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Kabocha Pecan Tart

An autumnal remix.

I imagine this must be how DJs create music.

For weeks I'd been carrying around this vague craving in my head to bake something with kabocha squash, my favorite fall vegetable. As an aside, my obsession with kabocha can be traced to the life-altering kabocha toast at ABC Kitchen. Ever since making it at home for the first time a few years ago, I've been roasting this squash and making all kinds of things with it: soups, salads, purees. But I've never baked a dessert with this sweet, silky vegetable. 

 

At the same time as the markets started filling up with gourds and pumpkins, I'd been on a roll with roasted nuts and the deep flavor they lend to everything. So the question, to me, was obvious: could I somehow combine these two obsessions and create the most autumnal dessert *ever*?

Then I remembered a hazelnut crumb tart with a fruit filling I once made and the wheels started turning: how about a nutty tart with a squash filling? Somehow pecans felt more seasonally appropriate for the task than hazelnuts. Will this work?


Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. On a baking sheet, roast the pecans in the oven until nicely fragrant, about 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely.
  3. While pecans are roasting, prep the squash (sorry, this is annoying AF, but gets easier with practice): 
    • Using a large solid knife, with the squash on its side, cut off the top and bottom of the squash.
    • With the squash sitting on either of the cut sides, using a vegetable peeler, gradually peel the hard shell of the squash.
    • Cut the squash in half.
    • Using a large spoon, scoop out the seeds and the other seed junk.
    • With the cut side down, slice the squash into 1 inch circles and then cut those into 1 inch squares.
  4. Toss the squash with olive oil and spread evenly on a large baking sheet. Roast at 350F for 30 minutes, or until the squash is starting to brown and easy to insert a fork into. Let cool completely.
  5. Prepare the crust:
    • In a food processor, grind 1/2 the pecans until coarsely chopped. 
    • Add flour, the sugars, cinnamon and salt and mix again, until all ingredients are evenly mixed and the nuts are finely ground.
    • Empty the contents of the processor into a large bowl and using your fingers work the butter into the dry mixture. The dough will be relatively wet.
  6. Fill the tart pan(s). If using 4-inch pans, split into 10 equal sized mounds (a scale helps tremendously with this). Press the dough into the pan(s), making sure to distribute it around evenly, both on the bottom and up around the sides. Rest in the fridge while preparing the filling.
  7. Prepare the filling. In a food processor, mix squash, sugar, yolks, cream, spices and salt.
  8. Fill the tarts. Use an offset spatula to spread the filling.
  9. Cover the top of the tarts with the remaining half of pecans.
  10. Bake in 350F oven until the crust is nicely browned and a fork inserted in the filling comes out clean - roughly 15 minutes for the smaller tarts and 45 minutes for a single tart.

Crust

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling

  • 3 pounds kabocha squash, about 2 1/2 cups when baked
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Tools or gadgets

  • 1 11-inch tart pan or 10 4-inch tartlet pans with removable bottoms
  • vegetable peeler
  • food processor
  • 2 baking sheets

References

The crumb crust is based on this. The filling is a variation of this.