“Wait, before we hang up, butter or shortening? Which do you prefer for a pie crust?” our friend Bonnie enquired, a propos of nothing, other than Thanksgiving was approaching.
I bet she doesn’t remember she asked me last year too. And my answer is the same: butter.
If you are from the South of the US you probably disagree, and will readily point out that shortening makes for a flakier crust, but I am happy to disagree. After years and years of pie making, mostly professionally, I am here to tell you nothing beats the taste of good butter. And that touching shortening is gross. And my simple butter crust, if the butter is very cold and the dough is handled very little, is flaky indeed.
And with this point made, let’s move on to the pecans that go to fill that crust every Thanksgiving. A few readers enquired about the photo of the pie I posted last week, and that I made for my family Thanksgiving dinner.
Every November I think Thanksgiving food was invented to annoy me. Maybe because of my Mediterranean roots, I have very little affinity with turkey meat (mostly dry), cranberry sauce (I finally made an acceptable version last year by firing it up with hot peppers), stuffing and sweet potatoes. And to top it all off, I find pumpkin and pecan pies to be the least desirable calorie wasters: I would rather stuff good pumpkin inside ravioli and eat a bar of chocolate instead of suffering through a cloying, corn syrup laden pecan pie.
For years I toyed with different iterations of both pies but I never came up with a successful pumpkin one I could love. But with pecans, it wasn’t that difficult: substitute maple syrup for corn, add chocolate or booze. Or both. The pecans still shine through, the overall sweetness is eliminated and the small amount of chocolate makes the flavor a little bit more interesting.
Not traditional enough? Skip the chocolate, or the booze, or both but stick with the maple syrup. Agave syrup is an interesting substitution too – and lighter in taste – but I am sucker for anything maple, even if there is definitely no maple in Mediterranean cuisine. The Pilgrims didn’t have everything completely wrong.
And I know that Thanksgiving is gone and done with and you have your eyes on Christmas. But this unorthodox pecan pie is a keeper through the winter.
1 1/4 C pecan halves (140 g), lightly roasted
6 T butter (85 g)
3/4 C maple syrup (scant 2 dl)
1/2 C brown sugar (100 g)
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder (5 g)
2 oz bittersweet and semisweet chocolate chips (56 g)
1 T rum
pinch of salt
1 half-baked 9″ pie crust
- Melt the butter and the chocolate chips in a small pot. Stir until smooth. Let cool.
- In a large bowl, mix the chocolate/butter mixture, maple syrup, eggs, sugar, salt, cocoa powder and rum.
- Pour the mixture in the prepare half-baked crust. Arrange the pecans in a pretty pattern over the top and place the pan over a rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills.
- Bake at 350F/180C for 35 to 40 minutes or until the filling is set.