Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Holiday Recipes

Thanksgiving in Rio this year was quite the event...with green bean casserole, black-bread stuffing, sweet potato bake with pumpkin and apples, and a brined, rosemary rubbed turkey, among other things.

My contribution to the feast was this pie, a Jenna invention: Walnut-Amarula Pie.

The bulk foods store where we always go to find nuts and odd ingredients didn’t have pecans when I went shopping, so I went for the second best option: whole walnuts. They looked pretty, but ever since I was a child, I’ve had a bit of an aversion to nuts. I was fond of saying that they tasted like “old shoes.” (Lamb, too, was out of bounds. It tasted like dirty socks. How I knew the flavor of these things is a mystery...)

And yet my favorite Thanksgiving dessert has always been pecan pie. As a child, I would beg my mother not to put the pecans in, but she seemed to think that was sacrilege. So each and every Thanksgiving, I would get my huge slice of pie and meticulously pull out the pecans, suck every bit of filling off them, and slip the nuts to the side of my plate, where my mother or some other family member would lament the waste and eat them for me. Kind souls.

I’ve recently found ways to appreciate most forms of tree nuts, though they’re still on the list of foods that I am learning to love. But this pie might just make me forget all about those dirty shoe days…

Wanting to make something a bit more exotic than the classic pecan pie, I searched my cupboards for a flavor that would blend nicely with the golden, woody flavor of toasted, caramelized walnuts. Tucked back on the last shelf of the refrigerator was a Christmas or birthday gift from years past, a bottle of Amarula, that lovely South African liqueur, made from the fruit of the marula tree. Just the thing. I'd used Amarula in baking before but those cakes and brownies had barely a hint of the taste I was looking for. Unsure if the flavor would come out better in a pie, I dumped a quarter cup of the liquid into the pie filling.

Wow. You will not want to share this with others. But for the health of your waistline (and to prevent early diabetes) please, please, share. I take no responsibility for overeager or selfish eaters!

(p.s. This is the same recipe as on the back of a Karo syrup bottle. Use a pie crust that is fairly salty. You need the contrast of flavors or this is just too sweet.)

Walnut-Amarula Pie

* 1 cup light corn syrup
* 3 eggs
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 tablespoons butter, melted
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) whole walnuts
* 2-4 tablespoons Amarula
* 1 (9-inch) unbaked deep-dish pie crust

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, Amarula and vanilla using a spoon. Stir in walnuts. Pour filling into pie crust.

3. Bake on center rack of oven for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool for 2 hours on wire rack before serving.

Cardamom-Almond Biscotti

I fumbled this recipe so badly, but so badly, I’m not sure I can even re-create it for you well here. That’s what happens when you transfer an internet recipe to an index card without reading all the directions all the way through. Thankfully…my sweet friend N- was over helping with the cookie experimentation and we salvaged the recipe. Cutting the bar cookies into strips and baking again resulted in not-half-bad biscotti that are great for dunking in a morning (or afternoon) coffee. Please, please don’t ask me what I’ve been eating for the last two days. I have been quite unhealthy…but very happy!

* 2 cups flour (more if necessary)
* 3/4 cup salted butter, room temperature
* 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup powdered sugar
* 5 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
* 1/2 cup almonds, sliced
* 1 teaspoon almond extract
* 1 egg
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cream butter and sugars together. Add egg and extract. Mix together dry ingredients and almonds and add to butter mixture. It should have the texture of cookie dough; if too dry, add a little water, if too wet, more flour.

Pat into an ungreased baking pan to make bar cookies and bake in a medium oven until done in the middle. Let cool, cut into 1 inch thick biscotti bars and bake again until browned and crunchy.


Ali la Loca said...

That pie sounds divine.

Funny, Rico also dislikes nuts and lamb. Although he realized that fresh walnuts from my grandmother's orchard are a completely different story from the dry, store-bought nuts he's used to. He particularly dislikes "regular" walnuts. And the lamb, I believe, is a leftover trauma from time spent in the UK with a host family that didn't know how to cook properly.


Anonymous said...

FYI - You will be getting lamb over Christmas. However, I think you will like my Irish Lamb Stew. I loved the look of your pie, and I'm going to try it after I find some of that liqueur. Looking forward to seeing you, and your grandparents called today - they are planning on being here also. Love you, Mom

Andrew Krause said...

Now that is what I call a pie, great job.

--jenna said...

Wow...I really love it when people comment! Especially when the comments are so flattering...

Ali: I sympathize with Rico on the lamb. I want to be refined and elegant and like lamb. I just can't. Not yet. And wow. Fresh Italian walnuts? That sounds divine.

Mom: I could maybe bring you back some of that liqueur for Christmas. Might be cheaper here with a 2.5:1 exchange rate!

Andrew: High praise from a Pastry Chef. I thank you! (Though I guess I shouldn't mention that my crust was a hideous pat-in-the pan thing that tasted of soy oil. You win some, you lose some.)