Back in the rose-tinted hazy mists of time, when I was barely taller than a grasshopper's knee and CHiPS (or rather, Erik Estrada) was the hottest thing on telly, my dad took me on my first holiday to the States.
To say I loved it would be an understatement. For a kid of my age, it was paradise. Huge cars, fast food, seemingly limitless Coke, McDonald's, 24-hour TV, endless sunshine... Never mind that those are all the things I'd go out of my way to avoid now (well, perhaps not the sunshine) - back then, it was an utterly, mind-bogglingly wonderful revelation.
Food memories stand out, even after all these years... of lots of firsts - my first 'easy-over' egg, giant chocolate chip cookie, hamburger, fried chicken, real coffee, peanut and jelly sandwich, 'fries', and... pecan pie.
Of all of them, pecan pie has endured as one of my food loves. Until recently, I've scarcely seen it over here, and given that for the most part, I can rarely be bothered to make pastry, I've never made it myself. But now, all that's going to change. For I've found a recipe that (a) makes pastry a doddle, and (b) also adds chocolate to the mix. And it's no secret that when chocolate goes into a cake or pudding, I can offer no resistance. NONE. WHATSOEVER.
This recipe, from Linda Collister's Chocolate book hit the spot for me. Some of the sugar and butter combines to form a thin fudgy layer on the bottom of the pie, while above it sits the light, almost fluffy chocolate and pecan filling. If you use (as I did) dark chocolate with around 70% cocoa solids, the taste is wickedly dark and rich.
Pastry - 1.5 cups plain flour, more for dusting; pinch salt; 1 tbsp sugar, 1 stick unsalted butter; 1 extra large egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
Filling - 3 tbsps unsalted butter, softened; 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar; 2/3 cup corn syrup or golden syrup; 3 extra large eggs, beaten; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 3.5oz bittersweet chocolate, melted; 1 cup pecans
Method - put flour, salt, sugar and butter in food processor, and process until you have fine breadcrumbs. With processor still running, add the egg yolk and water through the feed tube. Run machine until dough comes together. If there are dry crumbs, add teaspoon or so extra water.
Put dough on floured surface and roll out to a large circle about 2 inches bigger than the tart pan, then use to line the pan. Prick with a fork, then chill for 15mins. Line with parchment paper and baking beans, and back blind at 350F for about 12 minutes. Remove beans and paper, and bake for another 12 minutes. Let cool.
Put better, sugar, and corn syrup in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in the eggs and then the vanilla extract. Stir in melted chocolate followed by the pecans. Pour into pie crust and bake at 350F for about 35 minutes until just firm to touch. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Best eaten within 4 days.)
It's great on its own...
yep, it's mighty fine...
... but really, it's just all the better and so much more of a complete, authentic experience if you go the whole American hog and have it with a generous scoop of the best vanilla ice cream you can buy.
but, ah, that's the baby...
So, go on. Make, eat, then lie back and think of, er, the United States...