A pecan pie fit for any Thanksgiving celebration

This deliciously rich dessert is a favourite on American tables at this time of year

Irish Times cooking expert Vanessa Greenwood guides us through her deceptively simple Maple-Roasted Pecan Pie recipe. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, there is a brief bubble of excitement for many, as the prospect of a Thanksgiving celebration arrives. I secretly envy all those who get to uphold this American tradition, which originated with pilgrim settlers celebrating a plentiful harvest. But I’m torn between wishing to join in the feast and an unsettling feeling that I might be getting notions and merely pandering to another Hallmark-led affectation.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times, with food-related content in all our sections, plus reader events, competitions and exclusive content at irishtimes.com/foodmonth
November is Food Month in The Irish Times, with food-related content in all our sections, plus reader events, competitions and exclusive content at irishtimes.com/foodmonth

Among a delicious panoply of rich desserts at this time of year, two glorious homemade pies come to the fore. Both pumpkin pie and pecan pie are favourites at Thanksgiving tables. (Apple pie is, too, but that’s everyday heaven to us Irish.) Turning it into an opportunity to say thanks gives me just the excuse to join in with the spirit of gratitude.

In a quest for domestic bliss, we sold our house four years ago and this week my family are celebrating moving into our forever (we hope!) home. Since then, we have packed up and moved houses three times in as many years. The interim years have been an adventure on the culinary front, with lots of dodgy ovens and prized utensils, often, out of my grasp. If Carlsberg did builders ... our team were heaven sent.

As I take command of my dream kitchen, I wish to thank the lads for the karma they brought to the job and for being willing guinea pigs for a steady stream of test bakes. With the addition of an Aga and a bespoke pantry brim full with my beloved utensils I look forward with gusto to all my future bakes. To Paddy, Cormac, Keith, Robert and sparky Kevin, I dedicate this pecan pie.

MAPLE-ROASTED PECAN PIE

Maple-roasted pecan pie photographed by Harry Weir
Maple-roasted pecan pie photographed by Harry Weir

Ingredients
Serves six

For the pastry
150g plain flour
75g butter (chilled, cut into cubes)
25g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
1tsp cold water, if needed

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For the filling
100g butter
100g soft brown sugar
100ml maple syrup (plus 30ml to roast pecans)
150g pecan nuts (use some for decoration)
3 medium eggs, lightly whisked
1tsp vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt
30-50ml rum (optional)

Method
Grease a 20cm loose bottom tart tin (3cm deep).  Preheat oven to 180°C fan.

To make the pastry, sieve the flour into a bowl. Add the diced butter and rub into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Stir in icing sugar and salt.  With a dinner knife, work in the egg yolk then bring together to a firm dough (add a little water if it appears very dry to help the mixture come together into a ball). Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 20 minutes.

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface and use to line the tin (rolling the pin once over the tin rim trims any overhanging pastry). To bake the pastry blind, prick the base lightly with a fork, line with parchment paper and fill with baking beans (or uncooked rice or lentils). Place in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until light golden in colour.  Remove the beans and paper and set aside (if you want to seal the pastry fully, brush the pastry with any remaining egg white and return to the oven for 5 minutes).

Over a low heat, melt the butter, sugar and 100ml of maple syrup together, stirring over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

To toast the pecans, heat an extra 30ml maple syrup and stir into the whole pecans, coating them well.  Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake the maple coated pecans in the preheated oven for 4 minutes first (watch the pecans very carefully as they can burn very quickly), then stir again and continue to bake for another 4-5 minutes, removing them as soon as they start to darken in colour.  Set aside 10-14 large pecans to decorate the top of the tart. You can either roughly chop the remaining pecans or leave them whole for the filling, if you wish.

When ready to bake the tart,mix in the eggs, vanilla extract, sea salt and rum (if using) into the butter and syrup mixture, stirring until fully combined.

Lastly add in the chopped pecans and pour the mixture into the prebaked tart case, bake at 180°C fan for approximately 30 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling, puffed up and set in the centre.

Decorate the top of the tart with the reserved pecans. Allow to cool fully in the tin.  Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Variation
To cover the whole tart with an impressive pecan design, just roast off extra pecans in the oven and use to decorate the top in concentric circles.

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