Pecan pie is not my favorite fall pie. That spot is permanently taken by pumpkin pie. But it becomes boring to have only one type of pie around, especially during the holidays. I vary my options with apple pie, lemon meringue pie and, as in this case, pecan pie.
Corn syrup is the traditional base for a pecan pie, but I didn’t want to use it in mine and looked for alternatives. While it provides a pleasing consistency to this type of pie, corn syrup is just too sweet and too one-dimensional for my tastes. It doesn’t add all that much to the pie, and lack of depth is one of the things that I don’t like to see in a pecan pie. I found one promising recipe in an old issue of Gourmet that used maple syrup instead of corn syrup. Maple and pecans go amazingly well together, so this recipe sounded like a winner right off the bat. The ingredient list is short and the method here is dead easy. The only real change I made to the original recipe was in the nuts. I used more nuts than the recipe called for and used pecans that had been previously roasted and salted. Pecan pie is definitely a sweet dessert, but salty-sweet is better in my book and using slightly salty pecans gives the pie a nice balance.
The combination of all the elements worked out beautifully. The hint of saltiness that the roasted/salted pecans added to the filling really took the edge off the sweetness of the syrup base, just like sea salt does to a caramel. The maple syrup gave the pie a fantastic fall flavor and made for a much more interesting dessert than a corn syrup-based pie. My standard maple syrup is “Grade B” because it has a richer color than the “Grade A” or “light amber” syrups. That said, any type of real maple syrup (not maple-flavored pancake syrup, which is just corn syrup) will work for this recipe. For the crust, I used my standard all-butter recipe. It doesn’t take long to make and only needs about 30 minutes to chill before working it. To save time, however, you can start with a frozen pie crust that has been defrosted.
Maple Pecan Pie
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
6 tbsp butter, chilled in about 6 pieces
3-4 tbsp ice water
Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in butter with your fingertips until mixture is very coarse, but no pieces bigger than a large pea remain. Using a fork, stir in ice water until dough almost comes together into a ball. Press dough into a ball with your hands and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 30-60 minutes before using.
Maple Pecan Pie
pastry for 9-inch pie crust
1 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups coarsely chopped roasted and salted pecans
Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll out pie dough to fit a 9-inch pie plate. Transfer dough to pie plate and press lightly into place, crimping edges to fit. (If using a frozen pie crust, thaw first)
In a large bowl, whisk together maple syrup, sugars, eggs, melted butter, flour, vanilla and salt until smooth.
Spread the pecans into the bottom of the pie shell and pour maple syrup mixture over the top. Carefully transfer pie to oven.
Bake for 60 minutes, until puffed and set.
Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.