Contemporary Pecan Pie

Here is what you need to know about this pie:

A mixture of brown sugar and honey takes the place of corn syrup.
Brown butter makes it toasty and rich like a dark cup of coffee.
One tablespoon of lemon juice cuts through the sweetness like a knife.
A subtle 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon adds depth and warmth.
It tastes 100% traditional.

When I set out to make a classic pecan pie without corn syrup, I had to pause to ask myself why. Was it because corn syrup is inherently evil? Had I just been brain washed into thinking that it was that bad? I had avoided corn syrup in the past largely because it seemed a more processed product than raw honey and organic maple syrup, but to completely denounce the sweetener without any research hardly seemed fair.

What I discovered was that due to the unknown effect of consuming large amounts of fructose, high-fructose corn syrup is generally considered to be a consume-at-your-own-risk kind of ingredient. On the other hand, pure glucose syrup is a simple sugar that has several interesting applications in the kitchen. The problem is that most commercial corn syrup actually contains an unspecified amount of high-fructose syrup as an ingredient, unless the brand advertises otherwise. Eventually, after sifting through multiple conflicting articles, I decided that regardless of the possible pitfalls of corn syrup, honey and maple syrup are always going to be superior options for me. Not only do they impart so much more flavour, but it is incredibly easy to find people who produce these products locally and organically.

With that settled, I turned to crafting a recipe that was both free of corn syrup and ‘traditional’ – that is one without bourbon, chocolate, or any other third party ingredient attempting to offset the sweetness. Rather, I relied on the subtle aroma of darkly browned butter, a whisper of cinnamon, and soft notes of floral honey to add dimension without compromising the classic flavour of molasses and nuts. Use this as an opportunity to see how far you can brown your butter without burning it, and you will be rewarded with unparalleled flavour.

Contemporary Pecan Pie
Adapted from: Carole Walter. ‘Southern Pecan Pie.’ Great Pies and Tarts.

Ingredients:

1 disc prepared pie pastry*

7 tablespoons unsalted butter (3.5 oz)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons mild honey
8 oz pecans

*an additional disc of pastry is required for a braided edge

Method:

Roll the disc of pastry into a 12 inch circle. Carefully fit the pastry into a 9 inch pie plate, then crimp or decorate the edge as desired. Freeze the shell for at least 30 minutes.

Darkly brown the butter, then let it cool while you prepare the other ingredients. Click here to learn how to make brown butter.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the oven racks so that you can place the pie plate on a rack in the lower middle of the oven, and a baking tray underneath it on the bottom rack.

When the oven has finished preheating, toast the nuts on a baking sheet for 6-8 minutes or until they are aromatic and slightly oily.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, white sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large measuring cup, combine the cooled brown butter, vanilla extract, and lemon juice.

Pour the liquid over the sugar mixture and stir until the ingredients are moistened. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, just until they are well combined. Wisk gently – you do not want to incorporate too much air into the mixture or it will puff up during baking. Whisk in the honey.

Remove the prepared pastry from the freezer. Spread the cooled nuts across the bottom of the pie shell. Give the filling a final stir then pour it over the nuts. Fill the pie to a scant 1/4 inch below the top of the crust, to allow room for the filling to expand during baking.

Place a large metal baking sheet on the bottom rack of the preheated oven. Place the pie on the middle rack and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, rotating carefully after 30 minutes. Use a pie shield if necessary to prevent overbrowning in the last 20 minutes. The pie is finished baking when the crust is completely golden brown and the filling has puffed up through to the centre. The filling should still wobble slightly when the tray is jiggled, and it should only begin to crack in the last few minutes of baking – if at all.

Let the pie cool completely before serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Brown Butter Spiced Madeleines

Earlier this week I ventured into the heart of hipster Toronto, to visit my old haunting grounds in Kensington Market. This is one of my favourite places in the world for several reasons, but what really keeps me coming back is the sheer density of food, art, and fashion jammed into one energetic space. Nothing gets me excited like the thought of more culturally diverse markets, spice stores, and delicatessens than I know what to do with. It did not take me long to spot a bakery that had sprung up in my absence, and I was dancing when I realized I was in for a treat. Go to Blackbird Baking Co. and get yourself some bread, because the wholegrain Pullman I took home set a whole new standard. And if vegan restaurants and vintage clothing is more your thing, there is plenty of that in the area as well.

With it being fall, the season in which we add spice to everything, my main mission was to restock my depleted spice cabinet. A fist-full of whole nutmegs, ground ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, all-spice, and Chinese 5-spice together create the base of a solid winter horde. Since balancing spice is an acquired skill, I thought what better to learn than to whip up batches of bite-sized madeleines, each flavoured with a slightly different combination of spices. After much munching, this version emerged as the winner.

Brown Butter Spiced Madeleines
adapted from Epicurious, Spiced Madeleines

Ingredients: 

3 3/4 oz unsalted butter, browned and cooled*
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (94g)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon (or 1/2 teaspoon regular cinnamon)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
large pinch all-spice
pinch salt
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 large eggs, at room temperature

*Click here to learn how to make brown butter

Method: 

Brown the butter. Whisk in the vanilla extract and let cool to lukewarm.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, all-spice, and salt.

Whisk the eggs and sugars together until well combined.

Add the flour to the egg/sugar mixture and gently whisk, or fold with a rubber spatula, until no streaks of flour remain. Quickly fold in the cooled butter just until you have a uniform batter.

Cover the top of the batter with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, and up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Butter and flour a madeleine pan. Fill each cavity 2/3 full with the chilled batter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350ºF and bake for another 6-8 minutes or until the centers spring back to the touch.

Turn the madeleines out onto a wire cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar just before serving, or drizzle with a simple glaze of water and icing sugar once they have cooled.

Nutty Carrot Cake

Amid an abundance of moist carrot cake recipes, this one stands apart. Tart apple, toasted nuts, brown butter, and warm spices combine to create a memorable cake that you will want to serve again and again. Chose a sour apple, such as Granny Smith, for the most impact, and make sure to use a fine mesh strainer to gently squeeze out any excess water after shredding.

Nutty Carrot Cake

Inspired by: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/grandma-s-apple-carrot-cake

Ingredients:

2 eggs, room temperature
6 ounces unsalted butter, browned and cooled
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine table salt
1 cup all purpose flour (125g)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup lightly packed peeled and shredded apple, drained of excess water
1 1/2 cups lightly packed shredded carrot
2/3 cup toasted chopped pecans, plus more for garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and line a square 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in colour. Measure a 1/2 cup of the liquid brown butter (there will be some remaining) and gradually add it to the egg mixture while whisking until well combined. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  3. Combine the flour, spices, baking power, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Gently and gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet, just until the mixture is combined.
  5. Fold in the shredded apple, carrot, and pecans.
  6. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake for 35-40 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (a few moist crumbs is okay).
  7. Let cool completely in pan, then carefully use the parchment overhang to lift the cake out of the tin, or simply cut and serve.

Quick Brown Butter Frosting

Ingredients:

1/3 cup unsalted butter (2.7 oz)
2 cups icing sugar (250g)
tiny pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons 35% cream

Method:

  1. Melt and brown the butter, let cool slightly.
  2. Stir in the salt, icing sugar, vanilla and enough cream to reach desired consistency.
  3. Spread over completely cooled cake.