Chocolate lovers' pecan pie

Since I wrote a big book on chocolate desserts, I've tried adding chocolate to just about every dessert from applesauce cake to zabaglione.

pecan pie yipee 88 (photo credit: )
pecan pie yipee 88
(photo credit: )
'I f there were a hall of fame for Southern food, pecan pie would certainly be featured," wrote Margaret Agnew in Southern Traditions. Pecan pie's popularity in the southern part of the US is not at all surprising. After all, the South is the growing center for pecans, the only major nut that comes from North America. In this region sugar cane is also grown, and sugar is used enthusiastically in a host of baked goods and candies, including very sweet pecan pralines. Indeed, you could say a sweet tooth is an important part of the region's culinary heritage. Sometimes I find that pecan pie can be overwhelmingly sweet. Generally it is sweetened with a combination of corn syrup and sugar - white, brown or both. I've seen recipes for average-size (23 cm.) pecan pies that call for two cups of a combination of these sweeteners, mixed with only one cup of the nuts. Since I wrote a big book on chocolate desserts, I've tried adding chocolate to just about every dessert from applesauce cake to zabaglione. Sometimes, as in the case of cheesecake, I prefer the classic version, sans chocolate. When it comes to pecan pie, however, I find that the addition of dark chocolate is an improvement on the standard. The chocolate's bitterness beautifully balances the sweetness of the pie. DOUBLE-CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE For this version of America's traditional favorite, I use plenty of pecans. I stir chopped pecans, cocoa and chocolate chips into the filling and set pecan halves on top. Make your own pie shell using the next recipe, or bake the filling in ready-made dough. If you like, serve each wedge of pie topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Makes 8 to 10 servings 4 3⁄4 cup corn syrup or golden syrup 4 1⁄2 cup brown or white sugar 4 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder 4 55 gram unsalted butter, cut in 4 pieces 4 3 large eggs 4 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 4 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped 4 1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips 4 23-cm. unbaked Pie Shell (see following recipe) 4 1⁄2 cup pecan halves Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 220ºC. Mix corn syrup, sugar, cocoa and butter in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook without stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes. Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl. Stirring constantly with a whisk, slowly but steadily pour syrup mixture into eggs. Whisk until well-blended; mixtures will not blend at first but will do so after continued whisking. Cool for 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla, chopped pecans and chocolate pieces. Pour into pie shell. Arrange pecan halves on top in an attractive pattern. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 175ºC. Bake 20 minutes or until a thin-bladed knife inserted halfway between center and edge of filling comes out nearly clean, with only a bit of batter sticking to it; if it comes out chocolaty because it hit a chocolate piece, test again. Cool on a rack. Serve pie slightly warm or at room temperature. AMERICAN-STYLE PIE SHELL Homemade pie dough is easy to make in a food processor. Old-fashioned American pie dough is made with shortening, which is similar to firm margarine (the kind labeled "margarine for baking.") I use mainly butter together with only a little shortening or margarine. The butter gives better flavor and the shortening contributes flakiness. 4 11⁄4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour 4 1⁄4 teaspoon salt 4 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, well-chilled, cut in 10 pieces 4 2 Tbsp. vegetable shortening or firm margarine, well-chilled, cut in 4 pieces About 1 tablespoon plus 21⁄2 teaspoons iced water In a food processor, process flour with salt briefly to blend. Scatter butter and shortening pieces over mixture. Process using quick on/off pulses until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon water. Process with on/off pulses until it is absorbed. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon water. Process with on/off pulses, scraping down occasionally, until dough forms sticky crumbs that can easily be pressed together but does not come together in a ball. If crumbs are dry, sprinkle with more water as needed, 1⁄2 teaspoon at a time. Process using on/off pulses until dough forms sticky crumbs. Transfer dough to a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap dough and push together. Shape dough in a flat disc. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Let dough soften 1 minute at room temperature. Set on a cold lightly floured surface. Knock dough firmly with a heavy rolling pin several times to flatten it. Roll out dough, flouring often and working quickly, to a round about 3 mm. thick and about 29 cm. in diameter. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin; unroll over a 23-cm. pie pan. Gently ease dough into pan, letting excess dough hang over edge of pan. Trim dough about 1.25 cm. from edge of pan with scissors. Fold edge of dough under so it comes just to rim of pan and covers rim. Crimp edge of dough, forming a high border. Prick dough lightly with a fork. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 day. Bake according to your recipe (see above). Makes one 23-cm. pie shell. Note: To make dough by hand: Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Cut butter and shortening into flour with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually sprinkle water over mixture, mixing and tossing lightly with a fork, until dough holds together. Faye Levy is the author of the award-winning book, Sensational Chocolate, which was also published in Hebrew by Sirkis Publishing as Shokolad!. n