December 29, 2013

Pecan pie

In the continuation of my Thanksgiving/Christmas series, here's a fairly easy recipe for a rich and very nutty pecan pie. For my first attempt baking this American classic, I referred to the recipe featured in the gorgeous book "Cake Days" by the Hummingbird Bakery, and left aside the chocolate chips as I wanted my pie as traditional as possible for our Thanksgiving party. It was so popular among our friends, I decided to prepare it again for my family this Christmas in Strasbourg, in place of the usual "bûche de Noël". This is when I had to bring a couple of variations (detailed below) as products such as golden syrup and soft sugar can be tricky to find in France.

Ingredients for the pastry
110g butter, softened
225g flour
80g caster sugar
1 large egg

Ingredients for the filling
100g butter
225g soft brown sugar (or regular brown sugar if soft sugar cannot be found)
110g golden syrup (or agave syrup, in which case sugar can be reduced to 150g as agave syrup's sweetening power is greater than golden syrup's)
3 large eggs
260g pecans, roughly chopped, plus 16 halves

Place the butter and flour in a bowl and rub together using your fingertips until crumb-like in consistency. Stir in the sugar, followed by the egg.
When a dough starts to form, take it out of the bowl and knead gently on a floured work surface to bring it together. Wrap the pastry in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 20-30 minutes.

In the meantime, grease and flour a tart tin. Once the pastry has rested, roll it out on a lightly floured worktop so that it is about 5mm thick. Line the tart tin with the pastry and using a sharp knife, cut away any excess pastry so that it is level with the edge of the tin. Prick the base of the pastry a few times with the point of the knife and put the tin in the fridge to rest for another 20-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Once the pastry case has rested, line it with baking parchment, fill with baking beans and place in the oven to bake 'blind' for 10 minutes (dry lentils or split peas work fine too). Carefully remove the beans along with the parchment, and bake the tart case for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together. Once melted, set aside to cool. Whisk together the eggs in a bowl, just to break them up, then pour the melted ingredients into the eggs, stirring continuously until everything is combined.

Scatter the chopped pecans over the base of the tart case and pour the liquid filling on top, then decorate with the pecan halves. The liquid filling should naturally settle between the chopped pecans. If not (in case the pecans are too thinly chopped or a thicker syrup such as  agave is used), carefully mix the pecans and the liquid filling together using your fingers or a spoon.

Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 140°C and bake for another 20 minutes. Let cool and serve thin slices (the pie is very rich!) with a dollop of cream.

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