November 17, 2010

Salt Free My Recipe: Pecan Pie

For two days in a row now, I’ve had pie for breakfast. Sorry I’m not sorry. And sorry I don’t fit into my pants. But as someone that rarely enjoys the lusciousness of baked goods, I’ve been digging into my latest creation with abandon.

Pecan pie. There are two things about this gooey holiday dessert that usually deter me from eating it. First, there are the pecans. I happen to not only be on a low sodium diet, but also quite allergic to nuts. Fun.

And second, there’s the corn syrup, which (surprisingly) happens to be high in sodium – one cup equals around 200 mg.

But even though these two ingredients are somewhat “essential” to a pecan pie, I was determined to make a low sodium, nut-free version that had similar tastes and textures. Which meant taking my food processor down from the top shelf (oof!) and making a mess of my kitchen with flour and butter. A daunting task with an end goal that was well worth the trouble and clean up.

I started by searching for a recipe on Epicurious.com that used maple sugar as well as corn syrup, so that there was less of the salty stuff that needed to be replaced. I then decided to swap pomegranate molasses for the remaining corn syrup, unsure how it would affect the taste and consistency of the pie, but willing to try.

As for the nuts, I mixed some pumpkin seeds directly into the filling batter. But because of their rather small size, I was not yet satisfied. The pie needed to be chunkier. It needed crunch. It needed Whole Food’s 365 Unsalted Pretzels (40mg per 16 pretzels) that I added to the top of the pie fifteen minutes before the baking was done, so that they didn’t get soggy.

The result? Well, I was shocked to say the least. The buttery crust was a dream

and the extremely liquidy filling actually solidified and was even better by day two and three – meaning you can make this pie ahead of your holiday gathering and it will only get better with age. Like a fine wine or Brad Pitt.

My taste testers said that the pie was delicious and slightly tart from the pomegranate molasses, but that it was very rich and sweet. So be prepared to cut smaller slices and maybe even scoop some ice cream on top to cut the sugar rush.

If you decide to give this pie a try this Thanksgiving, be sure to let me know what additions you make. Did you add chocolate chips? Did you dust it with powdered sugar? Did you throw some dried cranberries inside?

Sure, with extras like these, you’ll be traveling farther from the original. But that’s exactly how you’ll create your own signature pie. Pecans are just a starting point and don’t let anyone, or any cookbook, tell you differently.

Dig in and chow on.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Filling:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1  cup crushed unsalted pretzels
  • 1 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds

Directions:

For crust:

1. Using electric mixer or food processor, beat butter  until smooth.

2. Add sugar and egg yolk and beat until blended.

3. Add flour and beat just until dough begins to clump together.

4. Gather dough into ball and flatten into disk.

5. The original recipe says to “roll out dough on lightly floured work surface to 10 1/2-inch round.” But my dough was so buttery that I immediately transfered it to my 9-inch-diameter pie dish and used my hands to press dough onto bottom and up sides of pan.

6. Pierce dough all over with fork and place crust in freezer 30 minutes before filling and baking.

For filling:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in medium bowl until well blended.

3. Whisk in maple syrup, pomegranate molasses, and melted butter.

4. Stir in pumpkin seeds and pour filling into unbaked crust.

5. Bake tart until filling is slightly puffed and set, about 30 minutes.

6. Add the pretzels to the top of the pie, using a wooden spoon or spatula to pat them into the filling slightly, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.

7. Cool, serve, and enjoy. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert.

Beth November 17, 2010 at 9:11 am

Sounds absolutely delicious and can’t wait to make this!

Carolyn November 23, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Would love to know where you purchase your pumpkin seeds (with shell off–called “Pepitas”). Can’t seem to find any online with a “nut-free” on label.
We have nut allergies and your recipe sounds great!

sodium girl November 24, 2010 at 8:24 am

I get mine from Whole Foods in their bin section – they usually include nutritional information on the bins so I can make sure they are sodium free! If you do not live near a Whole Foods, I would look at local health food stores or even call a Whole Foods rep to find out where they buy their bulk seeds. Or even…get a pumpkin! And scoop out the seeds for a totally DIY project. Just season and toast, and you’ve got something homemade and delicious. And totally sodium safe.

Hope that helps!

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