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The "I'm Vegan" and "I'm Not" Chocolate Pecan Tart

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One of my favorite desserts for the holidays is a chocolate and coconut pecan tart.

I found it on Epicurious a few Christmases ago and was intrigued because it was described as "pecan pie (dressed) up for the holidays." I tried it...it was a big hit...and the rest is history.

So...I knew I wanted to make a vegan version of this particular tart from the very beginning. The problem is, I only have one tart pan...and the holidays are fast approaching...so I wasn't sure if I'd have time to do both a standard and a vegan version. Plus, I was having a hard time offloading all of my goodies and I had no idea how I was going to get rid of two tarts, let alone one.

My solution? Half and half. I cut the recipe and made half vegan and half standard. This meant some fun with math! The crust was easy enough - I whisked two batches of flour, cocoa, sugar and salt together and then added egg yolks (or replacements) and butter or margarine.

Replacing egg yolks seemed like it would be trickier than whole eggs, but the only advice I found was the same flax-seed/water combo. One person even suggested adding yellow food color if it didn't seem yolky enough for me. (This spurred questions about whether it's okay to use the same recipe regardless of whether you need eggs, yolks or whites...and I'm afraid I still don't have a good answer. I tried writing the ladies of the Post Punk Kitchen, but didn't hear back in time. My first vegan follower on Twitter, however, said there are plenty of egg yolk replacements and suggested I check out VeggieBoards.)

You have to work the dough with your hands until clumps form and then you press it into a tart pan. To avoid confusion, I marked the vegan side with a "V," (making me the baker's man in the Pat-a-Cake rhyme?) but it was pretty easy to tell which side was which -- the butter crust was much darker.

It only had to bake for about 15 minutes, but my entire apartment smelled like chocolate. And when I took it out, the vegan side had cracked a lot.

Next up? Filling. Again, I cut the recipe in half and made two versions. The problem was that it called for three eggs...and I'd never really thought about how you halve a recipe that calls for an odd number of eggs before. The vegan version was easy - I just did a tablespoon and a half of flax seed and four and a half tablespoons of water...but for the other side, I added one egg and then sort of whisked another and poured about half in. I totally eyeballed it, so who knows. And it could have been my imagination, but the vegan side seemed thicker and stickier as I was stirring the corn syrup, sugar, coconut and pecans.

The filling itself is fairly dense...but I still had to figure a way to separate the sides. I ended up forming a little dam with two knives...which worked fairly well. This time, the vegan side was much darker. And there was sort of this area of confluence in the middle that reminded me of where the Chena and Nenana Rivers converge in Fairbanks, Alaska (one is muddier than the other and you can see them bleed into each other).

My plan was to offload this tart at a holiday party and even though the vegan side sort of muscled its way over and I could have just told everyone that the bigger half of the tart was vegan, I wanted a more creative solution. Then it hit me: I won a set of disembodied Santa and snowman heads (that are supposed to be used to decorate cupcakes) at the Cupcakes Take the Cake 4-year blogiversary party. And I had been thinking I should make cupcakes, too, so I could at least use them once before I had to put them away for a year...but! Then I realized that I could fashion little speech bubbles out of post-it notes and write, "I'm vegan!" on one and "I'm not!" on another and then stick the notes to one lucky Santa and one lucky snowman and put them on each side. (For some reason, the snowman seemed like the vegan one.) I was very proud of myself for coming up with this.

I was still worried it would be completely weird to show up at the party with a tart...but people actually ate it. And they even started doing a taste test to see who could tell which side was vegan...most people got it right. But the consensus was that the vegan version by itself was still pretty darn tasty. And that's always nice to hear.

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