Thursday, June 3, 2010

Date-Pecan Pie: Size matters!

It's the beginning of June, but up until now, it's been pretty chilly. Last weekend I made chili and cornbread, and it seemed just right for the weather. And so this pecan pie, which seems so out of season, actually wasn't.

I had to make this pie when Julia was visiting, since she is quite the date fiend. Claire is the one who, like her aunt, objects to all things dried fruit, so I had to time this pie carefully. Cool weather+ Julia visiting=date pecan pie.
I always forget two things about pecan pie: 1) I really like it, even though it's awfully sweet; 2) it's really easy. 5 minutes of mixing and you're done. I added an extra step to Maida's recipe that took about 10 minutes longer: I browned the butter. Very worthwhile, in my opinion. Browned butter adds a really lovely depth of flavor and boosts the toasty taste of the pecans.

Do you get the impression that I liked this pie? I really did. Look at all those pecans! Julia's still adding them, though the pie shell is just about full.
Which leads me to the point about size: I neglected to note that this recipe is written for a 9-inch extra deep pie plate. You'll see, however, that I have a pitiful little aluminum pie plate. Did I scale down the recipe? I did not. Below you see the result...

Can't contain the spillage!! Not good. We made little extra shields out of foil and ended up baking a ramekin of crustless pecan pie, which was very much appreciated by Claire (because it had no dates and no crust).

The weather warmed up enough that we could dine al fresco. Note that the pie is very dark, even a bit burned, on top. I recommend checking it and putting foil on top if it seems to be getting too dark too soon.

Out of focus pie with boozy whipped cream. Mmmmmm.....
Verdict: This is really good pie. The dates add a bit of texture but are not too distracting. If you buy the really good Medjool dates from, say, Whole Foods, they will be soft and melty. If you buy the crappy Dromedary dates, you have only yourself to blame.
Julia is still dreaming of the pie; I had to send the remaining half (minus a small piece for myself) out the door with some students who had happened to come by at an opportune time.
Here's the recipe. Make this when the weather is cool and your sweet tooth is working on overdrive.

Date Pecan Pie
1 9-inch EXTRA-DEEP pie shell, baked (try this recipe or this one. I used Maida's recipe, but it wasn't super awesome. I think I worked it too much.)
8 oz. really good dates
4 oz. (1 stick) butter
4 large eggs
1 scant c. (6.5 oz) sugar
1 T. flour
1/8 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 c. (11.5 oz.) corn or golden syrup
6 oz. (1-1/2 c.) pecan halves (toasted pieces worked fine)

Heat the oven to 350. Get out a large baking sheet and cover it with aluminum foil. Put your baked EXTRA-DEEP pie shell on the baking sheet. Use scissors to cut up your dates. If you got the good kind, you’ll need to pit them as you go, but it’s worth the sticky fingers.
Put the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Let it melt, then watch it carefully as it bubbles and complains; take it off the stove when it starts to smell really good and the solids begin to brown. You could just melt the butter in the microwave, but this extra step is totally worth it, I think.
Now, in a medium bowl, beat the eggs until they are very foamy. Add the sugar, flour, salt, and vanilla and beat to mix well. Add the butter (it can still be hot if you beat constantly while you add it) and the syrup. Add the dates by hand. Now (and this is weird) get out a slotted spoon and take the dates back out of the liquid and put them in the pie crust (did you remember to use your extra-deep pie pan? Good!). Now sprinkle the pecans over the dates. Finally, pour the remaining liquid over all. It will be a lot of stuff. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is very well browned (cover it with foil if it looks too brown) but the center is still jiggly. Cool on a rack and then refrigerate. Serve very cold with boozy whipped cream:

1 c. cream
1-1/2 T. maple syrup or honey
1-1/2 T. rum or bourbon

Whip. Enjoy.

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