Of all the American classics, pecan pie might be my favourite. Its warm, buttery comfort sometimes lured me to Oxford’s famous ice cream parlour, G&Ds, on cold autumn evenings. I’d sit by the window, late into a Sunday night, with forkfuls of warm pie and sips of ice-cream-blended-hot-chocolate, alone with my essay deadline. There was something peaceful and detached about watching rain-blurred fragments of people and lights and umbrellas and colours smear past the steamy windows in the darkness and the rain. Pecan pie, like the parlour itself, was both a part of Oxford and an escape from Oxford. I felt about G&Ds as Holly Golightly did of Tiffany’s; nothing very bad could happen to you there. Not even Monday morning could come for you there.
Fast forward a year, to a different autumn and a different place, pecan pies remained an occasional Sunday evening escape. 10 degrees below freezing and three thousand miles from home, I watched a different blur of people and lights hurry home through falling snow, and felt faraway.
Even the best food grows heavy in a mouth that cannot swallow. But though pecan pie may never have solved any of my problems, it provided moments of warmth and respite in harsh climates. And sometimes that’s all a pie needs to do.
Now, about this recipe. Your typical pecan pie is made with a regular shortcrust pastry case, and a filling of butter, sugar, eggs and corn syrup (and pecans, obviously). I’m not huge fan of any of those things (except for you, pecans), but wanted to keep the taste and texture authentic. The soya butter, coconut sugar, maple syrup, arrowroot and flaxseed worked perfectly for me, and I would know – I’ve eaten a lot of pecan pies. I also added a splash of bourbon for good measure. It has a buttery, molasses-style all-American flavour but isn’t overpowering at all, so if your’e not a whiskey fan don’t worry, you can’t taste it in and of itself. Serving it warm with a glass of bourbon, and maybe a little coconut whipped cream, is highly recommended. This is true Sunday evening comfort food.
For the crust:
- 130g (1 cup) wholegrain spelt flour
- 130g (1 cup) plain/ all-purpose flour
- 150g (3/4) cup coconut oil (I used refined, to minimise coconut flavour and because its wayyy cheaper. But if you’re super fussy, you can use extra virgin and it will taste fine)
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1-3 tbsp ice water, as needed.
For the filling:
- 3 tbsp (30g) ground flaxseed + 9 tbsp (90g) water
- 60g soya butter (or equivalent)
- 70g coconut sugar
- 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
- 200ml pure maple syrup
- 2 tbsp bourbon (optional but it ain’t a bourbon pecan pie without it)
- 150g pecans
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C (170 fan) and grease a 9inch flan dish with coconut oil. In a small bowl, combine the ground flaxseed and water. Stir well then leave to one side.
- Make the crust. You can either throw all the ingredients together in a food processor, adding the water if needed to form a dough, or you can do it by hand. If doing by hand, mix together the flours then cut in the oil. This will make it a crumbly dough. Stir in the sugar then add the water so it forms a proper dough.
- You can roll out the dough properly, but personally I just pressed it into the greased dish so that the bottom and sides are evenly covered. Chill in the fridge for ten minutes so that the dough is cold and firm, then bake blind for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the filling. In a saucepan, gently melt the butter over a low heat, then stir in the coconut sugar and maple syrup until it’s all dissolved. Pour a tbsp or two into a separate small bowl and mix in the arrowroot to create a thick paste, then pour this mix back into the saucepan (this way the arrowroot is added without forming lumps). Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the flaxseed mix and the bourbon.
- Remove the pie crust from the oven and pour in the filling. Lastly, add the pecans on top, in any arrangement you like (I personally didn’t bother with decoration, I just wanted to get that pie in n out the oven asap). Return to the oven and bake for around 30 minutes, until it’s really bubbling and slightly set.
- Leave to cool completely, and ideally chill in the fridge for an hour or so too, because the setting process continues as the pie cools. If you cut into it too soon the base will be soggy and the filling runny. Don’t do this. Be patient. Your time will come.