Friday, August 26, 2011

Tried and Tweaked Thursday for the Perpetually Unaware

I'm not saying I didn't know yesterday was Thursday. I'm just saying I didn't know it until about 9:30 pm. I've been living in a bit of a fog lately, but I'm hoping the cooler weather will bring better sleep and greater available brain power.


But I do have a wonderful recipe to share, one I've made dozens of times through the years. It's nutty, it's seasonal, and it's PIE. What could be better?

Well, for one thing there's no fruit to worry about, except a touch of lemon that you can leave out or fake if needed. It's good warm, room temp or cold, with or without ice cream or whipped cream, it's easy-peasy to make, and it's based on pantry ingredients. Plus, a slice in the morning for breakfast beats even croissants for decadent satisfaction, and it's more nutritious anyway from the nuts.

I've been craving it for a few weeks, and finally the air is cool enough to let me bake it. It's taken from a Southern Living magazine recipe that was itself an attempt to tweak traditional Pecan Pie into something other. They added lemon for freshness, switched to maple syrup from corn syrup, and used the bitterly delicious, elusive black walnut in place of pecans. A magnificent tweak!

Sadly, you rarely see black walnuts available here, and when you do, they're outrageously expensive and never look very fresh. Doesn't matter for this-- to sub, I've used both straight walnuts and walnuts touched with black walnut extract, and either way works beautifully.

(BLACK) WALNUT PIE, adapted slightly from Southern Living, Oct. 1997

3 lrg eggs

1/3 C firmly packed brown sugar

1 C maple syrup*

1 tsp EACH fresh lemon juice and grated lemon rind*

1/2 tsp vanilla extract*

1/8 tsp salt

3 Tbsp butter, softened

1 C walnut pieces

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust in 9-inch pie plate*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat eggs and sugar at medium speed w/electric mixer* until smooth. Add syrup and next five ingredients (lemon juice through butter), beating until smooth.

Place walnuts in pie shell, pour filling over nuts.
Bake pie at 375 F for 35 minutes (center of pie will not be set.). Cool completely, serve with sweetened whipped cream.

*Here's the tweaks-- first off, I like this in a 10-inch pie crust, so that it doesn't overflow in the oven. You could also leave the lemon out altogether and bake it in a chocolate crumb crust for an extra dimension of flavor. In any case, I'd advise putting a cookie sheet under the pie plate while baking.

Another thing-- I didn't have any kind of mixer the first few times I made this, so got into the habit of using a whisk instead.

Fresh maple syrup instead of corn syrup was a great idea on the part of SL; but in a pinch, if all you've got or can afford is the average maple-flavored table syrup (which is mostly corn syrup itself) use it: I have.

For those sparky touches of lemon and black walnut bitterness, you can sub another citrus rind and juice, and a drop, singular! of black walnut extract. Or use extra rind and no juice, or a teensy drop of lemon or orange extract for the rind/juice combo. It will still be good, but use restraint with any extracts.

If you've got citrus rind & juice but no black walnut extract, you can leave it out or sub a few drops of rum extract or a drop of almond. This is an adaptable sort of pie-- my favorite type of recipe, as you've probably guessed by now.

There's nothing on earth to stop you from topping it with any chopped fresh fruit you think will go with nicely, either. I hope you try it; I know you'll enjoy it as much as we do.

Peace, Mari

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