This blog is now almost a year old. Yet, despite the very best of intentions, I have yet to post about a bean-based dessert. Not because such desserts don’t exist. They do. And I am very curious, eager to try them. But during this same year I’ve been trying to cut down my intake of refined sugar. So most of my baking has involved experimenting with alternatives like maple syrup, honey, and rice syrup. Since I’ve never cooked a dessert with beans, I don’t know what I’m doing, and therefore am not comfortable taking the experiment that far out of the known. Not yet. Which means I still am not posting about a bean-based dessert. But it’s almost Christmas. And, to me, after growing up in in the South as part of a large Southern family, Christmas is not Christmas without pecan pie.
As a kid and young adult, I relied on my mother to make pecan pie, which she did twice each year, once at Thanksgiving and then again at Christmas, excepting only the year she was in Nepal, the same year my mouth was wired shut because of a broken jaw. So I couldn’t eat pecan pie anyway. It was a blessing that none was there to torture me. Every other year, though, she made at least one, usually two pecan pies, which I loved equally well warm, at room temperature, or, after a night out with friends, cold from the fridge,
After I moved to Chicago and began hosting Thanksgiving for friends, I finally learned to make my own. And immediately realized that there is nothing easier than classic Southern Pecan Pie, which consists of eggs, butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and Karo syrup. Yup, Karo syrup. Corn syrup. My mom, who is visiting right now from Florida, thinks that Karo syrup is not the same level of evil as the corn syrup that is wreaking havoc on American bodies, minds, psyches, causing an epidemic of obesity and, to my mind, reducing our ability to think and feel. But I think all corn syrup is created equal. The sweetness hides pure poison.
Yeah, I know. Hyperbole. But really this is what I believe. Based on no research or knowledge and therefore simultaneously indefensible and incontrovertible. It’s just a slow-burning conviction that started off small but has gradually built up to this stance that no level of taste bud delight can overcome. Truly, I don’t know whether Karo syrup is less bad for you than the commercial corn syrup that is in pretty much all processed foods. But I don’t care enough to find out. Because I know that I can no longer comfortably cook with, or eat, any form of corn syrup.
And yet. Pecan Pie. The best part of Christmas. A food that is, within my small world, something I am known for, something that people request of me for dinner parties. A part of my identity. How could I give it up? Especially when a dear friend asked me to make a pecan pie for a holiday dinner party.
Enter Laura C. Martin’s Green Market Baking Book, a book I cannot recommend highly enough. (http://bit.ly/1fRvHTj) The recipes are neither gluten- nor dairy-free, but everything is made without refined sugar. And in addition to mouth-watering, easy to follow recipes, there’s a ton of great information that should allow you to adapt recipes to almost any dietary regime. I haven’t spent the time to do so with any bean-based desserts yet. I did, however, spend the time to make Martin’s pecan pie. Last night. And it turned out so well that seven of us ate it all, wishing there was more. So even though this recipe has no beans, or anything to do with beans, I wanted to share. Because it’s almost Christmas. And maybe you, too, want pecan pie without corn syrup. This one is delicious.
The crust recipe below is adapted from Alice Waters’s Art of Simple Food. (http://bit.ly/1coee66) It turned out really well and was easier than other recipes I’ve tried. However, if you don’t have time or feel up to making your crust, just buy one from the store and make the filling. It will be great.
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
6 T. cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 t. salt
1/3 cup ice cold water
Combine the flour and salt in a medium or large bowl. Using your fingertips, mix the butter into the flour until you’ve formed a crumbly mixture. It should take about 1-1/2 minutes. Add the ice water and stir with a fork until large clumps begin to form. Gather the mixture into a ball, then wrap in plastic and press into a disk. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Or, alternatively, you can make ahead, refrigerating for up to 3 days or freezing for up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw in the fridge for 1 day. If refrigerated for more than 30 minutes (or frozen), allow the dough to sit out for a little while before rolling.
When you’re ready to bake the pie, you’ll need to prebake the crust, so heat the oven to 400 degrees. To roll out the dough, lightly flour a large surface. Marble is ideal, but I use the wood top of my baker’s rack. You can also use a large cutting board. Whatever you use, flour it well, especially if you’ve never done this before. At worst, too much flour will make the crust a little tough. But that’s better than sticking. And when people bite into the pie they will never notice a tiny bit of toughness in the crust. Unless they’re hyper critical pastry chef experts. In which case they should make the pie themselves.
Assuming you’re making the pie, start in the middle, press down into the rolling pin, and roll outward. Lift the pin and start again from the middle, rolling in all directions, until you have a round sheet that is larger than your pie plate by about an inch all around. Roll the crust onto the pin, transfer to the pie plate, and unfold. Here’s a tutorial that I found on Saveur’s website. (http://bit.ly/1a1IQoc) Press the crust into the pan, trim the edges, and refrigerate for a half hour.
To prebake, line the crust with foil, shiny side down, and fill with pie weights, rice, or dried beans. You do this to prevent the crust from puffing up. If you use beans, save them for this use, as they won’t be good for anything else after being baked. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, prick the bottom of the crust a few times with a fork, then brush with egg yolk. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 350. Place a large baking sheet in the oven to heat.
prebaked 9″ piecrust
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 t vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1-1/4 cups pecan pieces
2 T butter
Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the syrups, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk to combine.
Heat the butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, then add the pecans. Saute for 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned, then remove from heat. Let the pecans cool for 5 minutes or so then transfer them to the pie shell. Add the filling.
4. Sauté the pecan pieces in butter in a large frying pan for 3 to 4 minutes, then allow to cool. Transfer the pie to the oven, on the baking sheet, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until set. Serve warm or at room temperature with creme fraiche, whipped cream, or as is. And enjoy.