Make adorable little pie tarts using my favorite homemade pie crust and a salted pecan filling inspired by Grandma.
Pecan pie is the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. Though nothing will ever beat apple pie or pumpkin pie in my mind, classic pecan pie holds a very special place in my heart this time of year.
Grandma Harlett made it like no one else. I started my blog two weeks after she passed, which would be two years ago at the end of this month. I treasure her timeless recipe, in her own handwriting.
Pecan pies tend to be overwhelmingly sweet. Don’t get me wrong, I have a mouth full of sweet teeth! But I find that most pecan pies lack a complexity of flavors, so I slightly went off the beaten path and added a touch of coarse sea salt. The small touch of salt makes each bite so interesting. I’m a total sucker for sweet & salty treats.
I also made teeny tiny individual tarts. I really had no purpose for one large pie this past weekend, but there is always a need for delicate little tarts, right? People love little bite-sized things. I think they are a fun alternative to the traditional and I can’t wait to make these again in a few weeks.
Grandma’s Pie Crust, of course.
The crust for these pecan pies is made 100% from scratch, just how grandma made her pies. This pie crust is my go-to recipe, made from a mix of butter and shortening. Why shortening? Shortening aids in creating flakiness. Flaky, tender, melt-in-your mouth crust. Why butter? Butter imparts unparalleled, impeccable flavor. Nothing beats butter. My butter & shortening pie crust is the best of both worlds. It’s nothing new – tons of folks do it this way. And it’s the way I like it.
The first step in this bite-sized recipe is to make the pie crust. You’ll need half of my homemade crust recipe to make these tarts. I made 1 whole pie crust recipe because using half of the pie crust for each batch gave me two tries to perfect the filling. When all was said and done, I had over 50 pecan pie tarts! And thankfully – a swarm of hungry friends. You may simply start with half of my crust recipe, as called for below.
(Instead of using my crust recipe, you can use your own or even use a store-bought crust to save time. Keep in mind you’ll need 1 pie crust, not two.)
Making pie crust from scratch is much easier than you think! I have a very detailed page for how to make my own. Filled with in-process photos and tips so you can have a visual of what you’re supposed to be doing.
Basically, here’s what you’ll do. Roll pie crust dough into a large 12 inch circle on a floured surface. From the circle, cut 24-30 rounds using a 2.5 inch cookie cutter.I don’t own a cookie cutter that was the correct size to fit into the mini muffin pans appropriately. I used my 1/3 cup measuring cup. You’ll have to re-roll the dough scraps a few times. Work quickly, as the dough becomes much more delicate the longer it is at room temperature. Place the dough rounds into a 24-count mini muffin pan. Press the dough flat into the bottom of the crevice and up the sides. Then chill the entire pan in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Temperature is important when working with pie crust; it must always be chilled for this recipe.
The filling is a reduced version of my Grandma’s with just a few tiny changes. The reason it’s reduced is because you don’t need as much filling as you would an entire pie. You won’t need any liquid sugars, which is common in pecan pie fillings. Rather, you’ll need brown sugar, an egg, melted butter, pecans, vanilla, and nutmeg. Total health food.
I like to add a sprinkle of cinnamon to my pecan pie tart filling because cinnamon is life (didn’t you know that by now?!?!). I think you’ll love the warmth and spice it gives each tart; my friends certainly did!
As the tarts bake, the filling puffs up and may spill onto the sides. That’s OK. It creates an irresistible brown sugared crust. Yes, brown-sugared-buttery-flaky crust. (!!!) Be careful not to overbake the little guys. Pecan pie filling should be soft with pecan chunks inside. Not hard, crispy, or burnt. Creamy, but not quite liquid. You got it? It’s important to stand nearby the oven as they bake. Once you see the crust begin to slightly brown after about 15 minutes, the tarts are done.
They’re truly not that difficult to make! It takes a bit of time chilling, rolling, and shaping the dough into tiny circles. That’s when having little bakers nearby is helpful. All the shaping is completely worth it because the result is just so darn tasty and cute.
Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without pecan pie. Now you can avoid the sugar headache by adding a touch of sea salt and shrinking your pie into bite-sized tarts. Perfect for portion control. And um, dangerous for portion control??
I know Grandma Harlett would be proud. Two years ago, I had no idea how to make pie crust from scratch. And now it feels like second nature. You’ll find a few of Grandma’s recipes in my cookbook including her favorite thing to bake on Christmas mornings.
Salted Pecan Pie Tarts
Make adorable little pie tarts using my favorite homemade pie crust and a salted pecan filling inspired by my Grandma.
- 1/2 recipe homemade pie dough (step-by-step photos included)
- 2 Tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup (96g) chopped pecans
- coarse salt for sprinkling
- Make the homemade pie dough. Once chilled, place the dough onto a floured work surface. Roll into a large 12 inch circle. From the circle, cut 24-30 rounds using a 2.5 inch cookie cutter. I used my 1/3 cup measuring cup, which is 2.5 inches in diameter. You'll have to re-roll the dough scraps a few times. Work quickly, as the dough becomes much more delicate the longer it is at room temperature.
- Place the dough rounds into a greased 24-count mini muffin pan(s). Press the dough flat into the bottom of the crevice and up the sides. Then chill the entire pan in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Once the dough has chilled for 20 minutes, pre-bake the tart crusts for 7 minutes. This allows the bottom of the crust to be properly baked and not become soggy from the liquidy pecan filling.
- Prepare the filling by melting the butter in a small bowl in the microwave or using a stovetop. Allow to slightly cool for a few minutes. Whisk the brown sugar, egg, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the melted butter, then stir in the pecans.
- Remove the tart crusts from the oven when they're finished and spoon 1-2 teaspoons of the filling into each. Top with coarse salt.
- Turn the oven up to 350°F (177°C) and bake the tarts for 14-16 more minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Once you see the crust begin to slightly brown after about 15 minutes, the tarts are done. Mine took 15 minutes exactly.
- Allow the tarts to cool completely in the pan before serving. (A spoon helps get them out easily.) Top with a dollop of whipped cream or even a small drizzle of pure maple syrup. Leftovers are great for up to 3 days - store covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
- Make ahead tip: The filling can be made 1 day in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator. Pie crust can also be made in advance, see make ahead instructions in its recipe. You can freeze the tarts for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- I've been asked this a lot, and this filling would not fit an entire pie. You’d likely need to double the ingredients and sub in some sort of liquid sweetener to keep the filling moist.
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Q: What’s your favorite kind of pie?