The pecan tree, related to the hickory tree (Carya illinoensis) is a ‘native’ of Texas and the North of Mexico, USA. The name comes from the Algonquian Indian word paccan meaning, literally, a nut to be cracked with a rock! Pecans originate in prehistory and were thriving long before the American Indians even arrived in America. The earliest recorded writings on the pecan by Cabeza de Vaca nearly 600 years ago, tell us that the that American Indians planned their movements and activities around the life cycle of the pecan. They gathered in the river valleys in autumn to harvest pecans and depended on them as their major food resource for about 4 months of the year! The first successful grafts of the pecan tree were done in 1846 by a Louisiana plantation gardener. The nut-bearing pecan tree of the walnut family,classified as a species of hickory native to North America, is distinguished from other hickories by its thin-shelled nuts with sweet kernels. Native Americans of the Southeast pressed oil from them and used them in stews, roasted. The pecan pie originated in very early America and was called a molasses or a transparent pie. Thomas Jefferson brought the pecan east transplanting some trees from Mississippi at Monticello his Virginia estate. Mature pecan trees can produce up to 1200 kgs of nuts per year and are temperamental and difficult trees to grow because they need high summer temperatures both day and night as well as a lot of space.
Pear and Pecan Pie
Blind baked sweet shortcrust pastry
150 unsalted butter at room temperature
100 g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
250 g plain flour
1 egg, beaten
- Cream butter and icing sugar together in a food processor.
- Add the egg yolk and mix well and then add the flour, do not overwork it.
- Add just enough iced water to bring the dough together.
- Knead lightly and then wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for an hour or two
- Roll the pastry out into a fluted round tart pan with removable rim, preferably non-stick and bake for about 10 – 12 minutes.
- Brush with beaten egg and bake for 5 – 8 minutes more.
375 ml Sauternes dessert wine
3 cardamom pods, roasted and crushed, then sieved
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways and the seeds scraped off
6 ripe pears (firm & cut in half), peeled & cored, cut into 8
150 g whole pecans
250 g unsalted butter, softenend
250 g caster sugar
60 g all purpose flour
125 g ground almonds
125 g ground pecans
- For the filling, place the Sauternes, cardamom, pecans, cinnamon, vanilla bean and seeds in a large pot and bring to the boil.
- Add the pears and enough water to immerse them fully.
- Cover them with baking paper and a plate to keep the pears submerged.
- Poach for 10 minutes until they are tender and take off the heat.
- Allow to cool and leave the pears in the poaching liquid until you need them, but remove the pecans and put to one side.
Preheat the oven to 150 C
- To make the frangipane cream the butter and sugar together with your food processor (or in your electric mixer) until they are light and pale.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating them well after each addition.
- Spoon the frangipane into the prepared pastry case and smooth the surface with the back of a hot metal spoon.
- Using one of the slotted spoons in your kitchen, remove the pears from the poaching liquid, setting the liquid aside.
- Arrange the pear wedges over the frangipane in a symmetrical pattern, pressing in slightly and press pecans loosely down into the frangipane.
- Bake for 20 minutes until the filling is a golden colour and springs back when you touch it.
- Remove from oven and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Now strain the pear liquid and discard of all the aromatics.
- Bring back to boil and simmer until you have reduced it by about two thirds and it has reached a syrupy consistency.
- Cut into wedges and serve with scoops of ice cream (honey and thyme ice cream works very well), drizzled with the syrup
Have a peaceful Sunday.