Caramel Nut Pie

Caramel Nut PieThe Life of PIE

To everything there is a season, and to every season…there is a pie.

Springtime means cherry, rhubarb, and lemon meringue. Summer is a pie-a-palooza with apple, peach, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry…and so on. Winter is reserved for the chocolates and for some interesting citrus versions, like this one.

Apple is really a year-round option. (‘Cause when is it not a good time for apple pie?)

But the Fall, it’s all about nuts and squash. There are some fruits thrown in for good measure. Apple, of course, Pear too…and both are often found mixed with cranberries. While Pumpkin and Pumpkin Spice seem to rule the month of November, for me the nut pies are the real stars.

Since November is Pie Month at Piedmont Grocery, I decided to get in the spirit and make a pie over the weekend—mainly so that I could eat it, but also to teach my daughter how to make her own. I have always been a big fan of Pecan Pie, but that’s what we will be having for Thanksgiving. I wanted to do something a different, and decided to try a Caramel Nut Pie recipe that I saw in the American Pie Council’s America’s Best Pies 2015-2014 cookbook my sister gave me last Christmas. I was a little concerned about letting my 9 year-old make caramel, but it turned out great, and we had it for dessert Sunday night.(And some of us may have had some for breakfast on Monday, maybe.)

This Caramel Nut Pie would make a great stand-in for pecan at Thanksgiving. It’s for anyone who loves nuts—especially if they are not a big fan of the gooey center. Fair warning, this pie is basically all nuts. It is as dense as it is rich. It is also very good.

Below is the recipe as printed in the book. If I were to make this again, and I definitely will, I would make some changes. (*See my notes.) For example, I added salt to the caramel because I thought the mixture was just too sweet and needed more of a buttery flavor. Second, next time I will bake this in a tart pan. It would make it easier to slice, and frankly, I think it works better as a tart. Third, I would get a little wacky with the mix of nuts…maybe add some hazelnuts or cashews to the mix. I also want to see what it would taste like with a little cayenne pepper added to the caramel. I left off the white chocolate because I didn’t think it was necessary, but a little melted semi-sweet chocolate could be tasty option too…

Caramel Nut Pie
America’s Best Pies 2014-2015 by American Pie Council
Christine Montalvo, Windsor Heights, IA 
2007 American Pie Council Crisco National Pie Championships
Amateur Division 2nd Place Nut

For the Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds
(*Or once cup of mixed nuts including pecans, slivered almonds, hazelnuts or cashews)
(*1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste)
(*dash of cayenne—no more than 1/4 teaspoon, or to taste. Cayenne varies with brand and freshness.)

For the Garnish
1 ounce white chocolate, chopped (*or semi-sweet chocolate)
Whipped cream (optional)

Make the Crust
Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in processor. Add butter. Using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in vanilla and enough ice water, one tablespoon at a time, to form moist clumps. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Roll dough out flat on floured surface and place dough into a 9-inch pie plate (*or tart pan). Trim and flute pie edges. Pierce dough all over with fork. Freeze 15 minutes.

Bake crust about 20 minutes until set but still pale in color, piercing with fork if crust bubbles. Transfer to rack; cool.

Make the Filling
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine sugar and water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.

Increase heat. Boil without stirring until caramel is a deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 9 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Gradually whisk in cream (mixture will bubble). Stir until caramel is smooth. Add butter, honey, and vanilla. Stir until well blended. Mix in all nuts.

Pour caramel mixture into crust. Bake at 400°F for about 20 minutes, or until filling bubbles all over. Cool completely on rack.

Make the Garnish
Stir white chocolate in top of double boiler set over hot water just until melted and smooth. Drizzle chocolate over pie. Let stand until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes. Garnish with whipped cream if desired.

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