I love pecan pie. In my family pumpkin pie is not a necessary part of our Thanksgiving dinner; I’ll often make both pumpkin and pecan pie but if push were to come to shove, I know where everyone’s heart lies. It’s not just for Thanksgiving either…nope; we’re happy to do a repeat just a month later for Christmas. My recipe actually requires cooking of the filling prior to baking and it makes for a superior result. Still, after wondering for too many years what it would be like to substitute maple syrup for dark corn syrup I decided it was time to just go for it. I shouldn’t have put this off for so long!
Each year on Thanksgiving as I make the pies for our dinner, I’m reminded of when I lived in North Carolina. My husband and I had moved there from a suburb of St. Louis with our Irish Setter Heather and it was the first time we had spent a holiday away from our families. We were delighted that our new next door neighbors, Janie and Bob, were also from St. Louis; we became fast friends and they were soon our local ‘family.’
They had an adorable daughter Erin and she bonded quickly with our girl Heather. Erin loved Heather so much, if she ever felt bad or had to stay home from school; Heather would go spend the day snuggled up with her. She was the sweetest dog and we called her Nurse Heather.
Heather was loved by their family as much as ours and would be invited to any group get together. Our plans for the big Turkey Day were to split up the meal as groups often do and I was in charge of dessert. I did what I presumed people would expect, especially since we were all from someplace else and memories of home seem necessary on this day of thanks. One pumpkin pie and one pecan pie. Made on Wednesday and ready to go; easy peasy.
Thanksgiving morning my husband asked where the pecan pie was. I thought he was kidding but I got up from bed and played along with the game. Except he wasn’t kidding…it had disappeared. We found the empty pie plate behind the sofa and the culprit was at hand. You know how utterly charming it is when a dog is chagrined so much that you almost feel sorry for them? Yes, that was Heather. She had eaten an ENTIRE PECAN PIE!
Was she sick? As a dog; she spent the day ‘regurgitating’ pecans (I wanted to say it as nicely as possible!). Back in those ‘olden days’ there were no grocery stores open on holidays or Sundays; only convenience stores. So instead of a relaxing day before heading to our neighbors, we had to hunt down the ingredients for another pie from stores not really stocked for homemade pies! One had butter, another had syrup and I think it took a trip to a third before we accumulated enough of those little packs of pecans to equate to enough for a pie.
Still, the pie got made and Heather had recuperated enough to come with us and let Erin be her nurse for a change. Is there a punch line to this tale of woe? All depends…can you believe that dog BEGGED for pie? Yes, pecan pie. We thought her pretty smart but really…she wanted some more pie. Must have been good huh? :)
This one sure was; the maple adds a wonderful element; we’ll not be going back to Karo ever…add a bit more of the maple syrup to the whipped cream and then go ahead…really indulge with a bit of caramel. Pumpkin pie? In our home…who cares??!!
- 9" pie shell - homemade or prepared
- 2 cups small pecan halves
- ⅓ cup butter
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- ½ cup large pecan halves
- 1 cup chilled heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Caramel Sauce for garnish, homemade or purchased
- Place 2 cups pecan halves on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for 8-12 minutes, stirring the pecans once during baking time, until the pecans are fragrant. Let cool completely, then coarsely chop.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat; mix in sugars and salt with wire whisk until butter is absorbed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in maple and vanilla.
- Cook and stir constantly with wire whisk until mixture is hot and looks shiny, about 6-7 minutes, stirring constantly so the eggs don't scramble on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and stir in the cooled, toasted pecans.
- Pour pecan mixture into the pie crust. Place large pecan halves on top of the filling in a decorative pattern.
- Bake the pie until center feels set but soft when touched with your finger, and moves slightly when the pie is gently jiggled, about 40-55 minutes. You may need to cover the edges of the crust with foil to prevent over browning, or cover the top of the pie with foil.
- Transfer pie to wire rack and let cool completely, at least 5 hours.
- Have mixing bowl and beaters chilled for best results.Beat whipped cream until soft peaks form; add maple syrup and vanilla and beat until firm.
- Dollop whipped cream on top of pie slices; drizzle with the caramel sauce.