Our Thanksgiving hosts listed some suggested contributions in advance of the feast, and I predictably pounced on the dessert pie option. I reckoned I'd be able to cater to the vegan and gluten-free invitees; unfortunately they ended up declining for various reasons, but I forged on with a vegan recipe regardless.
The recipe comes from Hell Yeah It's Vegan!, which confidently touts it as the best pecan pie. I liked that it used apple puree and arrowroot in the filling, trusted that corn syrup would give a glossy sheen, and was intrigued by the crumbled crackers that presumably add substance to the filling.
Crackerless, I blended up some breadcrumbs instead and noticed a few staying stubbornly lumpy in the caramel filling. Speaking of which, gosh this filling was sweet. The bulk of it is caster sugar, corn syrup and apple puree, which start out pale and crystalline, but bake into a very chewy brown binder. This pie was almost a praline. With an ultra-crumbly crust it wasn't much of a looker, but the pecans toasted up nicely, and a dollop of coconut yoghurt went a long way in toning down the sweetness.
The household dessert tradition is a pumpkin cheesecake, tall and creamy. Meanwhile, the talk of the tables was the pistachio pudding 'salad', stoking much nostalgia for the American attendees and winning a few new fans.
(slightly adapted from Hell Yeah It's Vegan!)
1 1/4 cups plain flour
pinch of salt
2/3 cup margarine
1/2 tablespoon margarine
2/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons apple puree
3 tablespoons arrowroot
pinch of salt
Place all the pastry ingredients in a food processor and blend them together until well mixed. They may form a dough on their own; if not, add a tablespoon or two of iced water and continue processing until doughy. Turn the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and bring it together into a ball; wrap it all up and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but perhaps even overnight.
Preheat an oven to 220°C.
Retrieve the pastry and unwrap it on a bench, but keep the wrap there. Place another piece of plastic wrap on top of the dough ball and roll the pastry flat to fit a pie dish. When it's big enough, pull off the top plastic sheet and gently flip the pastry into that pie dish. Remove the second plastic sheet, and trim and patch the pastry as needed. Prick holes in the pastry with a fork, line it with pie weights (baking paper filled with dried chickpeas, in my case), and bake for just 5 minutes.
When the pastry is done, take it out of the oven and set it aside. Remove the pie weights. Turn the oven down to 160°C.
Begin on the filling. Melt the margarine in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the pecans, stirring them until they're lightly toasted and fragrant. Turn off the heat.
Place the remaining filling ingredients in a food processor and blend them until they are thoroughly combined and as smooth as possible. Pour this mixture into a saucepan and bring it to the boil, stirring regularly. Continue stirring for two minutes of boiling before turning off the heat. Stir in the pecans, then pour it all into the pie crust. Smooth over the top and even it out as best you can. Bake the pie for 50 minutes. Allow it to cool to room temperature for at least an hour before slicing and serving.