A few of you keen-eyed readers guessed that yesterday’s final “teaser” photo was of pecan pie. But since I’m not particularly a “pie person” to begin with (I’ve posted about only one other pie in over a year on this blog–and it wasn’t even my own recipe!), and since I most definitely AM a chocolate person, I decided that my pecan pie had to include chocolate.
Besides, La Martha’s mini-mag, Everyday Food, featured in its latest issue a recipe for chocolate pecan pie, and I’d been yearning for it ever since I saw the recipe. It looked gooey, yummy, decadent, festive, and very, very chocolatey. Staring at the photo simply made me drool. It was one heck of a perfectly baked, perfectly decorated, perfectly chocolatey Perfect Pecan Pie.
So I set about creating my own (sugar-free, wheat-free, vegan) version of this masterpiece. The magazine’s photo was soooo enticing: meticulously arranged pecan halves baked into a slightly bubbly, sticky, engulfing ebony base of glossy chocolatey deliciousness. I had to have that pie!
The only other pecan pie I’ve ever made was another vegan rendition, from my friend Caroline Dupont’s cookbook, Enlightened Eating. I began with her suggestion to combine maple syrup and barley malt syrup, then played with the other elements to come up with what I thought a good approximation of Martha’s confection. I fluted the pie crust, poured in the filling, popped it in the oven, and waited.
Remember those old sitcoms where the inept housewife (choose your favorite: Lucy, Edith, Peggy, Marge) attempts to do the laundry for the first time, and ends up using about 4,576 times too much detergent? And then the machine starts to rumble and wobble, and a stream of soap suds bubbles up over the washer’s lid and glides along the front of the machine and down to the floor, eventually making its way across the room in one massive, seething wave of froth?
Well, that’s sort of what the top of this pie looked like after 30 minutes in the oven. The chocolate mixture bubbled and heaved and puffed like the contents of a witches’ cauldron. The lovely fluted crust was coated in a gleam of dark, gooey, chocolatey filling, as were a few spots on the bottom of the oven. All my perfectly placed pecan halves had been bobbing about in the foaming liquid like castaways afloat on the ocean, tossed this way and that, messing up my beautiful, decorative arrangement entirely. While it ended up tasting good, the pie looked horrendous.
For the second attempt, I used less filling and didn’t worry about perfectly placed pecan halves; I simply chopped them coarsely and folded them right into the filling. Once again, there was a filling explosion that overtook crust, pie plate, and oven. Curses!
Finally, it occurred to me: let’s just take another look-see at Martha’s ideal recipe, why don’t we? The pecans in her photo remained perfectly in position, nary a drop of filling even touching their sides. On second thought, they were too perfect (sort of like Martha herself, no?): they were pristine and unscathed in their nakedness. I re-read the recipe, and came upon this throwaway instruction: “The pie filling puffs up dduring baking but settles as it cools.” AHA! Clearly, the photo did not represent this reality; like most food-styled pictures, this one had been assembled after the pie was baked, the raw pecan halves carefully placed atop an already-cooled pie! Clever, Martha; very clever.
Well, if you can’t beat ’em, I say, then do them one better. I revamped the recipe completely so that a pre-baked crust is subsequently filled with an unbaked filling. Once the filling rests securely in the crust, then top with your perfectly formed, deliberately placed pecan halves, as decoration. I proudly held up the finished product for the HH’s approval. He took one look at my painstakingly positioned pecan halves and remarked, “It looks vaguely insectoid, don’t you think?” Hmm.
Despite the nutty carapace, this pie was heavenly. Keep it cold for a dense, thick, toffee-like filling; or bring to room temperature for a softer, more gooey result. Either way, it’s one perfectly baked, perfectly decorated, perfectly chocolatey Perfect Pecan Pie.
With its glossy, black, rich chocolate filling, I thought this would be the perfect submission to this month’s Sugar High Fridays, the event started by Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess, and this month hosted by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook. The theme this time round is “All That Glitters.”
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Thick, rich, and toffee-like, this slightly non-traditional pecan pie is great for a holiday (or just your everyday) table.
1/4 cup (60 ml.) coconut oil
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
2 tsp. (10 ml.) pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) water
1-1/2 c. (210 g.) light spelt flour
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) sea salt
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) baking soda
1-1/2 cups (120 g.) pecan pieces (use broken pecan halves)
1/2 cup (40 g.) pecan halves (about 30), for decoration, if desired
2/3 cup (160 ml.) pure maple syrup
1/3 cup (80 ml.) barley malt syrup, brown rice syrup, or any combination of the two
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) smooth cashew butter, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. (.5 ml.) sea salt
2/3 cup (170 g.) dairy-free chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. arrowroot powder
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
First, make the crust: Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease an 8-1/2 or 9 inch (20 cm.) pie plate, or line bottom with parchment paper and grease sides.
In a small bowl, melt together the coconut butter and oil; whisk to blend. Add the maple syrup and water and whisk again.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the salt and baking soda. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and toss with a fork until blended, then use your hand to mix into a solid but still malleable dough. Starting with the sides of the pie plate, press bits of dough along the edges and then the bottom until evenly distributed (you may need to press quite hard). Flute edges if you wish, or press with the tines of a fork. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the dough ten or twelve times.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, until the edges are browned and the rest is golden, rotating the pan once about halfway through. Remove from the oven and pour the hot filling into the crust.
While the crust bakes, make the filling:
Place the broken pecan pieces in a small bowl, setting aside the 1/2 cup pecan halves, if desired.
In a medium pot, combine the maple syrup, barley malt and/or brown rice syrup, cashew butter, sea salt and chocolate chips. Cook and stir over medium heat until everything is melted together and smooth. Sprinkle with the arrowroot and whisk to combine. Continue to cook and stir constantly until the mixture bubbles and boils, 5-10 minutes. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low (enough to keep it boiling but not enough for it to boil over the top of the pot) and cook for 10-15 more minutes, stirring frequently. The mixture should become thicker and glossy, with a texture similar to corn syrup or molasses. Turn off heat and add the vanilla; then stir in the chopped nuts. Pour the hot mixture into the baked pie crust and smooth the top if necessary.
If you’re decorating the pie with pecan halves, now is the time to do so, while the filling is still hot. Place the halves in a non-insectoid pattern and press slightly so they stick to the surface of the filling. Allow the pie to cool completely at room temperature; then refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 8-12 slices.
NOTE: The pie may be eaten straight out of the fridge (we’ve certainly been enjoying it that way), but it’s best to take it out about 20 minutes before serving to soften up a little, which makes slicing easier. Use a long, sharp knife that you dip in hot water and dry between cuts for easier slicing.