at least 20 minutes, but up to a day.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 425°F. Roll the dough out to about 14 inches. Gently lay it inside of an 11-inch tart pan with removable sides. Gently press the sides against the ring, then run a rolling pin across the top. Pierce the bottom with a fork a few times, and lay a piece of parchment in the bottom. The easiest way to do this is to crumble a piece of parchment, then flatten it back out and pop it in the shell. Fill the parchment-lined shell with dried beans or ceramic pie weights. Prebake the tart shell at 425°F for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375°F and bake another 10 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, remove the beans and parchment, and let it cool about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, drop the oven temperature to 350°F. Make the filling by plopping the butter into a medium sauté pan and swirling it around until the butter smells like all good things come to a head. It will be more buttery than butter and like you’re sitting in a nut grove at summer’s harvest. There will be a slight aroma of butterscotch and its savoriness is captivating. Take a minute to notice. It will look golden amber and when you reach the apex of all that, and not a second later, you should remove the brown butter from the heat and put it in a bowl. Stand back and admire your work. Then let it cool to room temperature while you crack the eggs and measure the sugar, syrup, salt, vanilla bean and bourbon into another bowl. When cooled to room temperature, whisk the butter into the mixture. Drop in the toasted pecans.
Pour it into the tart shell and bake another 35-40 minutes until golden and totally set in the center. Please note that the filling might puff up towards the end of cooking time, but will fall again once it cools. Enjoy with a huge dollop of real whipped cream.
Note: the dough scraps taste divine when brushed with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and rolled into a cigar that you can cut into 1-inch pieces and bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes.