Sunday, December 5, 2010

Maple Pecan Pie + Pie Crust

I love pecan pie. All throughout the holiday season I am bombarded with magazines telling me that it is literally the worst dessert I can eat but every time I see these warnings, I only crave it more. I think it is the little bit of Georgia in me... Georgia also comes out in me occasionally calling the featured nut pe-CANS. In this decade spanning love affair, there is a little hitch for me. I can look past the calories and the vast unhealthiness of it all but I simply can't get over the corn syrup. I was really determined to find a recipe for pecan pie without any corn syrup and I finally found one that sounded like something I would love. Not only does it not have corn syrup, but it does have one of my favorite flavors in the world: maple syrup. Boy o boy does that maple syrup make a difference.

This would be perfect for a Christmas pie!

The homemade pie crust was another big advantage that this pecan pie had over its corn syrup laden counterparts. Really I had always believed that it was so much easier to use store bought pie crusts so it was worth it to put up with their sup par tastes but for this homemade recipe, the exertion amounts to pulsing some ingredients in the food processor. Also, look at the cool pattern the food processor made, I think it looks lovely.

I learned something about pecan pies during this experience. I had always assumed that the nuts were meticulously arranged on top after adding the filling but actually the nuts float to the top. With this erroneous assumption though, I was terrified to pour in my filling because I thought my pecans would hang out on the bottom.
But the world was correct and the nuts floated up to the top of my pecan soup and worked just like a puzzle to fill in all of the crevasses.
And here is the final gorgeous tasty pie. I am eternally grateful to the website Closet Cooking where I got the recipe for the pie and the pie crust.

Pie Crust Ingredients
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
8 Tbsp chilled butter, cut into cubes
4-5 Tbsp cold water

1. In the bowl of a food processor, mix together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the butter and pulse 8-10 times, or until the mixture forms rough crumbs. Add a tablespoon of water at a time until the dough comes together and forms a ball of sorts.

2. Take the dough out of the bowl and flatten into a disc. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

3. When ready, Roll out the pie dough on a lightly floured surface to about a 12 inch circle with 1/8 inch thickness. Transfer the dough to a pie pan (I find folding it helps to move it). Keep cold until needed.

 Filling Ingredients
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp bourbon (optional)
1/4 cup butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven for about 8-12 minutes.

2. Heat the sugar, syrup, bourbon and butter in a saucepan until the mixture boils, then remove from heat and let cool.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, heavy cream, vanilla and salt together. When the syrup mixture is cool enough to not scramble the eggs, beat in the egg mixture.

3. Spread the toasted pecans on the bottom of the pie crust. Pour over the syrup mixture and wait a few seconds for all of the pecans to rise to the top (it's magical). Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.

Notes: the crust does not need to be prebaked. I put the pecans in the bottom of the crust pretty early but kept the crust refrigerated until I poured the liquid into it. Just be sure to keep it cool before baking so it can become the flaky, buttery crust it needs to become.

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