A double dose of sorghum makes this pie shine: sorghum syrup gives the filling silky body and a complex taste, while the crust gets extra flake and flavor from sorghum flour.
This pie was a bit of a happy accident. Sarah and I were styling a bourbon pecan pie for NYT that called for dark and light corn syrup. After failing to locate dark corn syrup at two different stores, I panicked and grabbed a jar of sorghum syrup, figuring that the color and viscosity would look similar enough for pictures. (Don’t tell.)
I’d been curious to try sorghum syrup (also called sorghum molasses) after reading about it in The Homemade Flour Cookbook and Flavor Flours, and it did not disappoint. I cracked open the jar, dipped a finger in, and tasted. The flavor was like heaven opening up and angels singing: notes of butterscotch, molasses and maple in a thick, not-too-sweet syrup.
Sorghum syrup is made by boiling the juice from the stalks of the sorghum plant. The resulting liquid is thick, like honey, with a deep brown coffee color. It’s less sweet than honey or maple syrup, with a level of sweetness similar to brown rice syrup or corn syrup. But it’s got loads more flavor than either, making it ideal for use in pecan pie, which can be overly sweet and bland. Turns out this idea is not new, and now we know why. (Sorghum syrup is also said to be high in antioxidants, hence this pie = health food. It’s basically kale.)
The pie baked up beautifully and we had fun styling the shoot for photographer Craig Lee. Then we ate too much pie. For weeks, I could not stop thinking about that pie. I imagined swapping the maple syrup in my favorite (though poorly-photographed on a smart phone because I had recently dropped my camera in breakfast) pecan pie recipe for sorghum syrup, and the millet flour in my pie crust for sorghum flour. And it turns out I wasn’t alone: Sarah was hatching a similar sorghum-y plan! So we decided to have a little pecan pie party today. Check out Sarah’s delectable version, kissed with molasses and orange zest and topped with nutmeg whipped cream, here.
This pie uses a few key techniques courtesy of Cook’s Country, from whence it was adapted, to turn out a custardy filling crowned with toasty nuts in a crisp crust. First, parbaking the crust is a must, since the custard likes to bake at a low temperature to keep it from curdling, whereas the crust likes hot temperatures to make it brown and flake. I like to use a baking stone to get the bottom of the crust extra-crisp. Next, the pecans are given a thorough toasting, then broken up with your fingers, which yields less dust to pollute the filling, keeping it crystal clear. The custard is given a brief cook on the stove, just enough to warm it up, dissolve the sugar, and oust any frothy air bubbles that can mar the surface of the pie. The pie is baked fairly briefly in a low oven to barely set the custard, then given a long cooling period to firm it up.
The result is kind of insane. The custard is smooth as butter, just sweet enough, and with a boozy punch. The warm flavor of the sorghum syrup rings through, melding with molassesy dark brown sugar and fruity bourbon. The taste is almost tropical. Candied nuts crunch along with large flakes of salt, and crispy crust shatters and flakes everywhere, infused with whole grain flavors of its own: sorghum, oat, chia seed and lots of butter.
I had some whipped coconut cream left over from another project, and I can hardly believe how well the two pair. The cream rounds out the flavors of the pie, bringing out the floral, fruity vibe of the filling.
My mind is swirling with other uses for this luscious syrup: granola, caramel corn, crispy rice treats, pancakes… but for now, I’ll just have another slice of pie (followed by a slice of Sarah’s).
What pie escapades are you planning in your kitchen? Let me know in the comments below! And if you give this pie a try, I want to see! Take photo and tag me on instagram @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet.
- 1 (9") gluten-free pie crust (preferably the sorghum buttermilk variation), hot
- 2 cups (230 g) raw pecan halves
- 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter
- ⅔ cup (150 g) dark brown sugar or muscovado sugar
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 large eggs
- ⅔ cup (210 g) sorghum syrup (or dark maple syrup)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons (60 ml) bourbon, divided use
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon flaky salt (such as Maldon)
- barely sweetened whipped cream or whipped coconut cream, for serving
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Have the hot pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment for easy clean-up, and have a baking stone in the oven if you've got one.
- Spread the pecan halves on a small baking sheet in a single layer and toast in the oven until fragrant and very slightly darkened in color, 10-12 minutes. To check if the pecans are thoroughly toasted, let one cool on the counter, then taste it – it should be crispy and have a toasty flavor. Let the nuts cool, then use your fingers to break each half into 4-8 pieces.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 275º.
- In a medium-large saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar and salt. Off the heat, gently whisk in the eggs one at a time, then the sorghum syrup, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of the bourbon. Return the pot to a low flame and cook, stirring constantly with a flexible heat-proof spatula, until the mixture is warm to the touch (130ºF on an instant-read thermometer). Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of bourbon and the pecan pieces. Pour the mixture into the hot, pre-baked pie shell. (If the pie shell has cooled, return it to the 275º oven for 5 – 10 minutes to heat it up.)
- Bake the pie at 275º until the custard is mostly set, 20-30 minutes. Ways to tell when the pie is done:
- The pie wobbles slightly when you shake it from side to side, but doesn’t slosh wetly.
- When you press down on the center of the pie with the back of a spoon, the custard feels softly set, like Jell-o.
- The sides of the pie may be very slightly puffed, but they should not be so puffed that the pie cracks around the edges.
- An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 160-165ºF.
- Whew! Take that pie out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature, around 3 hours; it is still cooking from residual heat. Sprinkle with the flaky salt. For the cleanest slices, chill the pie until firm (an hour or so), then cut slices and let them sit at room temperature, or place them in a low oven for just a minute or two until gently warmed (but not melted). Serve slices with whipped cream or whipped coconut cream.
- I like this pie equally cold, at room temperature, or very slightly warm. It keeps well, refrigerated airtight, for up to several days.