Texas Pecan Pound Cake

20160303_151528I read this morning that today, March 4, is National Pound Cake Day. I must have known it was coming because yesterday I pulled out an old favorite recipe for pound cake and baked it. As with most pound cakes, the list of ingredients and mixing are fairly simple.  This one’s claim to fame is the addition of a cup of Texas pecans.  The recipe was given to me over 40 years ago by my neighbor on McCree Road, Jean Merrill. She wrote it on a note pad from her kitchen and I still pull out the yellowed slip of paper and use it, remembering what a good neighbor she was and how much our chldren enjoyed playing together. I believe the recipe itself came from Jean’s father, who owned a restaurant in San Antonio.

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In the middle of heated campaigns in a presidential election year, I smile when I see the notepad, likely a campaign freebie from John Traeger, who served as State Senator from District 21 in Texas.  Mr. Traeger’s daughter Cam and her husband previously owned the house we lived in when Jean gave me the recipe.  They had been friends of Jean and Ralph, who became our neighbors and friends when we bought the house in 1972.  My goodness, the memories that baking a cake can bring to surface!

We like the addition of a generous splash of good vanilla extract!

Texas Pecan Pound Cake

2 sticks of butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

5 eggs

1 cup chopped pecans.

As you can see, I was given a minimum of directions, which I consider a compliment.  Jean knew that I knew the order and manner of mixing!  I will expand instructions but after you have baked this cake as many times as I have, you won’t need them!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a tube or bundt pan. With electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating after each.  Add flour gradually.  Stir in pecans and spoon into pan.  Bake 55 minutes.

 

5 Spice Candied Pecans

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This is one more recipe I cooked during the holidays that makes a treat welcome anytime!  In fact, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and  these spiced nuts make a nice thinking of you surprise. I filled some glass star dishes with these for small gifts for friends before Christmas. .  There are many ways to make candied nuts but this one is different because of an ingredient called Five Spice Powder.  5 Spice is a blend of wonderful flavors and fragrances –  Chinese cinnamon, cloves,sichuan pepper, ground fennel seeds, and star anise.

Five spice is used in Chinese cuisine, but is also found in other Asian food and Arabic cookery.  It may be used with fatty meats such as pork, duck or goose. It is used as a rub for chicken, duck, pork and seafood, or added to the breading for fried foods.is used in recipes for It is used in recipes for beef stew as well as a marinade for Vietnamese broiled chicken.  In Hawaii, some restaurants place a shaker of the spice on each table.

I like having a small bag of these in the freezer to use as a topping for salads.An extra bonus for us is the fact we are able to buy locally grown pecans.

Five Spice Candied Pecans
Yields 2 cups, or four 1/2 cup gifts

4 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder
2 cups pecan halves
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°.
In a medium saucepan, warm 4 teaspoons vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar, 4 teaspoons water, 1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder; stir until sugar dissolves and mixture bubbles. Add 2 cups pecan halves; cook, stirring until pecans are thickly coated, about 3 minutes. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Bake 5-8 minutes,or until fragrant and crisp. Cool completely.

Store in an airtight container, or place 1/2 cup portions in four cellophane bags and tie with festive ribbon.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

Pecan Pie Eudora

008Unlike many cooks, I am always open to new recipes for something I have cooked with success many times with another recipe.  In this case, pecan pie.  In my years growing up and learning to cook, holiday desserts usually included  sweet potato pie, a mince pie, often fruit pies, but always pecan pies.  I have confessed my habit of browsing through cookbooks for fun, and a Half Price Bookstore find recently uncovered a for- me untried version of this pie.  In the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts, the title caught my eye.  Eudora Welty is one of my favorite southern authors, and this recipe was titled: Southern Nut Pie Eudora.  The dessert chef, Susan Harville presented the pie to Miss Welty when she was in Ithaca, NY to give a reading.  Miss Welty is said to have accepted the pie graciously and to have said “…the pleasure you’ve had from reading my work? Why, surely it couldn’t add up to a whole pecan pie!”   I opted to use pecans rather than walnuts, and increased the amount of nuts.  The creamy custard and pecans are perfectly enriched with pure maple syrup and heavy cream.  You hardly need any whipped cream on top!

Pecan Pie Eudora

1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust

2 cups pecan halves

1/4 cut butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup heavy cream or half and half

Preheat oven to 375.  Spread nuts evenly in the bottom of the 9 inch unbaked pie shell and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, mix melted butter, vanilla, and flour.  Add salt, eggs, maple syrup, and cream and mix well.  Pour the filling over the pecans in the pie shell.  Pecans will float to the top, so to keep them from burning during baking, gently push them into the liquid with the back of a spoon.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing.  May be served with whipped cream.

Buttermilk Pecan Pie

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Our Thanksgiving dinner this year included both old and new recipes.  Pecan Pie has long been a family favorite, and we have made it in many ways and in different places. My mother’s and grandmother’s pecan pie usually involved the labor of love  called cracking and picking out pecans by hand, making the pies an even more special treat.  Many years ago, my mother-in-law had a large pecan tree in her back yard and would once in a while mail us a shoebox full of shelled pieces that she had picked up and picked out for us.  In recent years, I have bought them for use for holiday baking.  But this year, in keeping with our efforts to buy local produce, we bought our pecans through a school fund raiser that obtained them from a Fort Bend county producer.  They are fresh, delicious, and the Buttermilk Pecan Pies featured them well.

Our family’s old-time recipes usually involved using dark corn syrup and lots of pecans, resulting in a very sticky and sweet pie slice, but I have always liked the fillings made with eggs and milk that give a more custard filling.  The use of buttermilk in this recipe makes this pie delicious, and quintessentially Southern.  I adapted this recipe from one found in Texas the Beautiful  Cookbook,  edited by Elizabeth Germaine, with contributions by Ann Criswell, Food editor of the Houston Chronicle.  It is reprinted from the Corpus Christi Junior League cookbook, Fiesta.  Buttermilk pecan pie was a family recipe often prepared ba a career U.S. Navy chef for many dignitaries. during his military career, the chef refused to share the recipe, but when he retired he allowed it to be printed in a Navy newspaper.

1/2 cup butter

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 eggs

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup chopped pecans

pecan halves for decoration

1 (9 inch) pie crust

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, adding sugar gradually. Blend in vanilla and eggs, one at a time.  Combine flour and salt and add to this mixture gradually. Add buttermilk and mix.

Sprinkle chopped pecans in the bottom of unbaked pie crust and pour filling over them. Bake pie in preheated oven at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.  When pie has baked for about 30 minutes, lay pecan halves in simple design on top, pressing slightly, then resume baking. Serve at room temperature.

010I am thankful for all the good help I had baking Buttermilk Pecan Pie!

Williamsburg Pecan Bars

In 1984, I traveled with friends to Colonial Williamsburg.  We loved the living history lessons at every turn and enjoyed stopping by its inns and taverns for meals. The cookbook I purchased there has remained one of my favorites for nearly 30 years not only because it reminds me of travels and tastes of the past, but also for recipes that have become keepers for our family like  Christiana Campbells’ Tavern Spoon Bread, Chowning’s Brunswick Stew, Mrs. Randolph’s Frozen Lemonade, and Williamsburg Inn Pecan Bars.

Williamsburg Inn Pecan Bars

 The Williamsburg Cookbook, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1975

 3/4 cup butter

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 eggs

rind of one lemon

 Grease and flour two 9X9X2 inch pans.*   Cream butter and sugar; add eggs and lemon rind and beat well.  Sift together flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture and beat well.  Chill dough until firm.  Press the dough in the bottom of the pans.  The dough will be about 1/8 inch thick.  Prick all over with a fork.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in a  375 degree oven until the dough looks half done.  Remove and follow instructions for Pecan Topping.

*  I make this in one larger pan.

Pecan Topping

 1 cup butter

1 cup honey

1 cup light brown sugar,packed

1/4 cup whipping cream

3 cups pecan, chopped

 

Put butter, sugar and honey  in a deep, heavy saucepan; boil and stir constantly for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat. Cool slighty and add cream and pecans, mix well.  Spread the topping evenly over the surface of the partially baked sugar dough with a buttered wooded spoon or flexible spatula. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes.  Cool and cut into 1 x 2 inch bars.

Texas Tomato Pie

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I have made several variations of pies named Tomato Pie.  There have been tomato tarts with French ancestry made with puff pastry, a Greek version with lots of thyme and lemon produced on sheets of phyllo, Italian flatbread with olive oil and tomatoes and basil, close kin to pizza.  Southern tomato pies may all have tomatoes in common, but little else other than a tender flaky crust.  What makes this pie a Texas pie?  Pecans and jalapeno peppers!  And it just may be the tastiest tomato pie ever.  My recipe is the result of combining ideas from recipes in Texas Recipes and the lovely Houston Junior League cookbook titled Peace Meals.  Peace to you and yours when you sit down to share this meal!  It needs only a garden salad tossed with a light citrus vinaigrette as an accompaniment.

Texas Tomato Pie

 

 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
1 cup fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup brie cheese, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground  pepper
3 cups grape tomatoes, sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup minced jalapeños
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Basil, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place pie crust in the oven at 375 degrees for 5 minutes or until the bottom begins to brown slightly.

Remove from oven, sprinkle 1 cup of the mozarella over the bottom while still hot, then set aside while you work on the filling.

1. Wash basil leaves and pat dry.  Roll leaves together and slice thinly for chiffonade. Mince garlic and mix with basil.

2. Mix pieces of brie,  remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese with mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and  pepper.

3. Seed and mince jalapeno peppers.

4. Cut the grape tomatoes into thin slices.

5. Layer these ingredients into pie.
Scatter tomatoes over the mozzarella cheese in the pie crust. Sprinkle salt and jalapeños over the tomatoes, then the garlic and basil mixture over the tomatoes and jalapeños.

With a teaspoon, put dots of mayonnaise and cheese mixture over the top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle chopped pecans on top. Bake for 45  minutes or until the crust is golden brown and pie is bubbling.