Texan that I am, I am naturally (because the pecan pie was originally a Texas thang, y’all) inclined to bake pecan pies. Many pecan pies a year. And not just for Thanksgiving dinner. Although plain pecan pies with the basic syrup – egg custard in a tender, flakey crust are delicious in their simplicity, dressed up pecan pies can surpass delicious and move on to indescribably amazing. Chocolate and some complementary spirit or liqueur added to a pecan pie adds richness and a little complexity to the pie. White chocolate added to a pecan pie adds richness, as well, and when its added to a pecan pie that also has a bottom layer and border of leaves made from marzipan, the result is a rich pie with notes of amaretto in every bite. YUM!
Marzipan by itself is a lovely treat and ingredient. It’s also versatile. It can be used to make decorations for cakes and pastries, it can be used as fillings for cakes, or to cover a cake completely. It can also be formed into fruit, vegetable, or other shapes which are realistically colored and eaten as treats. Marzipan is so easy to make that I always make my own. I’m including the recipe for marzipan with this pie recipe, but I’m pretty sure store bought marzipan can be substituted. Just a note: almond paste and marzipan are different food items. Almond paste has a higher ratio of almond meal to sugar than marzipan, it’s less sweet, and has a rougher texture. It’s mostly used as a filling for cakes and pies. I prefer marzipan to almond paste for its smoother texture and sweeter flavor. For people who prefer a lesser sweetness, almond paste may work as a substitute for marzipan in this pie. I’ve never baked the pie with almond pasteI, so I don’t know exactly how it would turn out.
Be sure to use a good quality, honest white chocolate. The white chocolate in the grocery stores are not true white chocolate. They lack cocoa butter and flavor. Additionally, they taste too sweet (and this from someone who unapologetically regularly indulges her sweet tooth). According to the FDA, a product can be labeled as white chocolate if it contains 20% or more cocoa butter. The higher the cocoa butter content, the more flavorful the white chocolate, however, so I prefer to use either Valrhona Ivoire 35% or El Rey ICOA 35%. El Rey, unlike other chocolate companies, uses undeoderized cocoa butter in its ICOA. The undeoderized cocoa butter gives ICOA a subtle, earthy flavor that I prefer, but I can’t always find El Rey ICOA white chocolate (it was unavailable even on the El Rey website for a while last year). When I can’t find it, I use Valrhona. In a pinch, I’ll use Callebaut 28.1% W2 callets.
Instead of corn syrup, I either use brown sugar, Lyle’s Golden Syrup, or Steen’s pure cane syrup for my pecan pie fillings. For this version of my pecan pie I use Lyle’s Golden Syrup (based on King Arthur’s Lyle’s Golden Syrup recipe). I like the buttery flavor it adds to the filling. It’s available in some specialty stores or online. I usually find it in HEB Central Market on Westgate in Austin.
Now, I must say a word concerning the pronunciation of the word pecan. The article about the history of pecan pie linked to in the first paragraph above quotes a waitress in Georgia who says the correct pronunciation is “pee-KAHN.” My mother was born and raised in Savannah, GA, and her father was born and raised in the low country of South Carolina. I spent much of my childhood in Savannah either living in, or visiting, the city. I spent much time around my relatives from South Carolina as well. All my mom’s relatives certainly pronounce the nut as “PEE-can” and not “pee-KAHN.” Fortunately, people who study such stuff as regional pronunciation of various words create maps that help the rest of us defend our particular habit of pronunciation. A quick look at this map that denotes the regional habits of pronunciation of the word pecan shows that although the area in Georgia and South Carolina from which my family originated pronounce the nut as “Pee-can,” people in other areas of Georgia pronounce the word “pee-KAHN.” But however one prefers to pronounce the name of the nut, Pee-can or or pee-KAHN pie is absolutely a simple, but scrumptious, dessert to serve any time of year.
Gluten-Free Marzipan White Chocolate Pecan Pie
The almond flavor from the marzipan and the creamy richness of the white chocolate elevate the average pecan pie to a luxurious dessert that makes any meal a special occasion.
- 220 grams almond flour finely ground (NOT almond meal)
- 220 grams powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure almond extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoon rose water
- 100 grams Authentic Foods superfine sorghum flour (or superfine grind brown rice flour)
- 50 grams arrowroot starch
- 50 grams tapioca starch
- 1 tablespoon potato flour (not starch)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 9 tablespoons butter chilled and cut into small pieces
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 - 2 tablespoons milk
- 4 eggs beaten
- 3/4 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup (or Steen's Pure Cane Syrup)
- 200 grams sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter melted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup pecans roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup Valrhona or El Rey white chocolate roughly chopped
- 1 egg beaten
For the Marzipan: Mix or whisk together 220 grams of almond flour (NOT almond meal) and 220 grams of powdered sugar until well blended and all the large lumps are gone from the almond flour. Add one tablespoon of pure almond extract, 1.5 teaspoons of good quality rose water, and one egg white. Blend until the mixture forms into a ball. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead it a few times, then form it into a smooth log. Wrap the marzipan log in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. Bring it to room temperature before attempting to roll it out. Left-over marzipan may be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator.
For the Pie Crust: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the gluten-free flours, sugar, and salt until well-blended. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until some of the mixture resembles corn meal but leaving some larger pieces of butter in tact. Add one beaten egg to the flour / butter mixture. Mix in well. Add 1 tablespoon of milk, and using your hands blend in well. Add more milk, one teaspoon at a time, until the dough forms a ball. If the pie crust seems to sticky, you can add tapioca flour as you roll it out. Form the pie dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes (so the flour can absorb the moisture).
For the Pie Filling: In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, syrup, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Slowly add the melted butter to the mixture, whisking continuously as the butter is poured into the mixture. Add the roughly chopped pecans and stir to completely coat the pecans.
To Assemble: Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator 15 - 20 minutes before rolling it out. Place the pie disk between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper that have been dusted with tapioca or rice flour to prevent sticking. Roll the dough to a 10 - 10.5 diameter. Peel off the top piece of plastic wrap or wax paper. Center the pie dough over a 9 inch pie plate and ease it into the plate. Carefully remove the bottom piece of plastic wrap or wax paper. Fit the pie crust into the plate. Using a sharp knife, cut the edge of the pie crust even with the edge of the pie plate. Roll the scraps or dough together, form a small disk and wrap it in plastic wrap to use another time.
Pull off a piece of marzipan large enough to roll into a 1/4 inch circle about 8 inches in diameter. Place the marzipan disk in the bottom of the pie crust, using your fingers to fit it neatly across the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle 1/2 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate across the marzipan layer in the pie crust.Roll out the remaining marzipan (you won't end up using all of it) to about 1/4 inch depth and cut out leaves to be placed on the edge of the pie crust.
Pour the pie filling over the white chocolate in the pie shell. Use a pastry brush to brush the edges of the pie crust with beaten egg. Attach the leaves to the edge of the pie crust, making sure that the leaves touch each other.
Cover the edge of the pie with a pie shield or foil and place in a preheated 375 degree oven. Bake until the edges of the filling are set, and the center still a little wiggly (but not wavy as if still wet): about 45 - 50 minutes.
Remove the pie from the oven when done and place on a wire rack to cool. Cook completely before slicing.