Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pecan Surgery

My sister Maddie loves pecan pie SO much that with the utmost constraint and enviable force of willpower, allows herself only one serving a year. She is absolutely sure that if she breaks the rules and indulges perhaps twice then she will come to detest pecan pie, which would be a dire tragedy. As for me; the sister with no such willpower to speak of, I tuck into the gooey, caramel coated nut gift from the gods, a much higher (confidential) number of occasions a year. Since it's January and the new year has come and gone I persuaded Maddie to let me bake her favorite desert (even if it does mean she has to wait a whole year to get another mouthful).

Now, being the complete over enthusiasts that my two sisters and I most definitely are, we rushed into the whole pastry thing without really reading the finite details. Too busy stuffing ourselves with roasted pecans. Pastry, when done right, is the cornerstone of any pie or tart. A crispy pastry edge should be the morsel that you save on your plate to be your last mouthful, the one that will influence your memory of the whole dinner. If pastry is done wrong, then no matter how delicious the filling is, it will be worthless. Blind baking the pie shell should be the easiest part right? Well.... maybe for some.

Here's a tip. When you blind bake pastry, as this recipe calls for, remember to put a circle of baking parchment down on the base of the shell before you pour in the rice or baking beans. Failing this step, we spent the good part of an hour scraping and literally tweezing (with clean tweezers mind you, eyebrow hairs safely removed) out grains of rice that had fused themselves into our delicious golden pastry shell. Not the most exciting way to spend your afternoon! My youngest sister, Alice, who has just gotten into Medical School (yay!) will at least now get top marks in class for pulling glass or cactus prickles out of patients bottoms or something, glad i could help, Alice! Personally I think it's a breakthrough, pecan pie-rice pudding anyone? no? Maybe some day.

Other than that minor hiccup, this pie is delicious. Soft in the center just as you would expect of the sticky, molten caramel mixture. Pre-roasting the nuts for the filling helps give it a bit more oomph and if you find a grain of rice in your pastry it's good luck!

The recipe for this pie was adapted slightly from both the 'Leiths Cookery Bible' for the filling, and the 'Australian Women's Weekly' cookbook: 'How to Cook Absolutely Everything' for the pastry. The Leiths recipe called for lard for the shell but I think we can all do with a little less lard after the holiday season, yes?

1.5 cups (225g) plain flour
0.5 cup (110g) caster sugar
140g cold unsalted butter, chopped
1 egg, beaten lightly

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In a food processor, process lightly flour, sugar and butter until crumbly; add egg and process until ingredients just come together, still in crumble form. With your hands, form the mixture into a ball, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Grease a 24cm round (I like the one with the scalloped edge) loose-based flat tin. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking parchment until about 1cm thick and wide enough to fit into the pastry tin. If the pastry is a little moist and looks like its about to tear when you are pulling the parchment off, rub a little flour onto its surface. Lift the Dough into the tin and press into the sides. Trim the sides so there is no overhanging pastry and prick the base with a fork. Place the tin on an oven tray; cover pastry with baking parchment (don't forget!)and fill with uncooked rice or beans. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove parchment and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes until shell is browned slightly. Cool.

450g pecan nuts
4 eggs
225g soft light brown sugar
170g golden syrup
0.5 teaspoon salt
55g unsalted butter, melted
teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tablespoons plain flour, sifted

Turn the oven temp up to 200 degrees Celsius. Chop half the pecan nuts, saving the other half (the better looking half) for the topping, and bake the chopped nuts in an oven for 8 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, golden syrup, salt, melted butter and vanilla essence. Stir in the flour, making sure there are no lumps of flour in the mixture. Stir in the chopped nuts and pour into the pastry case. Arrange the remaining halved pecan nuts on top. Bake on a hot baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 170 degrees Celsius and bake for a further 30-40 minutes, or until the center is just set. Serve warm or cold.


  1. hahaha love it Soph - gave away all our secrets!

  2. I can vouch that this was the yummiest pecan pie. ever.