Sunday, November 28, 2010

Maple Pecan Pie

Ah, Thanksgiving in France. It's not the same in so many ways: no holiday, of course, no rush to the malls, no rush to the grocery store before it closes. People don't celebrate it, but they know about it: my butcher, upon my ordering the turkey, remarked, "Ah, yes, it's like Christmas for you guys, right?" The produce man I bought my sweet potatoes from said something similar and asked me how I was going to cook them. French people do get the idea of a holiday centered around food. They call it Sunday.

So we scheduled a small Thanksgiving feast, just another family and us (only 6 chairs in the apartment) for Friday evening. French eating times mean that I didn't have to put the turkey in the oven until 5:00 (and even then, it was too soon). So I had plenty of time in the morning to make pie.

Our Thanksgiving pie routine usually goes something like: 1 regular pumpkin, 1 fancy pumpkin, 1 chocolate, 2 "others" (normally one fruit and one pecan). This year I trimmed it down to three: 1 fancy pumpkin (made from fresh pumpkin), 1 chocolate, 1 maple-pecan from Maida Heatter. Julia was horrified that I had only made three pies for nine people. My argument that that meant 1/3 of a pie per person meant nothing to her.

Fortunately for this pie, pecans turn out to be easy to find here. There's a guy who sells dried fruit, nuts, dried beans, olives, etc. at the market, and I'm one of his best customers. I always enjoy going to see him because he's an outrageous flirt. "Would you like a bag for this, Madame, or shall I deliver it? I can't deliver it during the day, because I'm busy, but I can come by at night..." Anyway, he has delicious pecans. That will help me preserve my Trader Joe's stash.

I have a confession to make about this pie: it's supposed to be six individual tarts. I have tart pans and everything, but I couldn't see putting out six tarts for 9 people. Also, I had a lot more cooking to do. The proportions were perfect for a 9-inch pie plate, so although individual tarts would be charming, this worked out nicely.

This was a delicious pie. It didn't have a lot of maple flavor necessarily, probably because the rum came shining through, but it wasn't tooth-achingly sweet either, which was delightful. This was my favorite of the three pies (I made a sour cream pumpkin pie and found the sour cream too pronounced; chocolate pie is much too much for me after a large dinner).
And yes, there was enough pie. So much so that we were able to send a whole pie plate full to soccer the next day and still have a bunch in the fridge. In fact, if Julia hadn't put dibs on the last piece of pecan, I might be going to get myself a piece right now...

Here's the recipe. Make it when you're feeling festive.

Maple Pecan Pie

1-3/4 c. +2 T. (7.5 oz.) flour
1/4 t. salt
8 T. (4 oz.) butter
3 egg yolks
1-1/2 T. ice water

I think it's always best to make pie pastry the night before you want to use it--it needs to chill at least 4 hours.
Get out your food processor. I didn't use mine, and it was a mistake. Put in the flour and salt and buzz that briefly to mix. Put in the butter, cut into pieces, and pulse that until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs--the butter can be pretty fine here. Add the egg yolks and water and process until the mixture just holds together. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate.

When you're ready to start baking, roll out the dough on a floured surface until it makes an 11-inch circle. Carefully place into a 9-inch pie plate and crimp the edges. Refrigerate this while you make the filling.

2 large eggs
2/3 c. (7 oz.) maple syrup
2/3 c. (4.5 oz.) brown sugar
3/4 t. vanilla
1-1/2 T. (0.75 oz.) melted butter
2 t. (or more) dark rum (or bourbon or brandy)
2 c. (7 oz.) toasted pecan halves

Heat the oven to 350. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, butter, and booze. Now get out the prepared pie plate and pour the pecan halves in. If you want, you can try for a pattern, but that might be gilding the lily. Now pour the egg mixture over that. Pretty darned easy, right?
Bake the pie for about 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is just a little bit jiggly but not runny. Let cool. You can serve this warm, room temperature, or cold. But I think you should serve it with boozy whipped cream:

1 c. whipping cream
1-2 T. powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 T. booze (preferably the same kind you used in the pie)

Use an electric mixer to whip this until it forms soft peaks.
Now sit down and feel thankful for elastic-waist pants.

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