Decompressing: Chocolate Pecan Brownie Pie

Hello from Alexandria!  

I have been having a wonder-filled fall break back in the D.C. metro area.  After making excellent time from NJ (3.5 hours!) last Thursday, I made a pumpkin pie as soon as I arrived at my aunt and uncle’s house.

The next day was an ideal day: woke up, did my usual morning thing (morning pages, pray, meditate, exercise), made a smoothie, and then got to work cooking.  I made a Moroccan butternut-lentil stew and chewy peach brownies (for the D.C. Steam Cemetery Potluck).  I also baked two kinds of cookies to give to my brother and my friends: Anzac biscuits

 and sunflower-espresso cookies.  

The idea for sunflower seeds and espresso chocolate going well together came from dorm desperation earlier in 2011.

My aunt put in her dessert requests a while back and requested, among other items, a pecan brownie pie.  I had already figured that “fudgy pecan brownie pie” meant chocolate pecan pie filling in a brownie crust, when I decided to check my aunt’s source, Rachael Ray.  Fudgy pecan brownie pie is brownies with pecans baked in a circle?   No, thanks, I’ll stick with pie.  My mash-up of different recipes makes a decadent pie that is a little outside of my norm for dessert, but, hey, gotta break the mould once in a while.

Chocolate Pecan Brownie Pie

Brownie modified from: Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, 138-40.
Filling modified from: Robin Robertson, 1,000 Vegan Recipes,  462-3.

Brownie Crust:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used a birthday present of a 3.5-ounce bar of Ghirardelli Twilight Delight, 72% cacao—it’s vegan and GF, technically, but sometimes I find I have a lactose reaction to it.  Use your noggin.)
1 cup pureed pure pumpkin (say that three times fast)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten Free Baking Flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Pecan Filling:
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup water (no, this is not a mistake to have two different measurements of water)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups pecan halves, broken into bits

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Though this is pie, it needs to be baked in a metal pan.  Grease a 9” springform pan or line an 8” square with parchment (or line a metal pie plate with a parchment circle; glass is not recommended since the crust needs to be sturdy and brown a bit).

Begin making the filling: in a small bowl, MIX the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water (seriously, blend it up, because you don’t want cornstarch lumps in your filling).  In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the maple syrup, 3/4 cup water, and brown sugar to a boil over high heat.  Boil for five minutes.

While the filling is boiling, melt the chocolate for the crust.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the oil and pumpkin carefully so as not to make the chocolate seize (cold pumpkin will do that).  Add wet to dry and mix well.  Dollop the stiff crust batter into the pan and spread to the sides. 

The weight of the filling will hold down the centre so there will be a crust around the edges of the pie, as long as you pour the filling into the middle.  Since this may take more than five minutes to assemble the crust, don’t worry, you can come back to the crust once you tend to the filling.  This recipe is an exercise in multitasking.

Once the filling has boiled for five minutes, stir in the salt and cornstarch mixture.  Continue to cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture becomes shiny, thick, and bubbles break open on the surface.  Turn down the heat and stir in the chocolate, then turn off the heat.  Add the margarine and vanilla and stir to melt completely.  Fold in the nuts and stir to coat.  Finish up the crust and put it in the pan if you haven’t already.  Pour the filling into the centre of the crust.  

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the crust bounces back when touched, passes the toothpick test (reasonably well; there will be chocolate on the tester but it shouldn’t be wet), and the filling does not jiggle too much in the centre.  Cool completely before refrigerating.  If you used a springform pan, remove the sides of the pan once the whole assemblage has pulled away from the sides in the course of cooling.  Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight before serving.

Aw yeah.

It also works well baked in a regular pie plate.


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