My favorite mango, by far, is the one called Ataulfo in Mexico. It also goes by the name of champagne or honey mango in other countries. When ripe, its meat is intensely golden yellow with a nice thick bite. It is juicy and has a lightly tart, yet intense, sweetness that is hard not to love. Different from other mangoes, it is not fibrous at all.
Being obsessed with words and names, I did a bit of research on the origin of the name Ataulfo, as it doesn’t mean or translate to anything. Well, it turns out that Ataulfo is a name. The Ataulfo mango was first discovered and historically recorded on a man named Ataulfo Morales’ property in the town of Tapachula in the southeastern tropical state of Chiapas.
The story goes that, in the late 1940s, he found a few of these fruits and became smitten with how sweet and succulent they are. Now, there were other mangoes in Mexico, brought by the Spanish through their trade with the East when Mexico was a colony of Spain. Yet, it seems that the Ataulfo came to be from a natural mutation or hybridization process.
A decade after it was found on Ataulfo Morales’ property, an agronomist named Hector Cano Flores helped popularize it by growing a large quantity of the Atauflo mango trees. And then, another decade later, the first commercial project took place.
By the 1970s, when yours truly was born, this mango had extended its reach well beyond the state of Chiapas and was being consumed in Mexico City, where I lived. Still, Chiapas remains the main producer and the biggest exporter of the fruit, and it also has a denomination of origin, just like champagne!
Oh how we loved Ataulfos. Me and my sisters used to eat them in so many ways. We’d have them in fruit salads, or we’d eat the sides sliced and covered in thick and creamy rompope – Mexican style eggnog – or garnished with lime, salt and ground chile. But, the most frequent way was just stuck on a special mango fork, peeled and gobbled up.
Did you know there is a special kind of fork just for mangoes? It is long and shaped like a trident. The two outer prongs are short and help hold the mango meat in place, while the middle prong is much longer and meant to go through the seed to hold the mango steady.
When I was a teenager, I became a fan of fruit tarts. I had found a recipe for a light and elegant fruit tart in one of my mom’s Austrian cookbooks – that she inherited from her mother – and made it my showpiece.
Whenever I needed to bring something to a dinner or a party, the fruit tart would come. I had mastered it! However, the recipe, of course, didn’t have mango. And I felt like the fruit that needed to be in there the most was the glorious Ataulfo mango. So, I started adding it in addition to the grapes, bananas and kiwis.
Slowly, but surely, the mango started taking over. Until finally, a few years ago, I decided to make a full-fledged mango tart. Why pretend that it was a fruit tart when the only fruit I wanted in there was mango? I could stop coveting the mango pieces from other people’s slices.
While I was at it, I also decided to make the crust entirely pecan. Of course, the traditional pastry cream stays right in the middle of the two.
Oh how I love this tart. It merely does justice to its crown, the Ataulfo mango from Chiapas.
Mango Pecan Tart
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- 3 large, ripe champagne or Kent mangoes
For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups pecans
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- Pinch kosher or coarse sea salt
- 1 large egg
- 4 tablespoons cold butter
For the Pastry Cream:
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the glaze:
- 1/4 cup apricot jam
- 1/4 cup white wine from a bottle that you would like to drink
For the crust:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the pecans in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until finely ground. Add the flour, sugar and salt and pulse again a few times until combined. Add an egg and the butter, pulse again a few times until thoroughly mixed and the butter has broken into the smallest of pieces, making it hard to distinguish it from the mix. The mix should resemble a coarse meal; it will not appear to be a homogeneous dough, but it will be all crumbles. That’s what you want.
- Turn all the pecan mix into a tart pan with a removable ring. Press into bottom of the pan with your hands, leveling it all around. As you press, the mix will start looking like dough. Press a bit to the sides to form a 1/4-inch border all around.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until cooked through and appears to be lightly golden. Let it cool completely.
For the pastry cream:
- In a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, pour in the milk and vanilla, stir well with a whisk and let it come to a simmer. Just until it begins bubbling around the edges. Remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks along with the sugar and the cornstarch. Slowly, in a thin stream and with the help of a ladle, pour the milk into the beaten eggs, whisking along to combine thoroughly until all the milk mixture has been poured. Transfer it all back into saucepan. Set over medium heat, stirring occasionally and keeping a good eye on it, let it come to a simmer. Simmer for about 1 to 2 minutes, until it thickens to thick cream consistency. You may stir with a spatula as it simmers so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Remove from heat. Let it cool, wrap with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until ready to use.
For the glaze:
- In a small saucepan, combine the jam with the wine. Set it over medium heat. Stir or whisk a couple times, until it dissolves and it begins to simmer. Let it simmer 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
To assemble the tart:
- When ready to assemble the tart, vertically slice the cheeks of the mangoes. With a small knife, cut around the cheeks to make it easy to remove from the skin, and scoop out with a spoon. Cut the cheeks into slices.
- Pour the pastry cream onto the crust. Place the mango slices, going around the tart until you reach the center. With a pastry brush, brush the glaze all over the mangoes. If the glaze has cooled, heat for a few seconds until it becomes liquid again.
- Place the tart in the refrigerator at least for an hour to set and chill.