Square Pecan Pie (no corn syrup!)
With a pecan farm in the family and living in the south...pecans are a staple around here. We eat them:
-straight from the shell
-roasted and salted
-in pecan brittle instead of the traditional peanut brittle
-toss them on our oatmeal
and then there is the famous southern calorie-laden scrumptious pecan pie.
In my attempts to bake pecan pies, I've had enough flops with jiggly runny centers and less than picture perfect slices (it really won't slice--it's more appropriate to spoon it out of the pie pan). I've even tried my Momsy's handwritten recipe card which says the "secret" is adding cornmeal...flopped for me (waaa!) So I gave up trying.
This recipe which I call "square" pie is fan-tab-u-lous! And for this one we are NOT counting calories and it is made only on very special occasions. These are rich, buttery bars and turn out for me every single time. I'm quite happy this recipe uses maple syrup and not high fructose corn syrup (bleh--bad stuff!)
Line a square baking dish (9x9) with parchment paper letting the sides overhang the edges (so you will be able to lift the square pie out in the end.) Set this aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Note: Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
The bottom layer is a buttery crust but don't be intimidated. It is a simple press and bake crust with no rolling pin required! This is your first step: make and pre-bake the crust.
Place in mixing bowl:
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
Beat together with a large kitchen mixer or electric beaters. Add in:
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat until smooth and fluffy.
Add in slowly beating only until flour is incorporated:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder + 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Press this mixture into the prepared, parchment-lined pan evenly with some of the crust extending up along the sides. The dough will be gooey and a bit sticky so use a piece of plastic wrap over your hand to do the pressing. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. The crust just needs to set up but not be browned. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Here is how to make the filling while the crust is cooling.
Add to a large saucepan on low heat on your stovetop:
3/4 cup butter
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup light brown sugar
Cook and stir on low heat until butter is melted and increase heat until mixture boils. Cook and stir while bubbling for 3 minutes (Oh yes..you have a timer right?)
Remove from heat and stir in:
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or maple extract
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
Let cool slightly and then carefully pour the filling over the pre-baked crust. Pour directly into the center and let it flow over to the edges.
Bake for 25 minutes in pre-heated oven. After 20 minutes pull the pan carefully from the oven and sprinkle the top lightly with coarse sea salt flakes. Allow to finish baking. The filling should be set on the edges and the center should not be liquid and jiggle. It will completely set after cooling.
Bars cut best when chilled for up to 6 hours. Lift up the parchment edges and lay the square pie on a flat firm surface. Cut through with a sharp knife into desired sizes.
These freeze well. Freeze on a tray until firm and then place in small baggies. To serve warm, heat momentarily in a microwave or on low heat in the oven.
These are as good as they look - I pecan-pinkie-promise!
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- Martha Greene