Bake Me Happy Maple Pecan Pie

Is it Christmas already? Really? Doesn’t feel like it all. My birthday is also the following week—another major event that sort of snuck up on me this year.

I suppose I’m not feeling so much like celebrating right now. I’m in the process of ending a ten-year relationship (a completely heart-wrenching and painful process); work is, well, work; and finally, I’m embroiled in this long-distance relationship that is so beautiful and amazing but not as easy to deal with as I thought. So rather than brimming with Christmas cheer and feelings of goodwill toward mankind right now, I’m just going through the motions, happy to get through each day and to take joy in little things like reading, my sunny walk to work every morning, baking and this blog.

I’m stuck right now. Stuck in this seat , stuck in this office—it’s eating me alive. Stuck in this time and place in my life. So what can I do? I can do the one thing that will always make me feel better. Bake.

Bake because I control what I make, I follow a formula that, if followed precisely, will yield predictable results. Bake because I will measure/stir/knead through all these thoughts and finish feeling satisfied with my work and a little less dissatisfied with the state of my world.

Judging from my current state, I am in desperate need of something sticky, sweet and calorie-rich. It’s Christmas, so uber-sticky maple pecan pie fits the bill to a tee.

I used this recipe (adapted from Joy of Baking) last Thanksgiving, and as I recall, it’s all syrupy, gooey, nutty goodness—exactly how pecan pie should be. The base is a pate brisee and is uber-flakey from copious amounts of butter. The original also calls for Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which I replaced with maple. (Most recipes call for corn syrup, but ever since I saw Food, Inc., I haven’t been able to think of corn—and a lot of other things for that matter—in the same way.)

Maple Pecan Pie (another one adapted from Joy of Baking)

Pecan Filling:

1 1/2 cups pecan halves

1 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup maple syrup (or golden syrup)

1 tbsp bourbon (or water)

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3 large eggs, at room temp., lightly beaten

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

Pate Brisee:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced

1/8-1/4 cup ice water

Maple Whipped Cream (optional)

1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup

1 cup heavy cream

a few pinches of sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To make the crust: Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse until just combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms pea-sized granules. Be careful to not overpulse. Slowly add the water in a steady stream while pulsing, adding just enough so that when you pinch the dough, it holds together. Do not add too much water or process more than 30 seconds.
  2. Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather it into a ball. Flatten it into a disk, then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 to 60 minutes.
  3. After that time, lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out into a 13 inch circle (if you are making a 9 inch pan) or a little bigger if you are making individual tarts/pies. Give the dough a quarter turn frequently, so it doesn’t stick. Place the dough in a pie pan and brush off any extra flour and crimp the edges. Refrigerate for another 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 and place your rack on the lower third of your oven.
  5. To make the filling: Heat the brown sugar, syrup, bourbon and butter in a saucepan until it boils. Remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly, until tepid. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl. Mix in the eggs, salt and cream to the syrup mixture.
  6. Put the pecans over the pie crust (or divide evenly between your mini pans), and then pour the syrup over them. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes (or about 30 to 35 minutes for the mini pies) or until the filling has set and a toothpick inserted comes out clear. Place on a wire rack to cool.
  7. To make the maple whipped cream: Whip the cream and maple syrup until soft peaks form. Add a little sugar (if desired) and whip until a little stiffer.

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