This is a decadent variation on my aunt Maggie's pecan pie which is hands-down the best I've ever tasted. Smokey, sweet, nutty, crunchy, and gooey at the same time. I just want to jump in there and roll around with my mouth open. I attribute its enhanced tastiness to three things:
1. Maple syrup – instead of corn syrup, which is a yucky, highly processed product, Maggie's recipe calls for maple syrup and good old fashioned sugar. The smokey flavor that the maple syrup imparts is a perfect complement to the nutty, toasted pecans.
2. Espresso – she adds two teaspoons of instant espresso granules for an even richer, gooier filling.
3. Crust – this is not the pate brisee recipe I typically use but calls for an egg yolk and has slightly different proportions.
Although I could happily eat Maggie's pecan pie (with whipped cream) forever, I was curious to see what would happen if I added chocolate, because it seemed like a natural pairing for the nuts and maple syrup. So I chopped some up and I'm happy to report that adding a little bittersweet chocolate to the filling takes this already divine pie even better.
Since the crust calls for egg yolk, you'll get to do a little separating – a task that I always find remarkably satisfying. Since my kids also refuse to eat egg yolks, this is a great way to avoid wasting anything – I just fry up the whites for them and everyone is happy.
You need to chop and toast the pecans before baking – doing this brings out their nuttiness and helps keep them from getting soggy in the filling.
While you're toasting the pecans, blind-bake the crust for about 10 minutes to ensure that it does not get soggy. You can use pie weights if you have them (one of my friends reuses the same dried beans on a sheet of tinfoil over and over for this purpose, too) or just poke some holes in the crust with a fork to prevent it from ballooning up while you pre-bake it – even easier.
Mix the maple syrup, the sugar, the melted butter, coffee, and eggs together into one glorious, gloppy mess. Then scatter the toasted pecans and chocolate chunks in the pre-baked pie crust and pour the filling over them. I topped mine with a handful of whole, raw pecans to pretty the whole thing up a bit.
Then into the oven to bake for about 50-55 minutes. You'll want to leave yourself plenty of time to let the pie cool after it comes out of the oven so that the filling sets properly – and a little refrigeration before serving can't hurt, either.
If you're not a chocolate lover, the good news is that you can still make Maggie's divine maple pecan pie without the chocolate, just use three eggs instead of two and bump the maple syrup up to a full cup instead of a half – all the rest of the proportions stay the same.
Maple chocolate pecan pie
Makes one 9-inch pie
For the filling
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 tablespoons (1/2 a stick) organic butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons instant espresso or coffee, mixed with 1 tablespoon water to make a thick paste (*editors note: May substitute decaf espresso)
6 oz. pecans, chopped
For the crust
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons organic butter, chilled
1 large egg yolk
1-3 tablespoons ice water
For the crust
1. Add the flour, sugar, and salt to a medium bowl and mix to combine. Cut the butter into small pieces – I usually slice the stick into 3 or 4 long pieces, then flip it over and do the same thing along the other side and then cut it into small slices to create little cubes.
2. Using two sharp knives or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse meal.
3. Add the egg yolk and one tablespoon of ice water and stir with a fork until it starts to stick together and form dough. You may need to add more ice water as you stir to get it to begin sticking together.
4. Give it a quick kneed until you've incorporated everything and then wrap the dough in waxed paper and let it chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or longer. You can make the crust ahead of time or even use a store-bought crust.
5. Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge and lay it out on a floured surface – you can use the counter or an upside down baking sheet. Using a rolling pin, roll it out in a rough circle until it is about 10-12 inches in diameter than gently pick it up and drape it in the pie dish. Roll any excess under and then crimp the edges with your fingers or the tines of a fork. If you won't be using pie weights, poke the bottom of the crust all over with the tines of the fork.
For the filling
6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the chopped nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to toast while it's heating up – I'd set a timer for 5 minutes to ensure that you don't end up burning them. Once they're browned, take them out and set them aside to cool.
7. When the oven reaches 400 degrees F, blind bake the pie crust for 10 minutes (again, use a timer!) until it is looking golden brown. Don't freak out if it starts to balloon up, just gently poke it back down. Set it aside on the counter to cool.
8. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. Combine the melted butter, salt, sugar, maple syrup, coffee, and eggs and whisk to combine. Lay the toasted pecans and chopped chocolate in the bottom of the pie crust then pour the filling over it and top with a few whole, raw pecans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes. The outer edges should be firm while the center should be a little bit jiggly. Take it out and let it cool fully before serving. This will allow the center to finish cooking completely and set fully. Serve on its own or with whipped cream.
Related post on Garden of Eating: Maple Pecan Scones