A Sweet and Nutty Caffeine Fix – Coffee Pecan Nut Pie
Although pecan nuts are not naturally endemic to South Africa – they are an American nut tree – an unlikely but fortuitous chain of historical events brought them to South African soils many years ago.
In the late 1800s, politician and mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes dreamed of a continent connected by railway, from Cape Town to Cairo. Exploring this on his travels, Rhode stumbled upon a magnificent desert land, watered by two rivers – the Vaal River and the Harts River. A literal oasis – what farming potential!
Although arid and lifeless at the time, the region – which became known as Vaalharts – was eventually handed over to farmers, who used the plentiful supply of river water and rich alluvial soil to cultivate new farms. Still surrounded all around by desert, Vaalharts offers idyllic conditions for pecan nut trees to grow, and now boasts lush farmlands with vast orchards of them.
And so, how fortunate we are to have this delicious nut growing right here at home, in South Africa – something our chefs are ever-grateful for, especially when preparing our popular Coffee Pecan Nut Pie.
Try this wonderful dessert, from the desert, in your own kitchen!
Coffee Pecan Nut Pie
Serves 8 – 10
Ingredients: FOR THE FLAKY CRUST
313g All-purpose Flour
1 tsp Salt
6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, chilled and cubed
130g Vegetable Shortening, chilled (use refined coconut oil as a substitute at a ratio of 1:1)
½ cup Iced Water
This makes 2 pie crusts
Method: FOR FLAKY CRUST
1. Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl.
2. Using a pastry cutter, or two forks, cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal (pea-sized bits). Use your fingers if need be, but a pastry cutter makes this step much easier.
3. Measure ½ cup of water in a cap, add ice. Stir it around. Measure 120ml of this iced water and drizzle 1 Tbsp at a time to the butter-flour mix and use a rubber spatula to stir in after each Tbsp is added. Stop adding water when the dough starts to form large clumps. Do not add more water than required, you should use around ½ cup (120ml).
4. Transfer the dough to a floured surface. The dough should come together easily and not feel too sticky. Using floured hands, fold the dough into itself until the flour is fully incorporated into the fats. Form it into a ball.
5. Cut the dough in half, flattening each half into 2.5cm-thick discs with your hands.
6. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. These discs can last up to 5 days.
Ingredients: FOR THE PECAN FILLING
2 ½ cups Shelled Pecan Halves
3 large Eggs
1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
½ cup Packed light or dark Brown Bugar
1 ½ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
¼ cup Unsalted Butter, melted and slightly cooled
½ tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Your favourite granular Instant Coffee
¼ tsp Ground Cinnamon (optional)
Method: FOR PIE
1. After the pie dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 180̊C, ensuring the oven rack is in lower third of the oven.
2. Roll the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll gently and move from the inside outwards in all directions. Rotate the dough as you move around it. Roll the dough into a 30cm wide circle.
3. Carefully place the dough into a 9×2 inch pie dish, tucking it in with your fingers and ensuring it is smooth. Extra crust dough can be rolled back into form a thick crust on the rim. Crimp the edges with a fork or use your fingers to flute the edges.
4. Optional – Chill the moulded crust in the pie dish for 10 minutes in the fridge. Remove from the fridge and brush the edges with egg wash. (1 egg beaten)
5. Roughly chop the pecan nuts. Some nuts can be whole, some more finely chopped. Spread them evenly inside the pie crust.
6. Whisk the eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, melted butter, coffee, and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Pour over the pecans.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 55 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. At the 20-minute mark, you can place a pie crust shield over the pie to prevent the edges from browning too quickly OR using aluminium foil, create a tent over the pie for the same purpose.
8. Remove from the oven when baked and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. The filling will settle as it cools.
9. Best served at room temperature or slightly warmed
This sticky and sumptuous dessert is delicious, especially when served with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream, or whipped cream.