Crisp-crust Maple Walnut Pie – and More
Seems like only a moment ago this was shaping up to be the best maple syrup season in years. Alternation of frosty nights and mild days? Check. Saturated ground pushing the sap flow to gusher dimensions? Check. Buckets everywhere? Yup. Blogger testing maple recipes? Night and day.
And then – Hot Snap. Enemy of syrup making. Instant wilter of species crocus.
Who knew the drearier aspects of March could be something you’d miss?
The person whose crocus those are, of course. On the good side, I finally figured out how to get a crisp bottom crust on a maple walnut pie without pre-baking the shell, my very least favorite part of pastry making.
Back in the early 70’s I had a night kitchen bakery in rented space in a coffee shop in Rockland, Maine. The product line was limited: three times a week I made 60 baguettes of sourdough French bread and one to two dozen maple walnut pies.
Baking and delivery took me from around 8 PM to 3 AM, much of that time spent in a bar across the street, waiting for the dough to rise. The pie recipe is long lost ( perhaps not surprisingly) but whatever else was going on I’m certain of two things:
1) I was not baking those pie shells blind, and
2) the bottom crusts were crisp, that being a bottom line for me in the pie-quality department. So how did I do it? Words cannot express how deeply I wish I knew; the old fashioned Blodgett stack ovens may have had something to do with it. How I do it now – can’t believe it didn’t occur to me sooner! – is with a pizza stone. Simplicity itself.
CRISP CRUST MAPLE WALNUT PIE
Using a pizza stone puts a lot of heat under the pie, close to that bottom crust. A glass pan holds more heat than a metal one and allows you to check crust doneness. This pie freezes very well, so don’t be shy to make one and save the bulk of it for future reference.
for a 9 inch pie:
A large pizza stone, at least 14 inches in diameter (mine is a square that completely covers the rack of my small oven)
Pastry for a single crust. I use a half batch of Processor Sour Cream Pie Crust .
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbl. flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 eggs, cold right from the fridge
1 ¼ c. maple syrup, preferably very dark amber (Grade B)
a 9 inch glass pie pan
1 ½ c. walnut pieces, lightly toasted
2 tbl. butter, melted
1. Put a rack in the lower third of the oven. Put the stone on it and heat to 425 degrees. This will take at least a half hour.
2.While the stone is heating, roll out the pastry between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Put the whole thing on a cookie sheet and put it in the ‘fridge.
3. In a good sized mixing bowl, mix sugar, flour and salt with a wire whisk. Stir in the eggs, trying not to beat. The less air incorporated the better.
4. When the stone is hot, retrieve the pastry. Use it to line the pie pan, building up a generous rim. Sprinkle the nuts over the bottom. Put the prepared pan on a thin, foil lined cookie sheet.
5. Stir the melted butter into the filling and pour it over the nuts. A few will dislodge, no big deal. Put the pie into the oven and turn the heat down to 350.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the heat to 325 and continue to bake until crust is richly browned and a knife inserted in the filling comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes more. Check from time to time and cover the top with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Allow to cool completely before serving.
The ingredients above will yield a 9-inch tart with a very pronounced walnut flavor. Cut down to ¾ c. nuts, chopped a bit more finely, for a stronger maple taste. If you use the full amount of nuts, there will be a bit of filling left over. Bake it in a custard cup or make a tartlet. (A 10 inch tart would seem to be the obvious solution, but it’s hard to get that size cooked in the middle without overcooking the edges).
Being thinner, the tart will cook more quickly than the pie, but not by much; just subtract about 10 minutes from the last segment of baking.
RICOTTA AND MAPLE SYRUP
Is great all by itself, very nice with mandarin sections
And unbelievably good with oil cured black olives. Their salty bitterness is just right with the smoky maple sweetness and then there’s the creamy, mild ricotta for the third leg of the triangle.
Also not to be overlooked; this dessert is very nearly instant. If you have time, put the syrup in the freezer to thicken for a few hours before serving.
is a classic Canadian dessert – or breakfast, on state occasions - of biscuits baked on top of boiling maple syrup. Cottage pudding gone to heaven: crisp, brown and buttery on top, syrup softened but not at all soggy underneath. The recipe is here
Before I go out to plant the lettuce.
This weekend and next are loaded with maple celebrations – open houses, demos, tastings and kid-friendly activities too numerous (and predictable) to go into at length.
Fun, though, and you can’t beat it for shopping local. Not many syrup makers are regulars at farmers markets, so this is often the best chance to buy directly from producers instead of through middlepersons or by mail order. Many New York opportunities can be found here, many in Maine here.
Other syrup producing states include Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, to say nothing of the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, which together produce the bulk of North American syrup. Google any one plus maple weekend to find festivities near you.
Postscript not about Maple Syrup. Frustration! Not for the first time unable to comment on a Blogspot site, in this case A Haven for Vee, because there’s either no url category that fits (Vee’s) or the open ID isn’t interested in my address. (Others I can’t think of at the moment). Usually I just give up, cursing, but Vee was very generous – and also curious about Roger and the 3000 Mile Garden.
So Vee, if you’re reading:
Wow! WHAT a lovely compliment – and lovely blog, too. (congrats on the tassel,btw). Thank you so much for that generous praise…in the same post as E.B. and Katherine White! My cup runneth over. Happy to say Roger and I are still in touch, though we seldom see each other. Our last visit was 2 summers ago, when we were together for 4 days at a mushroom conference in CT and then he and Nicky came to Maine, stayed near us, and came to dinner twice. He has a couple of wonderful websites, one on roses, one on mushrooms. You can get to both through Roger’s Roses. I just heard from him the other day, in fact, because he’s been making 3000 mile into an e-book and is almost done.