COCOA BEAN TASSIES

Makes 24 small pastries

I applied my own sleight of hand to a long-remembered delicacy called pecan tassies from Margaret Fox's Cafe Beaujolais Cookbook. Even Margaret approves of these miniature tartlets filled with a sweet gooey sauce offset with cracked cocoa beans.

For the pastry:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup plus 2 T. sugar
1 t. pure vanilla extract
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:
1 large egg white
3/4 cup packed light brown or golden brown sugar
1 T. unsalted butter, melted
1 cup cocoa nibs, chopped into small bits (Alchemist note: I think Carenero's richness would go well here)
1 t. pure vanilla extract
generous pinch of salt

Special equipment: Two 12-cup miniature muffin pans

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To make the pastry: Combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated.

Divide the dough in half and press each half into a flattened 4-inch square. Cut each square into 12 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Place one dough ball in each muffin cup and press it evenly over the bottom and all the way up the sides of the cup, forming a neat rim. Set aside.

To make the filling: In a medium bowl, beat the egg white until foamy. Stir in the brown sugar, melted butter, cocoa nibs, vanilla, and salt. Divide the filling evenly among the tartlet shells, using about 1 teaspoon for each.

Bake the tassies for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees F. and bake for 20 minutes more, or until the pastry is well browned on the edges and underneath (life one out with the point of a knife to check). Let cool in the pans on a rack. (Stored in an airtight container, these remain delicious for about 3 days, with the chocolate flavor intensifying from day to day).

Source: Medrich, p. 313.