We are hurtling toward the holidays and thus have our eyes, ahem, on the pies. In particular, the official pie of the state of Texas, made from, of course, our official state nut, which, naturally, falls from our official state tree. I must confess to having a troubled history with the sacred nut of Texas, ever since I took it upon my six-year-old self to eat an entire bowlful set aside for my parents’ dinner party. They weren’t near as satisfying coming up as they were going down, and that was that: I was anti-pecan for many years. As food, that is. I had no trouble communing with the tree itself, as when I’d clamber over the low-hanging limbs of a stoic specimen in my grandparents’ Hill Country yard, collecting its treasures and cracking one after another with my dad, whose ability to coax forth pristine, unbroken halves is to this day unrivaled.
The passage of time works wonders; fall now finds me stuffing my pockets with purloined pecans as I walk the dog. And I even get excited about what may be the nut’s highest and best use, exemplified in this eminently appetizing recipe from Jessica Maher, the co-owner of Austin’s lovely Lenoir restaurant, in which the pecans are toasted and then suspended in a sugary amber of cream, golden syrup, and just a splash of bourbon. For the digestion, you know.
Jessica Maher’s Perfect Pecan Pie
1 cup dark-brown sugar
2/3 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1 tablespoon bourbon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup heavy cream
heavy pinch salt
2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (reserve around 35 or so toasted halves for the top)
1 pie crust
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, combine sugar, syrup, bourbon, and butter and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Whisk the eggs, cream, and salt together, then whisk them into the sugar mixture.
Pour the toasted pecan pieces into a pie crust, then pour in the batter. Evenly distribute the pecan halves on top of the pie in concentric circles, starting from the middle.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling is just set and the crust is golden brown.
Allow to rest for at least an hour, then serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Recipe courtesy of Jessica Maher, of Lenoir, in Austin.