Thanksgiving snuck on me this year, although I did have a pre-thanksgiving good time in September baking Chocolate Studded Spiced Pumpkin Muffins with Grant Butler, food writer for the Oregonian, when I was in Portland, OR, and again in October at the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary ThanksLiving. At this sold out event, the turkeys were served their dinner first. Human guests ate dinner by Ms Rachel’s Pantry and desserts from Vegan Treats that were served family style! The assortment of individual cakes was fabulous! At Thanksgiving though, my family prefers pies, cobblers and slumps and even Chocolate Cranberry Trifle for Thanksgiving. The featured pie this year is the Chocolate Pecan Pie from my book Vegan Chocolate. I never liked pecan pie, finding it too sweet but I love pecans. This pie definitely features pecans, and the chocolate accent is wonderful. I hope you will give it a try.
If you like pie for Thanksgiving and are in the habit of making them, do you make or buy your pie crusts? Do you have a must have Thanksgiving dish year after year?
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Pecans, which are native to North America, are one of the healthiest nuts. But the typical filling of the classic American pecan pie is super-sweet and made with a trifecta of ingredients we are increasingly determined to avoid: eggs, sugar, and corn syrup. Pour them into a pie crust made with saturated fats and we are confronted with a dessert that is as unhealthy as the pecans are healthy. What to do? I started by looking at the best for inspiration—the exemplary chocolate pecan pie in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts—and eventually created this recipe for a tender, cholesterol-free pie crust that holds a thick and chewy, chocolate-laced, abundantly nutty filling sweetened with maple and rice syrups. Miraculously, the pie even tastes fresh after three days in the refrigerator, and it freezes beautifully, too. You will need to plan ahead, since the pie crust is baked and cooled before it is filled and the nuts roast slowly for thirty-five minutes in a low oven. (This can be done ahead of time; see Note.) The pie filling takes about twenty-five minutes of cooking, and you do need to pay attention.
Makes One (9-Inch / 23-Cm) Pie, 8 to 12 Servings, or more
- 1/2 cup / 120 ml brown rice syrup, warmed in the jar until liquid
- 1 cup / 240 ml pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice
- 3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons / 52 grams smooth cashew butter
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon / 31 grams Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml almond milk, soymilk, or coconut milk beverage
- 2 1/2 ounces / 71 grams dark chocolate (66 to 70%), finely chopped
- 3 1/2 cups / 364 grams slow-roasted pecans, cooled (see Note)
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml almond extract
- 1 Tender Olive Oil Pastry Dough pie crust, blind baked and cooled (recipe can be found HERE)
- Make the filling. Pour the rice syrup and the maple syrup into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with high sides. Bring the syrups to a boil over medium heat, stirring with a long silicone spatula. Syrups expand and climb the sides; be careful to avoid a boil-over mess on your stovetop or a serious burn. Reduce the heat to low, but expect the syrups to continue to bubble. Adjust the heat as needed so that small bubbles rise to the surface almost continuously. You do not need to be concerned about the mixture reaching a particular temperature, but it needs to boil slowly for 6 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice and then the salt. The syrups will bubble furiously when the salt is added, so be careful. Simmer on the lowest heat for 1 minute. Adjust the heat as needed and cook at a low boil for 8 minutes.
- Put the cashew butter into a small heatproof bowl. Add 1/4 cup / 60 ml of the hot syrup mixture to the nut butter and stir vigorously until combined. Repeat with another 2 tablespoons / 30 ml of the hot syrup mixture. Set aside the now-tempered nut butter.
- Whisk half of the cocoa powder into the remaining hot syrup until dis- solved and then whisk in the other half until dissolved. Adjust the heat so that the mixture boils very gently for 6 minutes.
- Position the oven racks so one rack is in the lowest third and the other is in the top third of the oven; preheat to 425°F / 220°C.
- Whisk half of the tempered nut butter into the syrup. The mixture may appear curdled but will become smooth as you whisk. Repeat with the rest of the tempered nut butter.
- Add the nondairy milk and simmer 5 minutes. Add the chopped chocolate. Wait a minute for the chocolate to melt. Add the nuts and stir with a silicone spatula until the spatula is coated.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Pour the filling into a heatproof shallow dish and cool on the counter for about 10 minutes, or until it is barely warm. Don’t refrigerate the filling or it will become too thick to spread into the crust.
- Place the pre-baked crust on a baking sheet to make moving the pie in and out of the oven easy. The bottom of the pie crust will set fastest on a dark sheet, making it a great choice for baking pies (and a poor choice for baking cookies, as the bottoms will burn).
- Spoon the filling into the crust. Spread the filling—it will be thick and sticky—with a small offset spatula or spoon. Make sure the pecans are distributed evenly. You can move them around with a fork if need be.
- Bake the pie on the lower oven rack for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400°F / 200°C and move the baking sheet to the upper rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling. (The filling will appear soft, but will become firm as it cools.)
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Wait 10 minutes before moving the pie pan directly onto a wire rack.
It might be hard to wait, but the pie needs to cool completely before slicing. This will take about 2 hours. Slice and serve the pie at room temperature. If the pie has been refrigerated or frozen, allow it to come to room temperature. It will be fudgy after about 10 minutes. Or, warm the pie first in a low (225°F / 110°C) oven if you like yours a little gooey. Any way you choose, it tastes rich enough to be served without any accompaniment.
Cover the pie in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to three days, or wrap tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and freeze for two months. While a room temperature pie slices easily, you will get the neatest slices when the pie is cold.
Slow-roasting pecans for 35 minutes in a 275°F / 140°C oven takes far longer than the standard directions for roasting nuts, but you will be rewarded with a more concentrated pecan flavor. Slow roast the pecans in quantity. Cool to room temperature. Put the nuts into a zipper-lock bag and close tightly. Slip the bag into a second bag and seal, pressing out all the air. Freeze the nuts for up to four months.
Recipe from Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, © 2013 by Fran Costigan. Photo © Kate Lewis 2013