In the circles we run round in, a vegan potluck is not a vegan potluck without a table heaving with desserts. I did my bit by attempting a vegan and gluten-free version of the chocolate pecan pie I made last month.
The first challenge is the crust. When you're using neither butter nor wheat flour this is no trivial task. K and I have attempted a few different pastries of this kind (both separately and as a power-baking duo) with mixed results. I kinda wussed out and went for more of a biscuit base, pressing it into a square dish lined with baking paper. I've made this one before and knew what to expect. It was thicker than I intended but tasted fine - it doesn't need pity points on account of being gluten-free.
The second notable challenge is replacing the three eggs that are beaten into the filling. I suspected this would be a good opportunity to try a widely-used vegan egg replacer for the first time - crushed flax seeds in water. They whipped up into an impressive goop in the spice-grinder attachment to our food processor, and when combined with the other ingredients created a filling very much like the original. I made another change based on my pantry supplies - my corn syrup ran out and I started replacing it with maple syrup, then the maple syrup ran out and I made up the remainder with agave nectar. While I didn't notice a difference at that stage it may have affected the final flavour of the pie.
For all that, this pie did not turn out nearly as well as the original. Though I baked it for 10 minutes less, the caramel bubbled too much around the edges, toughening and burning a little. It also leaked down the side and under the biscuit base in some places, rendering it difficult to slice. I couldn't much taste the chocolate.
A nibble at the centre of the pie tells me that I've got the right ingredients together here, but a bit more thought's needed before I create a really great dessert from them.
Gleegan chocolate pecan pie
(a recipe inspired by this biscuit base and this pie filling)
225g vegan margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/4 cups gluten-free plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
170g dark chocolate
2 cups pecans
3 tablespoons flax seeds
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 tablespoons castor sugar
4 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brandy
Preheat the oven to 180°C, and line a medium baking dish with paper.
Mix together the margarine and brown sugar. Sift the flour and baking powder over them, and mix it all together well with a fork. Press the mixture into the baking dish; I layered plastic wrap over the mixture to help smooth the sticky dough out. Bake the base for 10-15 minutes, until just golden. Set the base aside to cool, and turn the oven down to 160°C.
Roughly chop the chocolate and spread it across the base of the pie.
Coarsely chop 3/4 cup of the pecans.
Grind the flax seeds in a spice grinder. Add the water and continue blending until it forms a smooth-ish gloop. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the corn syrup, maple syrup and agave nectar, then the sugars, oil, salt, vanilla and brandy. Whisk again until well combined. Stir in the chopped pecans, then slowly pour the caramel over the chocolate.
Arrange the remaining 1 1/4 cups pecan halves on top of the filling.
Bake the pie until it is set in the centre, about 50 minutes (test it with a knife). Allow the pie to cool, serving it warm or at room temperature.