Friday, 1 April 2011

Warning: May contain nuts

Whilst doing a quick wikipedia search for some basic facts about the pecan nut I learnt that it's a species of hickory native to North America. That the name pecan comes from an Algonquian word, and means a nut requiring a stone to crack. And I also learnt that every 100g of nuts has a fat content exceeding...actually I URGE you not to look that up. I doubt I'll ever be able to eat another pecan nut again. Oh who am I kidding, I just ate an entire bag of mini eggs to myself, at least the pecan nut has fibre! As a direct result of this knowledge it was therefore important to choose a recipe which perfectly balanced the health attributes with the bad. What better way to do this than to add it to sugar, syrup and pastry. Behold the Pecan Pie! King of all pies!

Yes, I took this picture just to show off the beautiful, thin, crisp pastry.
For the pastry I chose a traditional pâte sucrée as it is crisp and short and adds that extra (and entirely indulgent) bite of sweetness. The best tip for making sure your pastry remains crisp and doesn't shrink is to chill it well both before and after rolling. I roll it, line the tart tin and then pop it in the freezer until it is completely chilled but not frozen hard before blind baking. The resulting pastry has a bite like short bread and butter richness that you could almost eat like a biscuit.

Pecan Pie - this recipe made a 7" pie and 4 individual tarts.
  • 1 portion of pâte sucrée
  • 200g crushed pecan nuts (I use the food processor)
  • 100g whole pecan nuts for decoration
  • 2 eggs
  • 115g muscovado sugar 
  • 90g golden syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 30g unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 15g sifted flour (1 tblsp)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C and put a heavy baking sheet in to warm up. Thoroughly grease the tart tins making sure you don't miss any of the ridges or the tart will not come out of the tin easily.
  2. Make a batch of pâte sucrée and place in fridge to chill for at least 30 mins. Once rested roll and line the tart tins. Don't worry if it breaks, you can patch it up in the tin by pressing an excess piece of pastry over the split and sealing by applying pressure. Once the pastry is pressed into the tin trim the excess by rolling your rolling pin across the top of the tin. Now place the tins in the freezer for 10 mins in order to completely chill the pastry. 
  3. Line the tart tins with a cartouche and baking beans or uncooked rice and bake blind for 10 mins, then remove the beans and bake for a further 10 mins. The pastry should be par-cooked but not dark. Once baked leave to cool in the tins, on a rack.
  4. While the pastry case is baking make the filling by mixing the sugar, syrup, salt, sifted flour, melted butter, vanilla essence and nuts in a bowl with the whisked eggs. Stir well and make sure the flour and the sugar are completely mixed in.
  5. Pour the filling into the cooled cases (2/3 full) and decorate the top with the unbroken pecan halves, then bake on 200C for 10 mins before reducing the heat to 170C and baking for a further 30mins for the large pie. The smaller tarts will only need 15 mins at this stage. You will know when it is completey cooked as the filling will be firm in the centre.

The four stages of pie.