Monday, December 31, 2012

A Tale of Two Pies - The Pumpkin and the Pecan

Christmas is a time for celebrating with great food- and with great food, you need to have a great dessert. Pies are always fairly easy to make, and usually make everyone happy. For this past Christmas, I was called upon to produce two pies for the family dessert- a traditional pumpkin pie, and (by request), one of my favorites- a chocolate covered pecan pie.

Pumpkin pie is the most traditional, and is also very easy to make. There is a recipe on the back of every can of that popular brand of canned pumpkin that has been floating around unchanged since about 1950. Why hasn't it changed in 60+ years? It works, that's why. I see no reason to change it other than a minor tweak or two to customize it a little. Since baking is not my usual thing, and I don't have the time to experiment and figure out a good pie crust recipe, I reserve the right to cheat and use pre-made pie crusts.

Making pumpkin pie filling is actually very simple- just gather the ingredients and mix them together. It gets complicated if you wish to roast your own pumpkin fresh- In that case, make sure you pick the right type of pumpkin, roast until soft, and puree in a blender before you start. Personally, I choose to cheat here and use a 15 oz can of pre-prepared pumpkin.

Add in 3/4 cup of white sugar, 2 large eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, and a 12 oz can of evaported milk. You'll need to season your mixture with traditional pumpkin pie spices. The base recipe calls for 1tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, and 1/4 tsp ground clove. You can change this part up as you wish- personally I like a little extra clove- feel free to experiment here- as long as you keep the proportions in the same ballpark, you'll have good results. I also take one main diversion from the base recipe here- I add about half a shotglass of my favorite bourbon for a little extra kick.

Mix your ingredients well with a whisk- it will be fairly liquid, so whip away until your filling is slightly frothy. The more you whip, the lighter the pie will turn out- so you can even go as far as putting the mixture in a stand mixer and beating it into almost a froth- but that usually isn't necessary.

Dust your pie pan with flour so the crust won't stick to it, and lay in your pie crust. Pour in your filling, then roll over the excess crust to form a rim. Bake the pie at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes, then drop the temperature down to 350 for another 40 to 50 minutes. When the pie comes out it will be puffy and soft- let it cool down to near room-temperature then put it in the refigerator to cool the rest of the way down- as it cools, it will lose some of its height and settle. Slice and serve.


The second pie is a slight riff on the classic pecan pie recipe found on just about every bottle of corn syrup. Again this is a tried and true recipe that just works, so I don't deviate much from it- other than to add a thick layer of chocolate topping...

This filling starts with 3 large eggs, a cup of white sugar, and a cup of corn syrup. I prefer the dark corn syrup rather than the lighter colored one- there is almost no real difference- this is just a matter of preference. To this, I add 1 tbs  of vanilla extract, and 2 tbs of melted butter. Be careful when you add the hot butter- add it a little at a time and stir as you go to prevent the eggs from cooking. I also make my one main deviation from recipe here- by adding about a half-shot of my favorite bourbon for a little kick. Mix everything together, then finish by adding in about 6oz of pecans- I usually chop them into medium-fine bits, but you can leave them as chunky as you like.

Like the pumpkin pie, prepare the pie tinby dusting with flour, and laying in the pie crust. Pour in the filling, then roll up the edges to form a nice rim. Bake the pie for about 55 minutes at 350 degrees. The pie will be a little puffed up when hot, then settle as it cools. Let it come down to room temperature before you work on the topping- the chocolate will set faster and better that way.

For the topping, start with about 6 oz of chocolate. I strongly suggest avoiding an overly sweet chocolate- this pie is already fairly sweet, so you do not want to make the topping too sweet. Take advantage of the richer, and slightly bitter notes of the chocolate- I usually use a semi-sweet chocolate, but you can even use unsweetened or dark chocolate.

To turn your chocolate into a ganache- puta 1/2 cup of milk or cream in a small pot (use heavy cream for a thicker topping, milk for a thinner topping- I prefer heavy cream). Add 2 tbs of butter and a half-shot fo the "secret ingredient" - in this case, a little of my favorite chocolate liquer. You can substitute a good bourbon here, or omit the liquor altogether if you wish. Slowly heat the cream mixture until the butter melts, and the cream begins to foam.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is melted- you should have a shiny, smooth, pourable chocolate when done. You can pour this chocolate ganache on top of your pecan pie, and let it spread out into an even coat. Let the pie site for a minute or two to let the chocolate settle and even out, then chill it in the refrigerator until the chocolate sets and enjoy.

Your average pecan pie is already very sweet- too sweet for some people- so using a semi-sweet or dark chocolate in the topping actually helps offset that sweetness with the more bitter notes in the chocolate- bringing the pie into a balance that actually works a little better than a plain pecan pie.



1 comment:

  1. Like the ganache pie. I would probably use white chocolate or cocoa butter(to offset the sweetness), and less corn syrup.But that's me.