Holiday Baking: Why A Homemade Pecan Pie Is So Much Better

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Just out of curiosity, while I was shopping at Costco yesterday I checked the ingredient list on their (very nice looking) pecan pies. And what ingredient came first?  You probably won’t be surprised that it was corn syrup.  This is why we bake at home!  And you also won’t be surprised that the first ingredient (by a wide margin) in my recipe is… pecans. Mostly this is sweetened with dates, while barley malt and maple syrup play minor roles. Start with a pie shell, mix all the filling ingredients in your food processor, arrange pecans on top, bake, glaze, and you are done.  Just wait for it to cool before attempting to cut it–or bake it a day ahead of time.  I promise, you won’t miss that corn syrup in the least!. Recipes for the pie, crust and topping are after the jump…

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Pecan Pie (Sweetened with Dates and Maple Syrup)

(one 10-inch tart, 8-10 servings)

You will need one single crust pastry shell, pre-baked, or try the recipe below.

For the filling:

2 1/4 cups pecan pieces

1 cup pitted dates, packed

1/4 cup barley malt syrup

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup soy or rice milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

pinch salt

1 cup whole pecan pieces, reserved

Plus 2 tablespoons each barley malt and maple syrup for the glaze

1. Combine the pecan pieces, dates, barley malt syrup, maple syrup, vanilla, soy milk-arrowroot  slurry and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until everything is well combined.

2. Pour this mixture into a pie shell. Spread out evenly, arrange the reserved cup of pecans attractively over the top, pressing them in lightly. Bake at 350º F 25-30 minutes or until the filling has firmed up.

3. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons barley malt syrup and 2 tablespoons maple syrup. After the pie has baked about 25 minutes, remove pie briefly from the oven and brush lightly with this mixture.  Return to oven and bake another 10-12 minutes or until glaze and pie filling are set.

4. Cool thoroughly before serving

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Pecan-Coconut Crust

I’m experimenting with the use of coconut products in baking, so I created this recipe using coconut oil and coconut milk.  If  you don’t want to go in that direction, substitute canola oil and soy or rice milk. This pastry is delicate, so I only rolled it out part way, then lifted it into the pan and pressed it into place.  Bake briefly, remember it will be in the oven again for half an hour.

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup pecans, ground into a fine meal

tiny pinch of salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup coconut milk

1. Measure the flour, pecans and salt into a mixing bowl.  Work in the coconut oil.

2. Add the maple syrup and coconut milk. Mix together well to form a soft dough.

3. Lightly flour a rolling surface and partially roll out the dough, adding a little more flour if needed.

4. Place in the tart pan and press into place.

5. Bake in a 350º F oven for 12-15 minutes.  Watch carefully, it should be slightly under-baked when you remove it from the oven.

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Rich Vanilla Tofu Creme

(yields about 3 cups)

14 ounce package firm tofu, thoroughly drained

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut cream (thick part of coconut milk)

3 tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Combine everything in a food processor or blender and blend until very smooth and creamy.

2. It’s best to make this ahead of time and allow it to chill for at least 3-4 hours so it can firm up and the flavors meld.

Variations: Add chopped, crystallized ginger, or orange zest.

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