Get your swagger on
Yesterday was Sunday, my favorite day of the week. A day devoted to reading, long walks with the dog, and my day off. It was also the day to get my swagger on.
I bring you the winner of Duke University's Dessert Expo 2009: Eva's Swagger Pie.
Eva and I met at a local cooking school a couple of years ago. I was on staff, and she volunteered there when she could escape the laboratory. (Eva has a big brain — she's a Ph.D. candidate in Immunology at Duke). After months of cajoling, she came over Sunday afternoon to catch up and make her award-winning pie.
Eva is a terrific baker. She's the coworker who brings in a layer cake she made the night before just for fun, the one who churns out cookies by the dozen during the holidays, the friend who always brings a little something sweet when you invite her to dinner.
Eva claims the pie started as a joke. She and her roommate Jodi discovered a bottle of Old Spice shower gel in (get this) swagger scent. Jodi, familiar with Eva's baking prowess, challenged her to create Swagger Pie and enter it in the dessert contest. Eva began thinking about Things That Swagger. Big, important, sophisticated things that like to show off and throw their weight around. This led to a combination of figs, brandy, pecans and chocolate. (She admits these ingredients were in the house when creative impulse struck). It took 5 attempts to perfect Swagger Pie, but it was worth it. Eva is Grand Champion and the pie is delicious.
Swagger Pie is your favorite pecan pie with a twist. It's bolstered by a hint of dark chocolate, made a little more adult with brandied figs, and it isn't tooth-achingly sweet. I think it's perfect for the holidays, when I'll have to re-post the recipe in this meant-to-be-seasonal food blog.
Dough recipe by Nick Malgieri
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 10 pieces
3 tablespoons cold water
Combine the dry ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix. Add the butter and pulse 3 to 4 times, until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Add the water and pulse only 3 to 4 times. The dough will not form a ball. Invert the dough to a floured surface and carefully remove the blade. Gently press and squeeze the dough together and form it into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour. Keep the dough refrigerated for up to 2 days before continuing.
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to fit a 9-inch pie pan. Press into the pan, making certain it fits the sides and bottom, and freeze for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, remove pie crust from the freezer, prick all over with a fork, and cover with parchment paper. Add pie weights (or rice or beans) and blind bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until golden. Cool 10 minutes before adding the chocolate and filling.
2 cups toasted pecan halves
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
5 oz. fig jam (Eva prefers St. Dalfour Royal fig jam)
8-10 brandy-soaked figs, cut into a fine dice
2 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
¾-1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (we used Callebaut bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks)
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the brown sugar, fig jam, milk, flour, vanilla seeds, and salt. Stir to combine. Cook over moderate heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Add brandy (from figs) and stir. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove vanilla bean pod and discard.
In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Gradually whisk in the hot sugar mixture. Add the diced rehydrated figs and stir to combine.
Spread a single layer of chocolate chips on top of the warm pie crust. The chocolate should melt a bit and form layer of chocolate on top of the crust.
Carefully pour the filling into the prepared pie crust. Arrange the pecans in a decorative fashion on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until the center is set and the crust is golden brown. Cool on a rack.
Serve warm with brandied whipped cream or good vanilla ice cream.
To toast pecans: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put pecans in a single-layer on a cookie sheet and cook for 7-9 minutes. Cool on a rack.
To rehydrate figs: Place dried black mission figs in a bowl and add just enough brandy to cover. Steep in brandy for up to 1-3 days, but no longer. After 3 days in brandy the figs get mushy.
To make brandied whipped cream: Pour 1 cup of cold heavy whipping cream into a bowl. Add ½ cup powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of brandy. Whip until soft peaks form.