Yesterday I made my first pecan pie! I typically don’t do a hell of a lot of baking back home in the 6ix, but I’ve become known for my sweets here in Italy. Between cookies and cakes and endless slices of panettone bread pudding, I’ve become the dessert gal!
It was my friend Moises’—or as I like to call him, Moivus— birthday and he requested a pecan pie instead of a birthday cake. Despite the fact that I thought I’d be following Haven’s birthday carrot cake with a tiered red velvet for Moi, I was kinda excited to switch it up a bit.
That said, I hadn’t ever made a pie like that before. For reference, I’ve only really ever made one other pie from scratch! Next, pie crusts scare me. Not sure why but I always think I’m gonna fail so when the opportunity for alternate pie crusts like a cookie crust are possible then I tend to choose the latter.
Aside from my pie crust woes, I barely find pecan pie at all back home, neither in restaurants nor at bakeries. That means, I had no idea what went into a pecan pie filling.
Surprisingly, corn syrup is the magic ingredient that creates a sweet and sticky, somewhat dense consistency classic of this pie filling. Since I have never worked with corn syrup and didn’t have a single idea as to where I’d find it in Italy, the land of slow food, I found a different recipe. A recipe with, drumroll...maple syrup!
By Melissa Clark, this Spiced Maple Pecan Pie with Star Anise is amazing. With a fragrant licorice smell, it’s one of the most elegant pecan pies I’ve ever laid eyes on. The star anise is a lovely addition to a dessert that’s already taken some liberties swapping corn syrup for maple!
Plus, this recipe is also fantastic because from start to finish, the steps don’t take that long at all. The only time you have to budget for is wait for the pie crust to chill and then blind bake. A tip that Clark suggests for blind baking is to place some aluminum foil inside the crust and fill with uncooked rice, which is perfect for a gal like me who doesn’t have the proper equipment in her European kitchen!
With a buttery crust and a sinfully sweet, spiced interior, this pecan pie was unlike any other pie I’ve ever tasted. Needless to say, Moises and the rest of the gang loved the pie and ate it all up, leaving the other desserts in the dust! If that’s not incentive to give this pie a try, I don’t know what is!
I promise pie-making isn’t so scary or overwhelming once you’ve made a few. After all, practise does make perfect. In fact, after attempting pumpkin pie and realizing it was totally doable, I was inspired. Now, I’m thinking about trying to bake a cinnamon apple pie in the near future!
. . .
Melissa Clark’s Spiced Maple Pecan Pie
*Make 1 (9-inch) pie*
For the pie crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 to 5 tablespoons ice water
For the filling
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup white sugar
8 whole star anise
2 cups pecan halves
3 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I browned my butter a bit!)
2 tablespoons rum
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the pie crust:
To make the crust, in a food processor, briefly pulse together the flour and salt.
Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms lima bean-size pieces (three to five 1-second pulses).
Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the mixture is just moist enough to hold together.
Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic, and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie crust to a 12-inch circle. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold over any excess dough, then crimp. Prick the crust all over with a fork. Freeze the crust for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover the pie with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake for 5 more minutes. Let cool until needed.
For the filling:
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the maple syrup, sugar, and star anise to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture is very thick, all the sugar has dissolved, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 1 hour for the anise to infuse.
While the syrup is infusing, toast the nuts. Preheat the oven to 325°. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and toast them for 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Remove the star anise from the syrup. Warm the syrup if necessary to make it pourable but not hot (you can pop it in the microwave for a few seconds if you’ve moved it to a measuring cup). Do not stir the syrup as you reheat it, as it may crystallize and harden.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the syrup, eggs, melted butter, rum, and salt. Fold in the pecan halves.
Pour the filling into the crust and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the pie is firm to the touch but jiggles slightly when moved. Let cool to room temperature before serving.