Wow, it is really Thanksgiving week?
How did this happen?
I just saw one of the last signs of warm weather—the final pink rose in bloom on my neighbor’s rosebush that straddles our backyards. It gives me a pang for the lost green of summer. I’m trying to embrace the new season, but I have to admit the upcoming snow and cold gives me pause. But that’s part of living in wonderful Wisconsin and on we must go.
If there’s one good thing about the changing weather, it’s that it ushers in the holiday season. During the summer, we rush around enjoying the outdoors and the festivals. The holidays remind us to get together with family and friends and celebrate all the good things we have in our lives and each other.
One way to embrace the season is cooking with all the great squash, pumpkin and sweet potatoes available right now. Apples are also a great choice. I just got back from the co-op where I bought local Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Cortland and Ambrosia apples. Not only was I shopping for myself but my contribution to our family Thanksgiving dinner. I’m making a sweet potato dish and a pecan chocolate toffee tart. For my huge family, this will be a small gathering–maybe only 25 people. I know that probably sounds large, but it’s only a fraction of my siblings and their families.
Whether your gathering is large or small, near or far away, I hope you enjoy the day and all for which we are thankful.
Here are the recipes I’ll be making for our family dinner:
- Cooking spray
- 3 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 5 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mist an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.
Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a pot with a large steamer basket in place. Put the sweet potatoes in the basket, cover and steam until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and let cool slightly. Add the honey, egg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the nutmeg, ginger and 1/2 teaspoon salt; whip with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread the sweet potato mixture in the prepared baking dish.
Mix the brown sugar, pecans and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl; sprinkle over the potatoes. Bake until hot and beginning to brown around the edges, 40 to 45 minutes.
For the Dough:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large egg, beaten
For the Filling:
- 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
Make the dough: Pulse the flour, cocoa, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter; pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal with pea-size bits of butter. Add the egg and pulse once or twice. (Stop before the dough gathers into a ball.) Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
Place the dough on a large sheet of lightly floured parchment paper. Roll into a 12-inch round, no more than 1/8 inch thick. Invert the dough over a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and peel off the parchment; press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. (If the dough tears, just pat it back together.) Trim the excess dough. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.
Position racks in the middle and lower third of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Line the crust with foil, then fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake on the middle rack, 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking until crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Prepare the filling: Coarsely chop 1cup pecans. Combine the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla and kosher salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the mixture turns dark amber, 6 to 8 minutes. Immediately stir in the chopped pecans and cook 1 to 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the corn syrup and brown sugar until dissolved. Cool until lukewarm, then whisk in the eggs and bourbon until combined. (The tart can be made 1 day ahead up to this point; cover and refrigerate the filling and wrap the cooled crust in plastic wrap.)
Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and pour in the filling up to the brim. Arrange the remaining 1/2 cup pecan halves on top. Bake on the lower oven rack until the tart is evenly browned and slightly domed in the center, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.