Saturday, October 19, 2013

Inspired Pie...

I’ve been taking a trip down memory lane this past week. My sister needed my grandmother’s pecan pie recipe. Every other pecan pie she’s tried to make has flopped. No pie recipe came close to our Nanny’s pecan pie. Nanny was a pie whisperer for sure. When we visited Nanny and Granddaddy’s farm, there was always a pie cooling on the dryer down in the sleeping porch. Butterscotch, chocolate meringue, pumpkin, you name it. 

Recipe cards from my grandmothers and mother.

But Ann wanted the pecan pie recipe and I have my mom’s recipe card box. I looked through all the cards and found recipes for apple pie, date-pecan pie, Nanny’s chocolate meringue pie, lemon icebox pie, strawberry fluff pie, pineapple pie, ancient jello pie recipes clipped from magazines but no pecan pie.
The news really disappointed my sister. As Ann said, “there were just too many recipes just in Nanny’s head.”  You can see how we both took it.

My sister is the crying three month old. I am the aghast toddler.

I cried even longer. I found Nanny’s candy recipes made with Karo corn syrup, and all her cookie recipes.  I’ve been trying to date her recipes. My books are set in WWII and I knew corn syrup was rationed then. I also found out the pecan pie recipe with corn syrup was supposedly invented during the Depression. Pecan pie and candy was around before then, just not with the infamous corn ingredient.

There are other syrups around. After reading a lot about arsenic in rice products, naturally occurring but still a concern, I choose to use cane syrup, homemade or not, most of the time. 

I also made sure to use less syrup than called for and MORE pecans. Again, it’s called PECAN pie, not syrup pie! I know, I know. Some folks like it gooey! But I like it nutty.

Silly me. I thought I was a purist when it comes to pecan pie. I don’t like it with chocolate or rum, no raisins or sweet potatoes or coconut. There’s a reason pecan pie is called pecan pie!

But this week I’ve been revisiting more of the Little House books. Between Jan's post on The Long Winter and today's version and Virginia's post about bravely creating a new pie recipe, I started having visions of maple syrup and the inspiration to create a recipe the way my grandmother did. 

In her head. 

I already had maple in my head. But what could replace gooey corn syrup? Only maple syrup seemed a little strong. And then it hit me. I love using condensed milk in my pumpkin pie for its smooth texture and balance. What if....

Pecan Maple Cream Pie! I'd heard of maple cream but never made one. I'd heard of pecan pie made with maple syrup but not with the cream.  To be on the safe side, to see if what I came up with would work, I searched the Internets far and wide. A lot of recipes were complicated or had cornstarch or heavy cream.

What was in the pantry? Now to the faux part, the easy makin' part. I would use condensed milk rather than sugar and cream.

I found an original pecan-pie-without-the-corn-syrup recipe on The Kitchn site. Thank you, Emma Christensen. and adapted it. I'm not as brave as my grandmother. I wanted it to at least have a chance of success.  

Cakey Crust: I used an individual pack of Pamela’s baking mix (about a cup)  and about three tablespoons cold butter to make my crust in the food processor.  I wanted a crust just a little on the cakey side. Just pulse til combined. But you can use any gluten free crust as well. 

Filling: Then I mixed up the ingredients for the filling. Oh, the smell. Oh, the wonder. Oh the prayers it would turn out. And it did! Thanks to a lot of inspiration from my grandmother and friends and blogs. Now to work up my courage to try to recreate Nanny's original pecan pie.

Pecan Maple Faux Cream Pie

1 can sweetened condensed milk
½ can 100%  maple syrup (yes, I used the can rather than dirty a measuring cup.)
3 large eggs, whisked
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-2.5 cups halved pecans.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the condensed milk, maple syrup, eggs, salt, and vanilla  in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth and mixed well.

Add pecans and stir again.

Pour pecan mixture over pie crust and spread evenly.

Place pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips, place in middle of the oven, and bake for 50-55 minutes.

The top crust of pecans should be deep brown and firm when tapped and interior is 200 degrees.

Cool and refrigerate. Cover lightly and use within a few days.

So, what recipe do you wish you had written down from a relative or friend or restaurant? Are you a pecan pie purist or pie purist for that matter?


  1. I'm a chocolate pecan pie purist! :-) actually that's the ONLY pie I can stop eating - I like it but my aunt's recipe is soooo sweet it's almost impossible to eat- the inside is pure karo syrup I think and the top pecans piled on.

    I head for the chocolate meringue first then coconut, lemon, apple - unless I'm in a fruity mood then might go for the apple first or second...

    I wish I could make my mom's biscuits and milk gravy and her dumplings - they're eyeball/touch recipes and I never got the hang...

    seriously ya'll who cook and food has been a big part with your family over the years - video yourselves showing the process (or detailed photos like on here) as well as write it down or share the 'secret' with more than one mom died early and unexpectedly and her mind is what went (brain cancer) no way we could learn at that point- my sil made the gravy once with my mom tutoring her and I think I could probably wing it but I'd have to go through piles of recipes for the biscuits and dumplings(think they were similar but not quite the same) and then modify over the years like she did...and I don't eat them enough to do that. :-( the biscuits were my mom's pride and joy and I think she wanted to keep it that way for a while longer.unfortunately she got her wish though I don't think she meant forever.

    my sil called a few months ago wanting my mom's chocolate pie recipe (I only remember her making it a few timesLOL once she finished nursing school and started working that was it - her mom babysat us and she'd make it otherwise it was my brother's birthday and he requested pie as he got older. I found it but only a list of ingredients- NOT how to make it - I told him best I could - I remember 2 pans on top of each other with water in the bottom and having to stir like crazy or the chocolate would scald - no wonder I never tried it again! my mom wasn't the most patient in the kitchen and had this 'thing' about having to wash as you go - yuck- I wanted to dirty every single pan and bowl and have flour flying everywhere not keep stuff tidy. :-(

    anyway pie looks good!


    1. That is a good idea, Susanna. My sister interviewed my grandmother for a project in college, and I've been thankful she has that! But alas, no recipes shared.

  2. What a great idea about videos! We always think of things too late. Thanks for the reminder.

    And you've made me hungry!!!

  3. Yummy. Well, being the smart girl that I am, about 20 years ago I asked all my relatives on my Mom's side to send in all their recipes. I had a cook book made. So now I have all those great family classics.

    What's fun is to see all the different ways we make the same thing.

    1. Yes, you are a smart cookie. I have all the recipes. But we each had our fave.

      My little sister makes Nanny's meringue topped banana pudding up in NYC and those folks go crazy!

  4. WHOOOHOOOO! I have all of those things! I'ma gonna make me some PIE!! This looks amazing!
    And those little squirrels... heeeheee! And I thought you were the baby! It's way funnier knowing you're the toddler in that photo. I feel your pain. Love those skinny baby legs, though. Sweetness!

    1. Oh, no, never the baby. I am DEFINITELY the oldest!

      I miss my red curls!

    2. I love the cute photo! That's exactly how my oldest felt when he first got to hold my middle child. He looked all excited, and then after a few minutes, he said, "Can we send him back now?"


    3. Yes, I knew the feeling. And I remember when it happened with both my two older grandchildren as they got a younger sibling.

  5. Tina, that is brilliant. I would do that, too, except... I would actually have to get the book done. but my sister is very much the family historian. I wonder if I could con her into taking on that project??

    1. Good idea, Virginia! My sister is better about that type thing, too. I need to beg her to do it.

      Then again, she's already mailed me some recipe cards from my grandmother. Hmmm. Maybe she's already passed it to me. :/

  6. Love your Thanksgiving visitors. LOL Too cute!!! And your toddler picture is hysterical! Nothing like bonding sisters. As to pies -- all I can say is y'all south of the border have much more creative palates. Up here it's fruit pies, lemon meringue and coconut cream. I can't believe the combinations you have. Chocolate Meringue????? Strawberry fluff???? And can you believe that I've never had a pecan pie?

    The recipe I wish I had that has disappeared somehow is for mocha cake. Man that was delish.

    Oh --and what temp do you cook the pie at?

  7. Some years ago, my mother did as Tina's family did, so the recipes are written down. I highly suggest doing that sooner rather than later Virginia. My mother was motivated by the death of the best cook in the family, her aunt. No one wrote those recipes down. I was a particular fan of her jelly cookies, but I'll never have another again. I think people assumed because she had three daughters, they would get the recipes, but none of them cook. It's not just food, it is history....

    1. True. My grandmother's date pinwheel cookie recipe I have. So wonderful.

      But it is like the antique dealer I saw yesterday said, folks don't care about history. Just the latest trend.

  8. Pie whisperer!!! That was indeed Nanny. I'm reading this in the morning while sipping my morning coffee and darned if I don't want pecan maple faux cream pie to go with it!

    1. I still remember seeing all the pies on top of the dryer in the sleeping porch. How did she make so much wonderfulness in such a tiny kitchen?

  9. Julie, I called my grandmother Nanny, too. And I LOVED her pecan pie. My mother makes hers the same way and wrote down the recipe for me. So I have that one saved, thank goodness. And yes, it uses Kayro! I'll post it before Thanksgiving. I took photos last year but never did share it. I'm glad I now have a post idea!

    I love how you've created a new recipe! I think maple cream will be delicious! There's not much better than real maple syrup in my book.

  10. Pecan Pie is my husband's favorite - but I've never tried making it.

    But as you were posting things on facebook as you prepared for today's blog, I realized that maybe the reason I don't like pecan pie is because of the Karo syrup! (I've never been a fan).

    So, guess what my husband's "birthday cake" is going to be? That's right - pecan pie, minus the corn syrup.

    I'll be trying your recipe, Julie!

  11. Glad you both think it is worth a try. Definitely not as gooey. That's why I liked it.

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  13. I'm late getting over here, but I saw this on facebook and dove into the screen, clawing my way to it.... and then Julie e-mailed me the recipe!!! I will have fun playing with this, Jules! Dave loves maple things and I love pecans and we are determined to make this marriage work, LOL! What a perfect coupling! (Umm, you know what I mean, the maple and the pecans, really???? )

    And the furry friends!!! "Woodsies", remember them? I love the squeaky little woodsies. They were some of my favorite toys with my kids, we'd make up all kinds of little woodland tales and the woodsie puppets would act them out.

    Dave bought two pies at the baked food booth at the benefit last night. Cherry for him, lemon meringue because I was craving it. It's calling me RIGHT NOW! :)

  14. I love Little House, I have not however become a fan of pecan pie, too sweet for me. Loved your post, I save recipies by the tons..
    Linda Finn

  15. Yum! You creative little thing, Julie. And what's not to like about sweetened condensed milk? I could eat the stuff right out of the can. I'm not a big maple fan, but aside from that, this sounds heavenly. And I'm with you on the pecan pie. Less goo and more pecans, please.