By Hilary Meyer, Associate Food Editor, EatingWell Magazine
I love the expression "Why fix what isn't broken?" I use this phrase when it comes to my time-honored Thanksgiving recipes. So why am I throwing out my old "perfect" pecan pie recipe this year in place for something new? Because the Maple Pecan Tart that recipe developer and makeover queen Katie Webster made for EatingWell is so much better.
After trying her version in the Test Kitchen a few months ago, I realized that I needed to ditch my old "perfect" pecan pie recipe. Not only does this new version taste better than the original, but it's healthier too. Find out the three tricks to making better pecan pie.
Trick 1: Replace corn syrup with maple syrup
Corn syrup doesn't have a lot of flavor. The only thing it has to offer is sweetness, which is pretty boring. But it's the cornerstone of traditional recipes. So to perk up the flavor, this Maple Pecan Tart uses maple syrup in place of the corn syrup. From a nutritional perspective, sugar is sugar, but from a flavor perspective, maple syrup is much tastier. The buttery flavor of the syrup plays up the nuttiness of the pecans. If you have a choice, opt for grade B or dark amber syrup. It has a richer flavor than lighter varieties.
Trick 2: Use nuts in the crust
Plenty of pecan pie recipes call for an already prepared crust, or if you're ambitious you make your own from scratch. Either is fine, but the crust can be a hidden source of calories and fat from loads of butter and/or shortening. In this Maple Pecan Tart recipe, we incorporate pecans in the crust to deliver a nuttier flavor that can't be matched by a store-bought crust. And pecans have less saturated fat than butter: 1/4 cup of pecans has only 2 grams saturated fat vs. butter at 29 grams per 1/4 cup! Pecans also contain more antioxidants-compounds that sweep up tissue-damaging free radicals-than any other tree nut, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Pecans also provide notable amounts of zinc, a mineral most often found in animal-based foods.
Related: 8 Tips for Tender, Flaky Pie Crust
Butter or Margarine: Which is a Healthier Choice?
Trick 3: Cut back on sugar
Pecan pie has a reputation for being sweet. That comes from the collective 2 cups or more of sweetener (corn syrup, sugar) that some traditional recipes call for! My teeth hurt just thinking about it. This Maple Pecan Tart recipe uses only 1 cup of sweetener (maple syrup and brown sugar)-half of what you would find in a traditional recipe. Plus, the filling gets an extra punch of flavor from chopped dried cherries. Unconventional-yes. But they deliver more sweet flavor with just a hint of sour so you won't miss the cloying sweetness from that extra cup of sugar.
More Recipes to Try: Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Pie and More Impressively Easy Thanksgiving Desserts
Maple Pecan Tart
Makes: 10 servings
Active time: 40 minutes | Total: 2 1/4 hours
To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Serve at room temperature. | Equipment: 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom
This pecan tart gets added tang from dried cherries. Instead of corn syrup, which is found in most pecan pie recipes, we've opted for maple syrup. If you can find it, choose dark amber or grade B, because it has the richest maple flavor. The crust, made with heart-healthy pecans and canola oil, couldn't be easier to whip together. Just blend it in the food processor and pat it into your tart pan.
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon water
2 cups pecan halves, divided
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons dark rum (optional)
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously coat a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray.
2. Combine egg yolk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, oil and water in a small bowl. Process 1/2 cup pecans and sugar in a food processor to the consistency of coarse meal. Add flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pulse until combined. Drizzle the yolk mixture through the feed tube while pulsing and pulse just until the mixture is combined.
3. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan, pressing it firmly into the bottom and all the way up the sides to form a crust. Place on a baking sheet. Bake until dry and just beginning to brown on the edges, 12 to 14 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, rum (if using), the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Transfer 1/4 cup of the mixture to a small bowl. Chop 1/2 cup pecans and add to the medium bowl. Stir in cherries. Mix the remaining 1 cup pecans with the reserved maple mixture.
5. Remove the tart crust from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°.
6. If there are any cracks in the crust, sprinkle with a little flour and use a dry pastry brush to "seal" the flour into the cracks. Evenly spread the filling in the crust. Arrange the maple syrup-coated pecans decoratively on top and drizzle with any remaining maple mixture.
7. Bake the tart until it no longer jiggles in the center when gently shaken, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan (use a butter knife to gently loosen the tart from the pan sides if it sticks in spots). Let cool completely, about 40 minutes more.
Per serving: 353 calories; 22 g fat (4 g sat, 11 g mono); 65 mg cholesterol; 36 g carbohydrate; 20 g added sugars; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber; 136 mg sodium; 157 mg potassium.
What is your favorite holiday pie?
By Hilary Meyer
EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.
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