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Friday, November 16, 2012

Spiced Maple Pecan Pie w/ Star Anise

Spiced Maple Pecan Pie with Star Anise
Piiiiiie, people.  Pie.  That's what Leslie and I are talking about today.  Pecan pie to be exact.  Yes, for this month's edition of She Made, Ella Hace, we're talking about a holiday favorite.  Well, one of my personal holiday favorites, at least.

Growing up, pie was always a Thanksgiving "thing".  Which, I suppose, is why I still associate pie with this time of year.  I mean, I love pie any time.  Pies bursting with summer berries make me weak in the knees.  And don't even get me started on the gooey, unctuous coconut and almond pie-slash-tart that instantly makes me think Easter.  Oh!  Or maybe the cheek-tingling, mouth-puckering layer of lemon blanketed in that light as air meringue crust.  Ai-yi-yi.

Wait, where was I?  Why am I so easily distracted?  And why do I have the urgent need to walk away and cut myself a slice of breakfast pie to go with my coffee?
Spiced Maple Pecan Pie with Star Anise
Ah yes, the pecan pie.  And the other pies that SCREAM autumn and Thanksgiving time in my ear.  I cannot remember a single Thanksgiving growing up when my grandma did not make one pumpkin pie and one pecan pie.  They would make their way to the table after the men had stumbled off to the sofas and chairs to fall asleep "watch football".  The kids would be fighting over the pool table or settling in for a thrilling game of Pong.  But the ladies, they would all sit around a cleared table with steaming coffee in their mugs.  Usually spiked with some of the Kahlua that grandma and grandpa brought home from Mexico every year.

The pies never varied.  The pumpkin pie recipe came straight from the back of the Libby's can...and the pecan recipe straight from the bottle of Caro.  But I looked forward to them every single year.  Mom's favorite was always the pecan.  My aunt preferred pumpkin.  But me?  I sidled up to that table full of ladies and cut myself a thin slice of each.  Pumpkin with a fat blop of Cool Whip and pecan as-is.

I don't remember the exact year that I transitioned from racing to the pool table to chatting around the table.  Instead of being called to the table "if" I was ready for pie, I sat willingly.  It was probably somewhere around the time I started drinking coffee.  Spiked with Kahlua.

Spiced Maple Pecan Pie w/ Star Anise
Kick your regular pecan pie up a notch with the addition of maple syrup, star anise, and spiced rum!
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Spiced Maple Pecan Pie with Star Anise
by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 1½ hours + 1½ hours (unattended)
Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
Keywords: bake dessert nuts pecans Christmas Thanksgiving pie American fall winter

Ingredients (1 pie)
    For the crust
    • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt
    • 10 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into ½" pieces
    • ~5 Tbs. ice water
    For the filling
    • 1 c. maple syrup
    • 1/2 c. brown sugar
    • 8 whole star anise
    • 2 c. pecan halves
    • 3 large eggs
    • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 Tbs. dark rum or spiced dark rum
    • 1/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt
    to serve:
    • ice cream, whipped crème fraîche or barely sweetened whipped cream, optional
    make the crust
    Pulse together flour and salt quickly in a food processor. Scatter the butter over the flour and then pulse a few times to get crumbly, pea-sized pieces. Pulse in ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture is just moist enough to hold together.

    Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap and carefully turn the dough out onto it and gather it into a disc. Wrap it in the plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. At this point, you could also freeze the dough for up to 4 months.

    Place refrigerated dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll it out into a 12" circle. Transfer the dough into a 9" pie plate. Fold over or trim off any excess dough and crimp the edges however you would like. Keep in mind that this is an all-butter crust, so it will "shrink" a bit when it is baked.

    Prick the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork and freeze for 15 minutes (or refrigerate for 30).
    pie crust dough
    Preheat the oven to 400° F.

    Lay a sheet of foil into the crust and fill it with pie weights (or dried beans or rice). Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Carefully lift out the foil and weights and bake for another 5-8 minutes, or until the crust is a pale, golden color. Set on a wire rack to cool until you need it.

    make the filling:
    Combine maple syrup, brown sugar, and star anise in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until mixture is thick, 15-25 minutes, and is reduced to about 1 cup. Remove from heat and set aside for 1 hour to allow the star anise flavor infuse.

    Reduce oven heat to 325° F. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until they start to smell nutty, ~12-15 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and set aside to cool.

    Lift (or strain) the star anise from the syrup. If the syrup is too thick, briefly set it back over a low flame to make it pourable. Whisk the eggs, melted butter, rum, and salt together in a medium bowl, and then drizzle in the syrup while whisking (if it's hot, this will keep the eggs from scrambling) constantly. Stir in the toasted pecans.

    finishing the pie
    Set the pie crust on a baking sheet that has been lined with foil and pour the filling into the crust. Bake in the oven (still at 325° F) for 35-40 minutes, or until the filling is firm, yet jiggles slightly when moved.

    Let cool to room temperature. Serve plain or with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or whipped crème fraîche. Or my personal favorite, heat up a slice and serve it with cold vanilla ice cream.

    adapted from Cook this Now
    Spiced Maple Pecan Pie with Star Anise
    Eventually, I was the one who started to bring "that one extra" pie to Thanksgiving.  I'd sneak in a Sweet Potato Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream.  Or maybe an Apple with a Cheddar Crust.  Or a crumble topping.  I've gone the Chocolate Pecan route.  And the Rumrunner Pecan Route.  I've even done a Pumpkin Pecan pie.  And while I love trying new variations, I have a soft spot for a "regular" pumpkin or a "regular" pecan pie.

    This particular version of pecan, however, could very well be the best that I've ever tried.  It stays true to the "regular" pecan pie - no chocolate or pumpkin in there to muck up the gooey goodness.  Instead of corn syrup, it uses maple syrup that is reduced with some brown sugar and infused with star anise.  We love any sort of anise flavor in this house.  From the anise seed I use in my mole to the fresh tarragon used in béarnaise or tarragon cream sauce to this perfectly perfumed pie - it may be one of my favorite flavors.

    Ummmm...and you know what the next version I want to try is?  It's mi amiga Leslie's Cajeta Pecan Pie (plus, she's made another type of pie, Pay de Cajeta)!  Tell me that doesn't sound amazing.  You should totally go over to her place and check it out.

    What happens when two American girls who are both married to Mexican guys find out that although one of them lives in the U.S. and one of them lives in Mexico, they both love eating the same food?  Well, naturally they decide to get "together" the only way they can and cook up the same dishes.  Or perhaps take the same ingredients and talking about them in their own voice or using them in their own way. 

    Leslie and I have teamed up to occasionally cook/bake/make a our own versions of the same food.  We want to see how similar (or how different) they turn out.  Other times we will pick an ingredient and use it however we choose...or maybe just talk about it.  Good food knows no borders and we hope to share the food we love with you.  It's not a competition, it's a showcase.  We will post on the same day as each other and would love to hear your thoughts on what we've made and how you make it. 

    Join me (here at girlichef) and Leslie in her kitchen (at La Cocina de Leslie) for some delicious food.
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    Spiced Maple Pecan Pie with Star Anise