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A pecan crust may be used for many different types of tart recipes from sweet to savory. For savory meat or cheese tarts, ingredients such as brown sugar and cinnamon should be left out and replaced with dried herbs as well as a little salt and pepper. The main thing to keep in mind when planning fillings for a pecan crust is to not allow any ingredients to overwhelm the pleasant nuttiness of the tart shell.
For this reason, strong tasting vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage are best left out of a savory tart filling in favor of something milder such as green beans. Sweet potatoes and a pecan pie shell can make a perfect pairing for a rich, satisfying tart. Spinach and brie or Swiss cheese filling can be tasty in a pie shell made with pecans. Bacon is a meat that can be wonderful in a savory pecan crust as it may bring out the nutty flavor and add smokiness rather than be too overpowering in flavor.
Bourbon, rum, molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla can be delicious additions to fillings used for sweet tarts made with a crust of finely chopped pecans. A little ginger or cinnamon added to a pecan crust can enhance the flavor of the nuts. A butter tart filling made with raisins can be a good match for a pecan shell as an alternative to a traditional pie dough crust. Apple and cinnamon is another filling that may be made in a pecan style crust rather than a pie shell.
Other possible fruit filling ideas for pecan crusts are pumpkin, pear, peach and lemon. Berry fillings such as strawberry, cherry and blueberry can also work well in pecan pie shells. Serving any of these flavors of tarts with whipped cream can make a fruit pie pecan crust especially appealing. The sweetness of the whipped cream combined with the crunchiness of a pie crust made of nuts can make for interesting dessert textures and flavors.
Chocolate cream pie filling is a favorite for a pecan crust. Chopped pecans or pecan halves may be placed on top of the chocolate filling for a decorative garnish. Banana or coconut cream pecan-crusted pies can also be delicious. These are great filling ideas to use when pecan crusts are made ahead and kept in the freezer, as the shell must be baked and cooled before adding a cream pie filling.
If you're doing a savory tart, I recommend an onion tart with a pecan crust. They are really, really good, and the pecans pair perfectly with the onion -- especially when you add bacon. I can't remember where I found the recipe, but it was a winner. Great holiday recipe, incidentally.
Go ahead and invest in a tart pan, too. They're not terribly expensive and they really do make a nice-looking dish when you remove the tart from them. Make sure the pan has a removable bottom. That's key. I didn't get a nonstick pan. I just make sure I grease it very well, and get into all the fluted corners. That's the toughest part -- kind of like getting all the nooks and crannies of a Bundt pan.
The nice thing about using a nut-based crust for a tart or similar is that it is low-carb, and since it is, a sweet dish can be made lower carb, too.
There are cream cheese-based desserts that look and taste much like a cheesecake, but are not baked, and so it's easy to use artificial sweetener for them, since it's only for sweetening and not for color or texture. The chemistry is much simpler when you're not actually baking something. I've used a no-bake cheescake recipe before and have used a lightly baked pecan crust, with very good results. Pecans are so good for this because their flavor really compliments the cheescake.
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