A pecan pie is this: a thick, gooey band of sweet filling that tastes faintly of molasses, nestled into a flaky pie crust and topped with a ridged mosaic of pecan halves. I’ve never made one and, despite Kevin’s request that I do so for this year’s Thanksgiving, I worried that it would not fit on the menu. Not that I have a problem capping off a lavish Thanksgiving buffet with a truly gluttonous variety of pies. Oh no, to the contrary. But, this year, I was afraid that my appetites and my time do not quite match up.
Kevin and I fly into Minneapolis on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, arriving well after dark. On a normal Wednesday, I’d be heading to bed around the time we’ll get to my parents’ house. My plan for that evening—barring travel woes, which seem to befall us every. single. holiday.—is to proceed directly to the kitchen. I will not pass go (though I will accept a glass of wine) and I will immediately get to work on the pies, a category of the meal I’ve agreed to spearhead.
So, I hemmed and I hawed and I toyed with the idea of forgoing sleep on Wednesday night. Until, eureka!, it hit me: I could combine two pies (the chocolate and the pecan) into one: Chocolate Pecan Pie. Unsurprisingly, Martha Stewart (and, likely, countless other bakers) reached this brilliant solution long before I.
So, last weekend, I decided to give the Chocolate Pecan Pie its dress rehearsal. The only snag came at the grocery store, in the baking aisle, where I was unable to procure corn syrup, as I’d planned. Which is kind of a major snag because, at this point, I was pretty sure that corn syrup was the main ingredient in a pecan pie. Or, at least the co-main ingredient, right up there with the pecans. Nevertheless, according to one of the Whole Foods employees in the baking aisle last Friday, my store is not currently stocking corn syrup. He suggested that I try honey or agave nectar and I also pondered a maple syrup substitution. In the end, I used agave nectar, which worked beautifully. I think a combination of that and maple would be lovely, too.
That snag aside, the pie came together well. The patterned pecan topping was a joy: gingerly placing the pecan halves on top of the filling in a set of orderly, concentric circles (because I’m the kind of gal who hates to color outside the lines—always have), where they hovered in place ever so delicately, was the highlight of my day. And about the crust. I say to heck with crimping, fluting, or otherwise elaborately adorning the edges of a pie crust. I quite like the look achieved by simply pressing the tines of a fork (a cold, floured fork works best) along the edge of the pie plate. I think it works particularly well with this pie, as the parallel tine-marks mirror the pecans’ ridged backs.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups agave nectar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 recipe pie crust (recipe here), rolled and fit into a 9-inch pie plate
1 (plus) cup pecans