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  • Writer's pictureKatja

Guest Writer -- Will Warren, chef, tempts us with chocolate pecan pie

Befriending a farmer often means being filled with infinite questions about what they do and all the details of their agricultural lives. The trick is knowing what to ask them directly, and when to self-educate with a handy Google search. When Katja asked if I’d like to write a post on the humble pecan, I jumped at the chance, then realized I actually know very little about them, beyond the debate here in the US on the ‘correct’ way to pronounce it. (How do YOU say it where you are from?)

Pecan trees are native to the southern region of the US, as well as Mexico, but can now be found on all continents except Antarctica. The word "Pecan" is from the Native American Algonquian language, meaning “a nut to crack with a stone”.

There are three layers to pecans: the outermost layer is the husk (produced by the exocarp tissue of the flower); next, the thick infamous shell; last, the rich, buttery seed at its core.

They are ready to harvest in the autumn when the husks begin to darken and split open.

Commercial orchards often use machines that shake the trees to release the pecans, expediting the harvesting process when conditions are prime. Katja has a great video when using this contraption in what she describes as ‘bone rattling’ work.

Husking the pecans is a messy process, as they produce a heavy, thick sap that can stain hands even through multiple pairs of gloves.

After the husk is removed, the pecans then need to rest in their shells for several weeks in loose mesh bags for the seeds to cure, enhancing their overall flavor, texture, and aroma.

They can be frozen after this point, with almost no effect on their general quality.

Pecans can be eaten fresh, made into pecan oil, or used in sweets like praline candy and the signature dish of the American south – pecan pie. In their natural state, they are low in sugar and can even improve blood sugar levels by slowing absorption from the bloodstream to peripheral tissue. They are an excellent source of manganese and copper that reportedly boost metabolic health with their anti-inflammatory properties, and potentially lessen the risk of heart disease. Additional benefits are zinc for immune development, antioxidants that may reduce risks to certain cancers, diabetes, cognitive decline, and a handful a day is thought to even lower cholesterol. What’s not to love?

Chocolate-Pecan Pie -- 8 to 10 servings

One 9-inch / 22cm single layer pie crust (already prepared)

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (7 ounces) / 250 ml sugar

½ teaspoon / 2.5 ml salt

½ cup (2 ounces) / 125 ml unbleached all-purpose flour

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup (6 ounces) / 250 ml semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup (4 ounces) / 250 ml chopped pecans, lightly toasted

1 tablespoon / 15 ml bourbon (optional)

1 teaspoon / 5 ml vanilla extract

Whipped cream as topping

Preheat oven to 375º F / 190º C

Beat eggs on high speed of electric mixer until light and lemon colored. Gradually beat in sugar. Reduce speed to low and add the salt, flour, and butter, beating until thoroughly combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, then bourbon and vanilla.

Spoon the mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Bake until crust and top are golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serve warm, with unsweetened whipped cream if desired.

{Nutritional information per serving: 1 slice, 99g / 446 cal, 28g fat, 5 g protein, 16g complex carbs, 29g sugar, 2g dietary fiber, 75mg cholesterol, 201mg sodium, 131mg potassium, 134RE vitamin A, 2mg iron, 89mg phosphorous, 13mg caffeine}



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