This was my final exam in Pastry and Baking II in the Culinary Arts/Pastry program at UCLA Extension, taught by Chef Kathy Soo Hoo. It was one of the hardest classes I've ever had, but terrific. I was a tad relieved that we'd be able to work from a recipe for the final -- we come in, get the recipe, and make it, and we're evaluated on speed, efficiency, logic of work, cleanliness, cooking technique ... and of course, how the dish looks and tastes.

I got a "B". She nailed me for not chilling my crust before pre-baking, and for melting the chocolate and painting the crust before I made the filling (which I should have done while the filling was cooling slightly). I said that that's what the recipe said to do first, and she replied that the recipe is not always written in the most logical, efficient manner, that it's a blueprint, and that chefs have to learn what to do with recipes upon first sight. Good thing to remember, y'all.

Oh well, I was happy. Getting a "B" in Kathy's class is not bad at all.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

1.   Allow the baked tart shell to cool. Paint inside bottom of shell with melted chocolate. Set aside to cool.

2.   For filling: place piloncillo, corn syrup, cinnamon stick, cloves and peppercorns into small saucepan. Add water, cover and place over medium-low heat. Bring to simmer, uncover and stir until piloncillo has dissolved. simmer over medium heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve; add butter and cream. Stir until butter is melted. Let cool.

3.   Whisk together egg, egg yolks, salt, vanilla and flour. Stir into cooled sugar-spice mixture.

4.   Spread pecans decoratively over crust, pour on filling mixture, coating all nuts. Bake about 35 minutes, until filling is slightly puffed and no longer jiggles when tart is gently shaken. Cool completely. Serve with Kahlua whipped cream.

Yield: 8-12 servings.


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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)