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"We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie." David Mamet

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Day 3: Monochromatic Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie with Cayenne-Spiced Crust

Now that I'm no longer 10, the sticky sugariness of my beloved pecan pie is too cloying - yet I still yearn for the contrast of goo and crunchy nut. I'm ready for a more grown-up pecan pie.

This is the kind of challenge that makes me love cooking - imagining flavor combinations then finding a way to make them work. After a few happy hours clicking through blogs and flipping through books, I finally settled on bittersweet chocolate and cayenne to kick the adult-o-meter up a bunch of notches.

Delicious but monochromatic - where's the whipped cream?
This version has the right level of goo, a tiny bit of bitterness to balance the sweet, and a hint of heat. The final, unsolvable problem is that it's a pretty ugly pie. It looks like a monochromatic mud pie. Next time I won't make a chocolate crust. I'll also have plenty of whipped cream on hand, if not for taste then for cover up.

A note about corn syrup. I put a ban on it after reading an alarming and blunt article called "5 reasons why high frustose corn syrup will kill you." But what is pecan pie without the goo-imparting goodness of corn syrup? Then someone told me about brown rice syrup. I found a fairly reasonably-priced organic product by Lundberg. It has the consistency of warm honey, and does a great job.

Never use corn syrup again. Substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
Full disclosure: just as I was scraping the last of the filling into the crust I realized that I'd forgotten to add the eggs. Luckily, the crust was cold and the filling had just enough heft to roll up like an old, sticky carpet, taking some layers of crust with it. But by this time, the mixture was a semi-solid, egg-impermeable mass. I had to reheat the blob to loosen the mixture - but not so much to cook the eggs - and stir madly. It worked but the bottom of the crust never recovered. It was hard and thin. Dang.

Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie with Cayenne-Spiced Crust
Inspired by David Lebovitz and Hungry Food Love

1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder                                                                                                                         4 tablespoons ice water
Chocolate-pecan filling
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup rice syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt flakes (like Maldon's), or 1/2 teaspoon regular salt 
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 cups toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
To toast pecans: spread onto baking sheet and bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes; remove when fragrant and before burning.
Crust: Mix the flour, salt, cocoa, and sugar in food processor fitted with steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the cubed butter and mix until the butter pieces are broken up and about the size of small peas. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, mixing with a spatula, until dough just comes together. 
This is the dough directly from the food processor - it's pretty crumbly. I hear that's a good thing.
Remove the dough onto a work surface and gather into a ball, press into a disc, wrap in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes or more.
On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round. Gently fold into quarters and transfer the dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Fold the overhanging dough under itself at the rim, to create a double width of dough. Crimp the edges and refrigerate until ready to fill.
 I'm pretty sure there's something wrong happening here, but it is pretty.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF and position the oven rack to the center of the oven.
In a heavy bottomed pan on the stove, combine and gently heat brown sugar, syrup and butter until butter melts . 
Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla, salt, and cayenne. Stir in the pecans and the chocolate chips and scrape the filling into the pie shell. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the filling puffs up slightly but still feels slightly jiggly and moist in the center.
Let pie cool completely before slicing. Store up to 3 days at room temperature.

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