Do you keep a dream journal? Do you ever actually remember your dreams? Do you wake up and try to grasp wildly at what your mind just threw at you, only to end up with a string of phrases—amusement park red roller coaster, swimming through golf islands, subway platform connecting hall—that sound more like a nonsensical haiku?
I’ve given up trying to make sense of whatever I dreamt about any given night, unless someone can explain the meaning behind my recurring dream about the same imaginary amusement park and red roller coaster.
But because I’m always dreaming about food—even when I’m awake and (mostly) lucid—I keep a journal of another sort, writing down snippets of recipes I want to experiment with someday.
Sometimes the ideas are fully formed, and other times they’re just nascent blobs of a thought; frequently they’re just a list of flavors or ingredients that I want to pair in some format.
I know I’ll forget my strokes of genius in the rush of finishing up whatever work I’m dealing with at the moment, so my scribblings and text notes of stuff like “pecan bourbon blue cheese tart” become treasure maps to follow down a winding path of discovery many months later.
How, for example, would I manage to pair some of my most beloved savory fall flavors—namely the smoky nuttiness of Jasper Hill Creamery’s Bayley Hazen Blue cheese and the bracing warmth of a generous pour of bourbon, AKA a frequent lazy/splurge dinner—in dessert form?
A gingersnap crust with a hint of spice and salt, a thin layer of maple- and bourbon-infused custard, and pecans in every damn component of the dessert, that’s how. They act as the literal and metaphorical binding elements for the savory stars of the show, reining in the boldness while keeping that funkiness present and quite pleasant.
If you love blue cheese, you’ll be jazzed at how well it comes through here; if you’re ehhhhhh on that whole veined cheese deal, just take a bite. I swear you’ll be intrigued enough to take another.
(What blue cheese to choose? If you can’t get Bayley Hazen, look for another mellow, minerally blue like mountain Gorgonzola, Fourme d’Ambert, Stilton, or Cashel, or even a smoked blue like Rogue Creamery’s version for extra crazy oomph.)
And yes, a glass of bourbon pairs very well with a slice of tart, in case you were wondering.
- 20 whole gingersnap cookies
- 1 cup (3 3/4 ounces; 106 grams) toasted pecans
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup (1 1/8 ounces; 30 grams) oat flour
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces; 85 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces; 50 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces; 113 grams) sour cream
- 2 tablespoons dark maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon good bourbon, like Woodford
- 1 cup crumbled good blue cheese, like Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue
- 1/2 cup (1 5/8 ounces; 46 grams) coarsely chopped toasted pecans
- 1/2 cup (1 5/8 ounces; 46 grams) whole pecans
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon maple sugar (optional; can use an additional 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar in its place)
Make the crust:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Break the gingersnaps into large pieces with your hands, then grind to crumbs in a food processor with the pecans, salt, and flour.
- Pour the crumbs into a large bowl and stir in the butter.
- With your hands, press the buttery crumbs into a 9- to 9 1/2-inch tart pan.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the crust is matte and toasted. The crust may puff up slightly when baked; use the bottom of a dry measuring cup to press it back into shape, especially around the edges.
- Cool completely before filling. The crust can be made 1 day in advance of baking; cool and cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and store at room temperature until ready to fill.
Make the filling:
- Beat the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minute, until very pale, thick, and frothy.
- With a spatula, stir in the sour cream, bourbon, and maple syrup until blended.
- Fold in the blue cheese and pecans.
- Pour the filling into the prepared tart crust.
- Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling is uniformly puffed and set, with patches of golden brown appearing across its surface.
- Carefully transfer the tart to a rack and cool completely before garnishing and serving. The tart will deflate as it cools—don't worry, it's totally normal.
Make the garnish:
- Heat the pecans in a small skillet over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, tossing frequently, until the nuts are very warm to the touch and starting to release their natural oils and aroma.
- Add the 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar 1/4 teaspoon at a time, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to coat the nuts in the sugar as it melts in the hot pan.
- Pour the 1/2 teaspoon maple sugar or additional granulated sugar into a small heatproof bowl.
- Add the nuts and toss to coat until they're crystallized.
- Top the tart with pecans in a design of your choice and eat any leftovers—cook's bonus!