Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dear fig-walnut pie of '10

This is a pie that I made a year ago.

I was all gung-ho about this pie, creating the recipe and baking it the night before Thanksgiving and then nibbling on it contentedly the next day. I had every intention of sharing it with you last year, but then I was all, "Thanksgiving's over now, does anyone really want to know about a fig-walnut pie? Surely they've moved on to gingerbread and thoughts of reindeer hooves on the roof."

Thus, the recipe and these photos have languished, imprisoned in the tiny jail cell that is an 8-GB SD card. I'd look at them every so often. Hm, I could write about this pie. But it's May! Nobody bakes pies in the spring. And then, Here's this pie again. But it's August! It's a million degrees! Plus, Thanksgiving will be here in no time.

As it is, time flies. And here we are: less than two weeks from Thanksgiving. Time to talk about the pie! Huzzah!

This whole thing came about last year when I was sitting around thinking about how people love pecan pies (myself included), but I never hear anyone talk about a walnut pie. Why not? I demanded an answer. A preliminary Google search told me that walnut pies do indeed exist. There are plenty of recipes out there. But they don't seem to enjoy the same headline-grabbing pie-ttention that their pecan cousins command. I was going to change that, if only for myself and whoever else managed to get a fork in the pie before I devoured it, all un-ladylike.

I threw figs into the mix because I determined that an all-walnut pie might be too overpowering with slightly bitter walnut aftertaste -- which I normally love when I'm snacking on walnuts but that might become too much within the context of a walnut-only pie. I started thinking about where I find walnuts, culinarily. On cheese trays. Next to the yummy veined cheeses. Alongside a fig or two, cut in half to show off their rustic, seeded centers. I almost went down the path of making a savory tart, with the blue cheese incorporated -- maybe I'll do that this year! -- but in the end, baked up a rich, and sweet beauty chock full of walnuts and chewy flecks of dried fig.

And with that, dear fig-walnut pie of '10, I release you from the SD card.

(In context, second from right)



I used America's Test Kitchen's vodka pie crust recipe for this pie, and let me tell you: like everything else America's Test Kitchen does, it was perfect. Easy to work with, flaky, tasty, fantastic. But of course, you may use any pie crust that you love with all your heart.

Please note: if you do go with the vodka pie dough, the recipe makes enough for a double-crust pie, which this isn't. So go ahead and wrap the second disk in several layers of plastic wrap and freeze; it freezes quite well and then you'll be ready for impromptu pie-making. 'Cause that always happens.

For the crust:
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, divided
1 t. kosher salt
2 T. sugar
12 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 c. cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 c. vodka, cold
1/4 c. cold water

For the pie:

1/4 c. dried figs
2 T. dark rum 
1/4 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
Pinch kosher salt
2 large eggs
12 oz. raw unsalted walnuts, roughly chopped

First, make the crust. Place 1 1/2 c. of the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and the shortening and process until a homogeneous dough begins to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (the dough will resemble cottage cheese curds). With a rubber spatula, scrape the bowl to redistribute the dough around the blade. Add the remaining cup of flour and pulse until the mixture is evenly distributed around the bowl, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty the mixture into a medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula and using a folding motion, mix the dough, pressing down on it until it is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide the dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes, or up to 2 days.

Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you wish to work with it. At this time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 10-inch round (you might need a little more flour than usual if you're using the vodka dough, as it's a bit stickier). Place the dough in a pie plate, trim and flute the edges and return to the refrigerator to chill while you assemble the filling.

In a small bowl, soak the figs in the rum. Let the figs sit while you assemble the rest of the filling.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. When the butter is melted, remove from the heat and add brown sugar, corn syrup, salt and eggs. Whisk the mixture until well-combined.

Remove the pie shell from the refrigerator and fill about 3/4 full with walnuts. Add the rum-soaked figs -- and any remaining rum in the bowl -- to the filling; stir to combine. Pour the filling over the walnuts and bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Makes one pie.

Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:

Two years ago: twice-baked cauliflower
Three years ago: dark gingerbread pear cake