If I was a super hero, I would be Pie Girl. Delivering pies. Making pies. Helping people make pies. I think I just want to open a bakery. Chatting with friends at Botero a week ago (or two? I have no clue), when we were raising money for the RSPCA (it went so well, thank you for coming if you did!), I couldn’t stop talking about one thing. A pop-up shop! I’m obsessed! And what would I pop up with? DUDE, pies, duh.
I have several reasons. One; I love pie. But American style pies, with flaky pastry, and fruit fillings and nut fillings, chiffon pies, meringue pies, cream pies, chess pies…these are the pies I’m excited about. Two; you can’t really get them in my town. Sure there are a lot patisseries with lemon meringue tarts in the cabinet. And you can probably get an apple pie from somewhere if you look hard enough. But a dedicated pie place doesn’t exist. Three; it’s actually a little foreign to us here in Australia. Whenever I tell people I want to open a pie store, the first thing they say is ‘meat pies’? Because we are all Margot Robbie.
And, ok, homemade beef and guiness pie, or chicken and leek is pretty solid, but my heart is not in that at all. My heart is in burstingly ripe peaches, tart-sweet apples, light lemon mousses, and buttery crumbs. My heart is in this Vanilla Bean Pecan Pie, with its maple syrup goo, toasty pecan chunks, crisp and flaky crust which shatters as you slice the edge, and its affinity with a dollop of even-more-vanilla-scented whipped cream. THAT is the kind of pie which I can make no matter how many times, and I never stop enjoying it. Pie therapy is real, and it makes me so happy. Try it!
- 1 + ½ cups (225g) plain flour
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- pinch of salt
- 115g (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small cubes
- ½ cup (125ml) cold water
- 2 cups pecan halves
- ½ stick (55g) butter
- ½ cup (125ml) maple syrup
- ¼ cup (50g) caster sugar
- ¼ cup (55g) brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- 2 eggs
- First, make the crust. What you want to achieve here is to work the butter into the dry ingredients juuust enough, so that there are still some chickpea sized chunks, before adding just enough water that the dough comes together. You can do it with your hands, with a stand mixer, or with a food processor. My favourite method uses a stand mixer.
- Place all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly, just to combine, and then add the cold, cubed butter, and mix again, until the butter chunks are about half-way incorporated into the flour. It should look like damp sand, with large, chickpea sized butter pieces still visible.
- With the mixer running on low speed, sprinkle in water, a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough looks like it's just about to come together. Try not to overmix.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, and work it into a ball with as little kneading as possible - overworking is the enemy. Now, you can either wrap the dough and put it in a cold place for half an hour, or in the fridge for a few days, or roll it out straight away and line a 9inch/23cm tin. Place the lined tin in the fridge while you make the filling. Save any scraps to decorate the top of the pie, if you like.
- To make the filling, preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a baking sheet with baking paper. Place the pecans onto the sheet and toast for about 8 minutes (set a timer) or until you can smell them. Set aside to cool. Turn the oven down to 150C/325F.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and set aside to cool.
- Mix the maple syrup, sugars, salt, vanilla and egg in a mixing bowl until smooth - don't whisk them vigorously, you don't want to create air bubbles.
- Chop ¾ of the pecans roughly, and add them to the sugar-egg mix. Stir through the melted butter.
- Pour the filling into the chilled pie crust, and place onto a baking sheet. Top with the remaining, un-chopped pecan halves, and any decorations you like.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the centre of the pie comes out clean. Cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.