#1: Take a "PEEK" at the first pie of 2023!
Updated: Jan 3
Coffee-chocolate-cinnamon pecan pie
Is it pronounced pe-can or pe-cawn? (Discuss. I'll wait. Did we look this up in online dictionaries? Yep.) Our friend Robin McKee complicated our argument as she ignored both these possibilities and when visiting her Mom in OK got "a whole mess of pee-kins" and meant to send some to us. She ran short on time and the nuts traveled with her all the way back to CA where she finally mailed them on to us. Therefore I decided they would be the perfect choice for the first of 60 pies, hereby called the Well-Traveled McKee Pee-kin Pie.
Pecan pie is gooey and often super sweet, perhaps overly so, so I poked around in our many pie books trying to combat that. The great Magpie cookbook (named after and featuring recipes from a famed Philly pie boutique) featured a coffee-chocolate-cinnamon version that "cuts back on the cloying sweetness." Perfect.
On the coffee note - from the past, I know that "start making the pie early in the morning" means AFTER at least one cup of coffee, if not several - helps get the brain going and prevents mistakes like leaving out ingredients. Jeff was in bed early on New Year's Eve; I was up until 10:33 PM, not to see the ball drop, but to make the pie dough. I've learned that pie dough really needs a minimum of 8 hours to chill which means overnight. ("Chill at least one hour"? I don't think so. Not enough time.) After it went in the fridge, both the pie dough and I got our beauty sleep.
I almost always stick to my tried-and-true pie dough which is the usual all-butter dough with just flour and water, and a little sugar and salt. I generally use a higher-fat European-style butter such as Plugra or Kerrygold (Irish) but have been known to use regular unsalted butter if it's on sale (I will be buying lots of butter when I find it on sale this year and will have lots of butter in the freezer.)
One trick I've adopted is to mix the water with half vodka for the dough. For the vodka, I buy as inexpensive as possible, no good stuff, no flavored vodka and certainly no Russian vodka these days! The vodka sounds like another just excuse to drink, but actually the alcohol theoretically keeps the crust from shrinking while baking and has no taste. Seems to work well for me. They can always tell when it's baking time at the wine shop downtown as that's generally the only time I buy vodka (or sometimes bourbon or brandy. Any "bourbon/brandy optional" recipe means add the booze.)
In my pie baking I've generally used glass pie plates as that's what we have. In preparing for this project I came across a few opinions that metal pie pans make a crispier, superior crust. It took a while for us to find some metal pans that were not nonstick (we usually avoid those) and the pans I ordered showed up in the mail yesterday...perfect timing. I liked using the metal and in the future will try a side-by-side metal vs. glass crust, to see what difference the pan material makes. What a fun way to start off 2023. Happy New Year to you all!
If you'd like to make this yourself, the recipe is here.
The Verdict: Star Baker or Leaving the Tent?
We love watching the Great British Baking Show, where at the end of each episode one contestant is crowned Star Baker, and one gets sent home and must leave the tent. It seems appropriate to judge each pie thus, as Star Baker worthy, or, "I think we know who's heading home tonight."
This pie is Star Baker quality! Perfectly baked with a crispy crust. The chocolate transforms the pie from the traditional too-gooey-and-too-sweet pecan flavor to a super rich chocolate taste with lots of crunchy nuts. Typical? No. Delicious? Oh, yes. While you would never guess there is a teaspoon of espresso powder in the filling, the coffee gives it an additional deep flavor...and I think the two tablespoons of bourbon I added doesn't hurt! More, please.
This pie for breakfast tomorrow? You bet.