Sweet Southern Pecan Tassies
Pecan Tassies are a favorite Southern cookie, especially during the season of Christmas.
So, What Are Pecan Tassies Anyway?
It is thought that Pecan Tassies are an adaptation of the French-American recipe for Pecan Pie. Despite not being from a southern state by birth, I have ALWAYS known of these addictive two-bite cookies.
I call them a cookie because I bake them along with cookies. Maybe this is because I have been baking from the pages of Southern Living Magazine since I was ten. Well, that and I watched Martha Stewart include them in her cookie gifts on an early episode of Martha Stewart Living in the 1980s. And, just like the previous season, I always ask myself why I do not assemble them more often than at Christmastime. After all, they are simple to make and yield 24 SCRUMPTIOUS miniature bites.
This holiday season, I thought it best to finally answer the questions I receive about the kind of baking I do. I received yet another inquiry last week and so decided to (roughly!) video my six or seven or eight recipes that will make up the better part of my gift tins.
I am planning one dozen gift tins this year, so a few less than in previous years. The work is not any less daunting, so I tend to select recipes that are straightforward to assemble, are NOT multi-step, are very pleasing visually, and TASTE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! Hey guys, I just turned 50 in November, so I have to pick and choose my cookie battles carefully!
What I Include In My Cookie Gifting Tins At The Holidays
This year, my bottom layer will consist of Date & Nut Loaf, Christmas Bread, and my Pecan Dessert Bites. The top layer will be traditional Christmas cookies, Pecan Tassies, Church Street Cheesecake Squares, and Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls.
I order tins directly from Amazon (like these) because they arrive quickly and there is ample selection without breaking my wallet. I have included a few of the designs I have purchased for this year as well as tins I have purchased in the past.
The best is a tin storage unit that arrives with a dozen holiday-themed empty tins that are THE PERFECT SIZE for gifting. I include a poem thoughtfully written inside each card instructing the receiver to return the tin to my front porch once the cookies are eaten, so that this Elf (me :-)) can happily refill it for them again next year. Then, I easily store them in that handy storage unit. Whoever came up with this is genius.
Why Tins For Food Gifting Over Boxes?
If you are like me, you receive LOTS of cookies and sweets. Tins keep them from going stale too quickly. Boxes are no more than cardboard which ultimately, is paper. Paper absorbs. I have tried boxes. I find boxes absorb the moisture from the baked goods and leave me with stale products in fewer than a day or two. After spending all of that money in ingredients and time in the kitchen, no boxes for me. I want to bake the best bars and cookies and nut tassies, and have them be delicious by the time my receiver digs in.
How Long Will Pecan Tassies Keep?
I absolutely know I have to answer these questions, but I am snickering to myself. WHY?? Because these will not last long enough to have these questions even come up! Think I am kidding? Picture this; each tiny cup of a mini muffin pan is lined with a soft dough made with cream cheese and unsalted butter and a dusting of all purpose flour. Then, each little cup is filled with a filling that can only be described as ‘Heavenly.’ Light brown sugar, eggs, chopped pecans, a dash of vanilla extract are baked off for just around 20 minutes.
I like to sample one or five while they are still warm, the filling pooling out after a take a first bite. Lawdy! Trust me, there is a WHOLE LOTTA LOVE baked inside each and ever one of those lil muffin cups. Oh, and to answer the questions…no refrigeration and they will keep for up to two weeks in a tin with a snug-fitting lid. You may even freeze tassies for up to one month.
How Do You Make Pecan Tassies?
Gather a couple of mini muffin tins, soften some cream cheese and unsalted butter to room temperature, and bring it home with some deliciously sweet chopped pecans. I like to measure one cup pecans because I over-stuff my tassies, but 2/3 of a cup is all that is required. Now, I went looking for pecans at three local groceries last week. I was shocked, SERIOUSLY SHOCKED, to find that shelves were bare of pecans. I should not have been surprised, as many shelves here in the Palmetto State are void of product due to folks laying low and self quarantining again. Shutdowns in other places are definitely affecting availability.
If you cannot find pecans, or if you can only find the super expensive and tiny “baker bags,” do this: 1/3 cup pecans and 1/3 cup walnuts. Whirl them up in the Cuisinart and do not think another thing about it. Walnuts are the most similar in buttery texture to pecans. And combined with every other lux ingredient in these little guys, nobody but YOU will be the wiser. I know, I never said these were low in calories. Hey, it’s the Holidays…
Despite not being from a southern state by birth, I have ALWAYS known about Pecan Tassies, an addictive lil two-bite holiday cookie.
This pecan tassie recipe yields 24 tiny ‘nut cups.’ They are super rich and loaded with sweet and nostalgic ‘tastes of home.’ You will find many a recipe for pecan tassies or pecan cups as the folks here in Carolina refer to them, all over the internet. All are similar in ingredient and in assembly except for one step in the method. For the best pecan tassies, do you fill the cups with nuts separate from the brown sugar filling, or mix the nuts into the filling before spooning it into the cups?
The answer is to make your nut cups based on what kind of time you have to get ALL of your baking done. In my above video for easy pecan tassies, I demonstrate the former and traditional method, which is filling the nuts and the filling separately. The result are heavily textured pecan tassie cookies. If you prefer a smooth top, mix the nuts directly into the filling and spoon individually. This step also cuts way back on the time for this recipe for tassies. And by the way…either method TASTES EXACTLY THE SAME.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
On the left, a smooth tassie; mix the chopped nuts directly into the filling and spoon into the muffin cups. On the right, a textured tassie; fill the muffin cups half way with chopped nuts, spoon some filling in over the nuts, then more nuts on top. Both methods taste exactly the same, it is only the final visual product that looks different.
Ingredients for Pecan Tassies
for the dough
- 3 ounces cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 1 cup flour sifted
for the filling
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- salt just a dash
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2/3 cup pecans chopped; may use half walnuts and half pecans
for the dough
- Using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together. Sift in flour and beat well. Gather into a ball and wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- After chilling, cut dough into fourths using a bench scraper. From each quarter, cut siz equal pieces. Roll into balls. If a few of the dough balls are considerably larger than others, simply pinch off a bit of dough from a large dough ball and add it to a smaller ball.
- Place balls in small, ungreased mini muffin tins. Press dough into sides and bottoms of each cup. **NOTE: if you have a honey dipper, I have found this an excellent tool for evenly pressing the dough into the muffin cups, as demonstrated in my video above.
for the filling
- Heat oven to 325°F. Have ready mini muffin pan(s) to accommodate 24 pieces.
- Using a handheld mixer, cream the brown sugar and the egg. Add the butter, salt, and vanilla and cream until light and fluffy.
- Divide half the chopped nuts into the pastry-lined muffin tins. Add a spoonful of the sugar mixture atop each pile of nuts. Top evenly among the cups with the remainder of nuts.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the filling is largely set and the tops are light golden brown.
- Remove from the pans by gently flipping. Allow the tassies to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
- Store wrapped in plastic film on the counter, or in tins for up to 1 week. Tassies may be frozen for up to one month.
I make pecan tassies every year, like my mother before me. One question… Sometimes, after a day or two, the brown sugar gets grainy in the filling. This ruins them for me! How do you keep that from happening??
Lou, I am so glad you asked this question, as I wondered if anybody would ask me about ‘the trick.’ My great aunt used to place the brown sugar in a non-stick saucepan with 1 to 2 teaspoons of water AND the butter. ‘The trick’ she would say, is to begin with a whisk and end with a wooden spoon. In other words, she would whisk and stir until the sugar was largely dissolved. Sometimes, this took upwards of 10+ minutes. She allowed the mixture to cool slightly, then added a tablespoon or so of the mixture to the egg to temper just in case. Then all was combined. I have seen this method on recipe cards before. What I can tell you is that the difference between my aunts tassies and the method I have highlighted here, is that her filling was smoother like syrup versus viscous like a cherry cordial. Does that make sense? The flavor was absolutely as fantastic. Thank you for bringing this up. I went back and forth with adding it to the notes. If you assemble tassies this way, will you let me know how they turn out for you? 🙂
Absolutely! Thank you for the reply… I have used this method in the past (minus the water) but found it tricky when adding it to the egg. I guess I didn’t temper properly! I will try your method (with water!) and add it a spoonful at a time to better temper it.
Thank you for your suggestion!
Oh Lou, I am so, so glad you will try the method with this single alteration. As we both know, it takes a lot to thin brown sugar, so a teaspoon or two of water isn’t going to change its flavor, rather CHNAGE ITS CONSISTENCY OVER TIME. As I recall, it takes at least 10 or more minutes for that sugar to dissolve and it may not dissolve completely. The bake itself will get it the rest of the way to the consistency which I think you are looking for. If it works for you, would you mind letting me know how the process went? People don’t believe me when I tell them tassies are about the best darn thing you can pop into your mouth at Christmastime!
My mom has made these for years, but her filling is drier; how do you get it nice and gooey inside? Do you pack the brown sugar?
Kel, I’ve tasted the method for those Tassies which are less gooey. While I like them A LOT, there’s something about the gooey! The simple step of processing/creaming the egg with the brown sugar (I do pack mine) until it’s entirely creamy and light makes way for the added deliciousness of butter and vanilla to create that syrupy and gooey middle. It also helps that the pastries are baked in a low 325°F oven. They cook but are never given the chance to completely set up.
Are you planning to bake these up? I have oodles of pecans leftover from the holidays, so will plan to bake batches of these and the Butter Pecan Cookies until I’ve used them all! If you do make these, let me know how you enjoy them as compared to the less gooey middles – x – Jenny
Thank you so much. She usually only makes at Christmas time but maybe we will try again to see if we can get a gooey inside. Will let you know!
Make my mouth water! Pinned – Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party! Hope your weekend is fabulous.
Coming from Grammy’s Grid. #63 #64
I haven’t made these in years! They are definitely yummy just too work-intensive for my chronic pain management.
Thanks so much for linking up at A Themed Linkup 82 for All Things Thanksgiving. Pinned!
Made these today and used your great Aunt’s trick that you wrote in the comments. These will now be a yearly tradition for Christmas cookies. Yummy!
Renee, you flatter! THANK YOU! This is a beautiful compliment which I feel privileged to receive – Merry Christmas, Renee! x – Jenny