Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nuts and chocolate

What is it about Thanksgiving and pies? Pumpkin, apple, sweet potato and pecan pies share the spotlight with the cranberry sauce and turkey.

I suppose pies became a regular menu item for the big day because they're easy to make in advance. I know I always make my pumpkin pie on the night before Thanksgiving because that leaves ones less thing to do on a very busy day.

I usually make just one kind of pie for the relatively small gathering I cook for, and it's always pumpkin. And, I'll tell you a secret about my husband and me. We don't eat our pumpkin pie after our big Thanksgiving dinner, we either have it for breakfast or lunch on Thanksgiving Day, when we aren't stuffed with turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes!

Many of you find a large spread of desserts at the Thanksgiving table, and if you've been asked to prepare a pie, maybe you'd like to take something new this year.

Last year I ran across a recipe for a mixed nut pie. It sounded so good, but I never got around to making it.

Whenever I find a new recipe to try, I either tear it from the pages of a magazine, make a photocopy of it or print it from a Web site. Then it goes into a three-ring binder where I either promptly forget it or it nags me until I try it. I remembered this nut pie all year, and every time I saw it when flipping through my binder, I thought about trying it.

Last week, I pulled out the recipe again and studied it. I also read similar recipes on the Internet, trying to decide if I really wanted to make it. The recipe is very similar to pecan pie, with a corn syrup and sugar base. I don't especially like pecan pie, I reasoned, so why would I want to use a cup of canned mixed nuts for a pie I wouldn't like?

So instead of making the pie I had craved for a year, I turned to an old reliable recipe for Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie -- my version of Derby Pie. This pie is a favorite dessert at my house and is so easy to assemble. I always have the ingredients on hand and often make it at the spur of the moment to treat my family.

I knew it would be just as delicious with a cup of mixed nuts added in, and it was. My family enjoyed this twist on a favorite recipe. I liked the different textures offered with peanuts, almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts. I left the cashews and peanuts whole but chopped the larger nuts.

This pie is especially good straight from the oven. But if that's not possible, put individual slices in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up the chocolate chips.

This was definitely a good change in a familiar recipe, perfect for a special occasion, but the original with pecans only is also hard to beat!

Nutty Chocolate Chip Pie
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 cup mixed nuts (I purchased a can that was labeled "lightly salted")*
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pie shell, unbaked
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter and let cool slightly.

Chop larger, harder nuts, such as Brazil nuts and almonds, into bite-size pieces. I left peanuts, cashews and pecans whole.

In a bowl, combine sugars and flour. Mix in eggs, then cooled butter. Stir in nuts, chocolate chips and vanilla extract. Stir until combined.

Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

*When I make this with chopped pecans only, I use 3/4 cup.

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