This week, Lynn Crawford visited a Texas pecan (pe-cahn’) farm on Pitchin’ In, and as usual, was given the dirtiest, hardest jobs imaginable. Her good spirits under these conditions are truly awe-inspiring. She raved about the pecan pie she was given during her visit, and managed to extract the family recipe which she swore to keep secret. Lynn was told that every family in the pecan-growing area has a “secret family recipe.”
I loved pecan pie from the moment I first tasted it. Anything with sugar is wonderful in my book, and pecan pie has lots of it. But over the last ten or twenty years, I’ve stayed away from pecan pie because I felt the calorie count was prohibitive. However, in researching, I found that I was wrong. This pecan pie has only 410 calories per slice – fewer that many other desserts that seem less decadent.
As might be imagined, there are many, many pecan pie recipes on the Web. This one appealed to me because of the maple syrup and dark rum. While it is sweet, it is not so sweet that it makes your teeth ache, and because there is a higher ratio of pecans to other ingredients, the pecan flavor is pronounced. For the pie shell, I used Julia’s Pâte Brisée Fine recipe since I had frozen half of my last batch (see Julia’s Peach Tartlets). After making the dough, I acquired a marble pastry board – something I’ve coveted for years – and I replaced my 26″ rolling pin (handles included) that I’d bought while taking pastry making classes, but given away during the time I thought I’d never bake again. It feels so much better to use the large rolling pin!
Since my husband doesn’t like nuts, the pie was shared with our church group. The reaction was uniformly positive.
Pâte Brisée Fine
For two 9-inch tart shells or a 14- by 4 1/2-inch rectangular crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached (scooped and leveled)
1/2 cup plain bleached cake flour
1 teaspoon salt (or, for dessert tarts, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons sugar)
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, quartered lengthwise and diced
1/4 cup (2 ounces) chilled vegetable shortening 1/2 cup ice water, plus droplets more, if needed
Special Equipment Suggested: A food processor with steel blade
Blending flour and butter.
Have all the ingredients measured out and ready to use (mise en place, mise en place, mise en place!].
Put the flour, salt (or salt and sugar), and diced butter in the container of the processor and pulse (on-off half-second clicks) 5 or 6 times to break up the butter roughly.
Add the shortening, turn on the machine, and immediately pour in the 1/2 cup of ice water, then pulse 2 or 3 times.
Remove the cover and feel the dough – it should look like a bunch of small lumps, and will just hold together in a mass when you press a handful together. (It’s important not to over mix; it should not mass on the blade of the machine.) If too dry, pulse in droplets more water. From now on, work rapidly to keep the dough cold and manageable.
Final Blending. Turn the dough out onto your work surface; press it into a rough mass. For the final blending, rapidly and roughly, with the heel (not the palm) of your hand, push egg-size clumps of dough out in front of you in a 6-inch smear.
Resting and Chilling.Form the dough into a cake – it should be fairly smooth and pliable.
Wrap in plastic, slide it into a plastic bag, and refrigerate.
Freshly made dough should chill 2 hours at least, allowing the flour particles to absorb the liquid, as well as to firm the butter and relax the gluten.
Maple-Pecan Filling (from Good Housekeeping):
- 1/2 cup(s) (packed) brown sugar
- 1/2 cup(s) maple syrup
- 1/4 cup(s) dark corn syrup
- 3 tablespoon(s) butter or margarine, melted
- 1 tablespoon(s) dark Jamaican rum
- 1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cup(s) pecans, coarsely chopped
Prepare Pastry Dough:
- Remove chilled dough from refrigerator and let stand for 15 minutes.
- On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll dough into 12-inch round. Ease dough into 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate, gently pressing dough against side and bottom of plate. Trim dough edge, leaving 1-inch overhang. Fold overhang under; pinch to form decorative edge. Prick bottom at about 1/4 inch intervals with fork. Refrigerate pie shell until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line pie shell with foil and fill with pie weights, dry beans, or uncooked rice. Bake pie shell 15 to 20 minutes or until set but slightly soft. Remove foil and weights, prick bottom again, and bake 5 to 6 minutes longer, or until shell is golden. If shell puffs up during baking, gently press it down with back of spoon. Reset oven control to 350 degrees F.
While pie shell is baking, prepare Maple-Pecan Filling:
- In large bowl, whisk brown sugar, syrups, butter, rum, vanilla, and eggs until blended. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into hot pie shell.
- Bake 35 minutes or until filling is puffed and set at edges but still jiggles slightly in center. Cover rim of pie with foil after about 20 minutes to prevent over-browning. Cool completely on wire rack. Note: it is important to watch how quickly the shell is browning and you may need to cover the rim sooner than 20 minutes.
- Variation: For Chocolate Mixed-Nut Pie, prepare Maple-Pecan Filling as above, but melt 2 ounces chopped unsweetened chocolate with butter. Coarsely chop 3/4 cup pecans, 1/2 cup walnuts, and 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, substituting them for all the pecans.