Thursday, 28 November 2013

Pecan Pie - A Thanksgiving Day Treat!

Thanksgiving Day is an annual American public holiday that dates back to colonial times. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November and is essentially a celebration where people give thanks for what they have.
Although the matter is disputed, many historians trace the origins of the holiday back to the harvest celebrations that early pilgrims held in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 and the subsequent celebrations two years later where they gave thanks when rain came after a lengthy drought.
As with so many holidays, there are specific foods and culinary rituals associated with the festivities. A typical Thanksgiving Day dinner consists of roast turkey with all the trimmings including stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. Pumpkin pies are also traditionally served, but many other pies can also be included as part of the Thanksgiving feast.

I love pies. Fruit pies are delicious but I am also partial to a whole range of other pies both sweet and savoury.
Many years ago I lived and worked in America for a short time and I loved the apple pie and the chocolate chip pie that were served in the restaurant where I worked. Both were heavenly but more made even more luscious by the fact that they were always served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream which began to slowly melt with the residual heat of the pies.

Another pie I came to quite late, but which is now a firm favourite of mine, is pecan pie. This is the pie that I present here to mark Thanksgiving Day. The recipe is based on one contained in the Great British Bake Off cookbook. I have baked it many times and have tweaked it here and there. Yes… it is sweet, but to be honest, that’s kind of the point. It is so tasty and I find it almost impossible to limit myself to just one slice. All too often pies do not keep for any length of time and need to be eaten on the day that they are made. I have found that this recipe bucks that trend and is every bit as good a couple of days later.


200g plain flour
1tblsp icing sugar
120g butter, chilled and diced
1 large egg yolk
1-2tblsp water
100g unsalted butter, diced
125g muscovado sugar
85g maple syrup
85g golden syrup
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp vanilla paste
200g pecans


Make pastry:
1. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and sprinkle in the water and using a fork mix until the mixture comes together to form a dough.
2. Tip out on a lightly floured work-surface and knead briefly and shape into a ball. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for about half an hour to rest.
Blind-bake pastry:
3. Preheat oven to 190C/Fan Oven 170C/Gas Mark 5. Grease a 5cm deep, 23cm round, fluted pie dish with a removable base, with a little butter. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pastry dough until large enough to fit into your pie dish to cover the base and the sides. Cover the pastry with a sheet of crumpled baking parchment and then fill with baking beans. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove the baking beans and parchment paper and cook for a further five minutes.
4. Remove the blind-baked pastry from the oven and set aside to partially cool while you make the pie filling.
5. Turn oven down to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4.
Make the filling:
6. Put the butter, sugar, maple syrup, golden syrup in a medium sized saucepan and melt gently over a low heat giving it an occasional stir. Once melted increase the heat and bring to the boil. Allow bubble for one minute and then remove from the heat and put to the side for ten minutes to cool down a little.
7. When cooled down add the eggs and vanilla paste and mix together well. Reserve a few nuts for decoration, but roughly chop the rest. Add the chopped nuts to the sugar and syrup mixture in the saucepan. Mix well and pour into the blind-baked pastry case. Place the whole pecans in concentric circles on top of the pie and then place in the oven to bake for approximately 30-35 minutes.
8. Remove from the oven and allow cool.
Serves 8-10.