Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pecan Pie with Orange Zest

One of the dishes I most enjoy during the holidays is Pecan Pie. Unfortunately, it often just isn’t that good! Thankfully, for our Fakesgiving meal, Evan made a stellar pecan pie (with a gluten-free crust, no less!). Shelley commented on how much she liked it and pointed out that one of the worst things about many pecan pies is that the filling is often gritty.

When I was trying to decide on what dessert to make for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, I got to thinking about Shelley’s comment. I’d made a pecan pie before and thought it turned out pretty well, so I decided to make one again this year and see if I could figure out how a pecan pie went wrong.

As far as I can tell, there are two things pecan pie-makers can do to avoid the pitfalls I associate with pecan pies. The first problem is the one Shelley pointed out: gritty filling. Fixing this problem is all about technique. Instead of just combining the sugars and syrups in a bowl with all the other ingredients, you’ll first want to cook them in a skillet at a low temperature. This allows the brown sugar to dissolve into the liquids. The trick is not to allow the syrups to get to hot, as this can cause them to begin to caramelize and then crystalize.

The second problem is that because pecan pie has two fairly expensive ingredients, it is an expensive pie to make. Too often, the filling is heavy on the cheaper ingredients (corn syrup + brown sugar) and light on the more expensive ingredients, like pecans and maple syrup. This results in a pie that is heavy on sugary, somewhat tasteless filling and light on nuts. Fixing this problem is easy, if not kind to the wallet. Buying in bulk at stores such as Sam’s and Costco and/or keeping an eye out for sales in your local grocery store can help eliminate this problem.

Pecan Pie with Orange Zest
Kelley Gondring

Preheat oven 375º

Prepare 1 baked pie crust.

In a small skillet, melt over medium heat:
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Whisk in:
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup

Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to whisk until the brown sugar dissolves, about 7 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to boil (a slight simmer around the edges is okay). Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine:
3 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk in 1/4 cup of the syrup into the bowl. Repeat with an additional 1/4 cup before adding in the remaining syrup. [Slowly adding the syrup instead of all-at-once prevents the eggs from cooking.]

2 cups toasted pecan halves

Pour into the baked pie crust. Bake 50 minutes or until the center of the pie is set.

Cool at least an hour before serving.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Eat up!

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