If there’s one thing missing in my life, it would have to be pecan trees. I remember when I would pick them around this time of year in Tennessee – bags and bags of fallen nuts, free to pick and eat. I’d eat one pecan for every two shelled. It was the good (and nutty) life.
Pecans are much more expensive than most other nuts in the Bay Area, so I tend to buy walnuts, but they lack that maple-like flavor that pecans naturally possess. Pecans are also easier to shell. I’ve purchased a bag of fresh walnuts and a bag of fresh chestnuts, and I’ve already punctured myself once trying to obtain chestnuts. Self-injury is no way to start a recipe. I’m waiting for a slower day to attack the walnuts but they look so monstrous compared to the thin-shelled pecans.
Pecan vs. sweet potato pie is another Thanksgiving dilemma I am always trying to resolve, which brings me to this leafy tart. It’s inspired by a pistachio frangipane tart I saw in Brooklyn’s One Girl Cookies recipe book. I knew I had to try making it with sweet potatoes and pecans – two pies in one! I’m a sucker for beautiful presentatiosn so I wanted to make something reminiscent of fall with bright orange leaves laying on earthy frangipane. It would be like eating an edible forest floor that was covered in magic dessert fairy syrup.
This is my first time making the dish, so it was not perfect. I didn’t poach the sweet potatoes enough – they were still rather hard and chewy. This is a fairly simple fix so I’m pretty stoked about making this centerpiece for Thanksgiving.
1 1/2 c flour
1 TB sugar
1/2 ts salt
8 TB very cold butter, cubed
3 TB iced water
1 egg yolk
1/2 c shelled pecans
1/4 c sugar
zest of 1 orange
Poached Sweet Potatoes
Juice & rind of 1 orange
1/2 ts cardamom
1/2 ts cinnamon
pinch of allspice
pinch of nutmeg
1 c sugar
2 c water
+ Prepare the crust by pulsing flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter cubes and pulse until coarse crumbles are the size of peas. Whisk together ice water and egg yolk in a separate bowl. Add to food processor and pulse until dough holds its shape. Place dough onto a floured surface and work it into a 5″ disk. Wrap tightly with saran and place into the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
+ Next, prepare the poaching liquid. Bring orange rind, juice, spices, and 2 cups of water to a boil then turn off. Slice sweet potatoes as thinly as possible. Mine were about 1/16″. I did not use the mandolin because the potato was too large and I had chosen them for the width of my leaf cookie cutter. Use a metal cookie cutter, cut leaf shapes out of the thin slices of sweet potatoes. Sometimes, this is easier if you turn the sharp edge up, and place the potato onto the edge. Roll your pastry roller over the cookie cutter like you would to cut a tart pastry shell.
+ Bring your syrup back to a boil and poach the leaves for at least 4/5 minutes depending on the thickness of your leaves. I only poached mine for two minutes but it was not enough. Allow the potatoes to sit in syrup while you make the frangipane paste.
+ Turn on your oven to 350F
+ Prepare the frangipane in your food processor by pulsing pecans and sugar for about 1 minute. Add orange zest and butter, pulsing until well combined. Add egg and pulse until mixture is well combined. If you like your nuts coarse, this could be finished by hand in a small bowl.
+ Drain leaves* from syrup and arrange them in a circular fashion on top of the tart. Place 3 pecan halves in the center of the tart.
+ Drizzle two tablespoons over the sweet potatoes and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Rotate the tart and cover with foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes.
* The leaves should be very soft at this point… they will dry out with baking so do not hesitate to cook them a bit more. I’ve served this to a few people who did not think the leaves were undercooked, but you want to bake these with soft leaves that can stand a bit of drying out.