When Jeff had a milestone birthday this summer, our dear friends bought him a bottle of 12-year-old Auchentoshan. As this was his first nice bottle of single malt scotch whisky, they offered to host a tasting for us. Since they are both scotch connoisseurs, we knew we were in for a treat; in fact, one of them, Mortie C, is the blogger behind The Spirit Safe. Definitely check it out; he is very knowledgeable and informative. I've learned a lot from him!
Mortie and I thought that it would be interesting if I used the Auchentoshan in a dessert, so that we both could blog about the tasting (for Mortie's complete review of the Auchentoshan at The Spirit Safe, click here.) I knew exactly where to look for a delicious recipe: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, is a book full of classic-with-a-twist desserts that includes Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie. As a novice baker, most of their recipes are a little advanced for my abilities, but the book is so gorgeous and inspiring that I've read it from cover to cover at least 4 times. The Baked pecan pie recipe, I thought, seemed manageable, and I was excited to actually use the book for the first time.
Another first for me was making my own pie crust. Oh, boy. On my list of "Things that Terrify Me to My Very Core," making my own pie crust is sandwiched between being mauled by a grizzly bear and burning the house down with my hair straightener. So, as I began my pie adventure, I was even more frazzled than usual. Thankfully, after two attempts, I ended up with something that looked OK; in fact, I was quite pleased with myself!
Once the crust had a chance to freeze, the recipe called for a single layer of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Clearly, the gentlemen behind Baked know what they're doing!
Onto the custard filling. I combined eggs, corn syrup, white and brown sugars, butter, salt and vanilla. I replaced the bourbon in the recipe with Auchentoshan, of course, and increased its amount from 3 tbsp to 1/4 cup so that I could be sure it would shine. I mixed in some chopped toasted pecan halves from the farmer's market, and poured it carefully onto the chocolate layer.
Then, it was time to arrange the rest of the pecan halves on top of the filling.
After about an hour of baking, the pie was done. I had a moment of sheer panic when I realized that the pie looked like a soufflé! The custard had puffed right up to a dome that was three times as high as the crust! I set it out to cool, and thankfully, while I was pacing around the kitchen, sweating and muttering, it settled down to a normal height for pie. I've since done some research, and it turns out the puffing up is typical. Apparently, this is common knowledge to the point where no recipe that I looked at even bothered mentioning it. What, am I the only moron in the world who would bake a pecan pie and not expect this hot air balloon phenomenon? How are we beginners supposed to know these things?! WHY WASN'T I WARNED?!?!!!
Aaaaaaah, much better.
When I finally cut into the pie at the tasting, it was clear that something had gone awry with the dough. Although it looked nice, the texture was all wrong. The crust was too tough, and more crunchy than flaky (both Jeff and Mortie's wife likened it to phyllo). I was somewhat comforted by the fact that it had a really nice, buttery taste, which motivates me to perfect my method. I've read Deb's tutorial at Smitten Kitchen, and I suspect that I added too much ice water to the dough before resting it. Oh well, you can't win 'em all, and I've read many times that it takes a lot of practice to master pie crust. I shall soldier on!
On the bright side, I really enjoyed the filling. The pecans were nice and toasty, the custard was sweet and gooey, and the chocolate provided an added layer of richness. I particularly enjoyed the Auchentoshan, which I thought came through nicely in the final product. With notes of toffee, vanilla, and nuts, it complemented the pecan pie in the most delightful way.
Mortie C kindly provided this picture of a leftover slice of pie, so that you can better appreciate its layers. He reported that he enjoyed the pie even more cold, right out of the fridge, as the custard had a chance to set.
Baked does flavour right, and I know I will make this Auchentoshan Chocolate Pecan Pie again when I'm more confident in my technique. Although I was disappointed, what's important is that I had a wonderful evening with great friends and a good spirit. You know you've found nice people when they'll not only hack through a pie with a rock-solid crust without complaint, but even give compliments. Today's lesson: when in doubt about your dessert, be sure to serve it with copious amounts of delicious scotch whisky!