Monday, March 21, 2011

Vegan Pecan Pie: first attempt

I thought the result was decent with some room for improvement.  It was just a touch too firm—the next time I make it I will reduce the flour to 1/3 or even ¼ cup.  I will also add 1 or 2 tablespoons of carob powder to round out the flavor . I have found that a small amount of carob acts for sweet dishes the way bay leaves do for soups—it adds a certain depth that’s not really a noticeable flavor in itself, but missed if absent.  It works particularly well with nutty or spiced flavors.  It’s one of my secrets, and I was going to add it this time but I didn’t have it handy at the time.

I liked the fact that filling was a lot less rich than typical pecan pies and really let the flavor of the nuts shine through without overpowering them with sweetness. However, people who like the original super-rich version may not be satisfied with this one.

Overall, I was fairly pleased, and received good reviews (and requests for seconds) from my guinea pigs family.

Here is the recipe as I made it this time, with possible modifications noted:

Ridiculously Wholesome Pecan Pie

1 single pie crust (I used a pre-made crumb crust)
1 12 oz package firm silken tofu, pureed until smooth
½ cup applesauce
½ cup flour (can be reduced to 1/3 or ¼ cup for softer texture—recommended)
1 ½ cup sugar or sweetener
1-2 tbsp carob powder, optional  (I didn’t use, will definitely add next time)
1 ½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp maple extract or mapleine
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cardamom
1 tsp instant coffee powder or coffee substitute (I used Roma brand substitute), optional
1 heaping cup chopped pecans or walnuts
¾ cup old-fashioned oats
2-3 Tbsp chopped crystallized or candied ginger

A generous handful of pecan or walnut halves
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup (or agave, or sugar free pancake syrup)
A dash or two of cinnamon

A dash of turbinado sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Mix together flour, sugar or sweetener, optional carob powder if desired, and spices. Add pureed tofu, applesauce, extracts, and coffee powder if desired. Stir in chopped pecans, ginger and oats and pour into pie crust.

Pour syrup over nut halves and stir to coat. Sprinkle with dash of cinnamon and stir, trying to distribute evenly. Arrange nut halves on top of the pie in a pretty pattern, and press them into the filling enough to be firmly embedded but still visible. Sprinkle top of pie with turbinado sugar if desired.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, watching for any burning. Let cool & enjoy.

Here is what it looked like before baking:
 And this is what it looked like after:
A little crispy

Note:  I made this low sugar, using a dry sugar substitute (splenda or stevia or others work fine as long as the package says it’s bakeable).  If you use real sugar, you’ll definitely want to reduce the flour like I said in the beginning note because the excessive firmness will be even more pronounced.

To make the recipe completely sugar-free: use dry sugar substitute in place of the sugar, use sugar-free pancake syrup in place of the maple to coat the nut halves, use unsweetened applesauce, and omit the turbinado garnish at the end. You can also omit the crystallized ginger if that’s too much sugar for you, or try ½ tsp ground ginger instead.

Here are some potential variations that you can try (full disclosure: these are untested):

Variation 1:  for a richer, gooier version you could try replacing the applesauce with equal parts syrup (any kind, from the traditional corn syrup, to brown rice, maple or agave) and margarine (melted), about ¼ cup of each.  You can also replace the oats with more nuts.

Variation 2: Add a handful each shredded coconut and chocolate or carob chips when adding nuts and oats. You could also try adding dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries, or even vegan marshmallows.

Variation 3: Use any other kind of nut, and have macadamia, hazelnut, or almond pie. 

Variation 4:  You can replace more of the chopped nuts with oats for a lower fat pie.

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