Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf's Espresso-Browned Butter Pecan Pie #FoodieReads


When you have friends who love to read, you always have a steady stream of either the books themselves or the inspiration to track down books. When I commented on Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm's post about an Double Crust Deep Dish Apple Pie + Book Review, she offered to send me the book. That's just the way she is: sweet, generous, and an avid reader.

So, when I saw a package from her in my mailbox, I did a jig and tore it open. Thanks for sending me The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller*, Wendy. What a fun, delicious read!


On the Page
When I first cracked the cover of the book, I wasn't sure I would like the main character. When we first meet Olivia Rawlings, she admits to having an affair with a married man - her boss - and to setting the restaurant on fire. Wow! That's not a spoiler, by the way, it's on the very first page.

But as I turned the pages, voraciously devouring the prose, I found myself chuckling, smiling, and rooting for this bourbon-swilling gal who flees Boston for rural Vermont.

This delightful novel captures the sights, smells, and sentiments of the holidays and family - both biological and chosen - and includes family grudges and country gossip that are all part of living in a small town. And there's pages upon pages about food...so I loved it even more.

While planning a dinner at the Sugar Maple Inn, Livvy describes...

"A cheese course would follow. Vermont cheddar with quince paste, fresh chèvre with homemade blackberry preserves, and a sheep's-milk blue cheese with pears poached in port. And then dessert. Pumpkin crème brûlée baked in hollowed-out miniature pumpkins. Apple galettes with frangipane in puff pastry. Pears stuffed with cognac-soaked figs and wrapped in phyllo, baked to a crispy golden brown, the fruit inside tender and succulent. And thin chocolate shells, filled with a thick amber caramel, studded with toasted pecans and a layer of dark chocolate ganache just barely sweetened" (pp. 50-51).

Then, when talking about balance: " I pointed a French fry at Hannah, 'What makes a complex dessert,' I said in my best French accent, 'ees contrast. Say it with me, chefs. Contrast. Salty and sweet, hot and cold, soft and crunchy, light and dark. Your desserts must balance all of zee senses.'" (pg. 117).

The protagonist - or the author - definitely appeals to my palate. I can't wait to try some of these combinations and sweets.

On the Plate
There was so much inspiration in this book. And I don't even have a sweet tooth! I tried to get D to make his AB Apple Pie; he just loves that Alton Brown recipe. We considered Crème Brûlée; the Precise Kitchen Elf always raises his hand to use that culinary torch!


I even started making a list for a cheese board in honor of the pairings she creates for the dinner.

In the end, my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf wanted to make his 'perfect pecan pie.' It took several tries and tweaks to the original recipe we found a couple of years ago, but he says it's just the way he wants it. It's made with browned butter, espresso, and love. Lots of love! 

Oh, and that maple syrup in the filling was a fitting nod to Livvy living in a sugarhouse in Vermont!


Ingredients  makes one 9" pie

Crust
  • 1-1/4 C flour
  • 1-1/2 t organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t salt (we used a vanilla salt)
  • 1/2 C butter (1 stick), cubed
  • cold water
Filling
  • 8 ounces raw pecan halves
  • 8 ounces Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 3 T brewed espresso
  • 1/2 C butter (1 stick)
  • 1 C packed organic dark brown sugar
  • 7/8 C maple syrup
  • 1 T instant espresso powder
  • 1-1/2 t salt (we used a vanilla salt)
  • 3 large eggs
  • whipped cream or ice cream for serving 

Procedure

Crust
In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the butter cubes and pulse until chunks the size of small peas form. Pour in 1/4 cup of cold water and pulse, again, till the dough comes together in a ball. Turn out the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and knead 2 to 3 times. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, approximately 1 hour.


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll out dough between two pieces of parchment paper, then transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.

Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or - we used - whole nuts in their shell. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove the paper and weights. Return to the oven and bake until the bottom is lightly browned, approximately another 10 minutes. Let cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and make the filling.

In a small pan, cook the chopped dates in the brewed espresso until softened to a paste, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. 

In a dry skillet, cook the pecans over medium heat until they are fragrant and toasted, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the toasted nuts into a bowl and let cool. Wipe out the skillet and use it for the next step, too.


Add the butter to the pan and cook over medium heat, swirling, until the milk solids turn a deep golden brown, approximately 5 minutes. Let cool slightly.


In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, maple syrup, instant coffee powder, and salt. Whisk in the eggs, then slowly whisk in the brown butter until the filling is smooth. 


Spread the espresso-date mixture over the bottom of the parbaked crust.


Scatter the pecans on top of the espresso-date mixture, filling up the crust as much as possible.

Pour the filling over the pecans. Place in the oven and bake for 70 to 75 minutes - until the filling is set around the edge and slightly jiggly in the center. 


Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool completely.

To serve, slice and place on individual plates with a scoop of whipped cream or ice cream. "Now's it's perfect," the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf declared. I have to agree.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else read in March 2018: here.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the novel too. I'm looking forward to this author's second book.

    ReplyDelete

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