Sunday, November 8, 2009

Less Is More : Learning from an ancestor

"Less is more" is one of those quotes that everybody seems to know. It's often attributed to the architect Mies van der Rohe and associated with the Bauhaus movement. Well, guess what? He wasn't the first to popularize the saying.

In fact, it first appeared in Robert Browning's poem Andrea del Sarto in 1855--and it turns out Robert Browning (not as famous as his wife though, Elizabeth Barrett Browning) is my great-great-great-uncle, or something along those lines.

Anyway, I forgot to take a cue from my ancestor when I decided that a pumpkin pecan pie sounded good. Actually, it still sounds good if I say it again, but I should have thought about it twice. It's a common mistake--when you love two things, why not mix them up in a single dish? I guess that's how you can explain some people like to dip their fries in ice cream. From what I've heard--from those that enjoy it, obviously--it's a pretty tasty combination. In my mind, however, it just spells trouble. But pumpkin and pecans, you'll say, seem to complement each other quite logically. Plus, I love pumpkin pie, and I love pecan pie. So I should "love squared" pumpkin pecan pie.

It started out well--the recipe, again from allrecipes, had a ton of positive reviews--and all the ingredients were appetizing. I made my new favorite sweet dough and poured the pumpkin filling into my new American-sized pie dish. I then spooned the pecan filling on top, and baked everything until it was ready. My friends couldn't wait for it to cool, so my first bites were of a warm pumpkin-pecan pie, which just might explain why it seemed rather écoeurant to me.

Basically, I think I would rather have a small slice of pumpkin pie and a small slice of pecan pie than a large slice of this combination of both. (Actually, I would rather have a large slice of both.) It doesn't really add anything positive to mix them up.

Keeping it simple seems to be a pretty good idea in baking, even though when I see a recipe that piles ingredients one on top of another--like a seven-layer magic bar--the sugar-crazy child in me feels like jumping up and down. When it comes to pies, however, less really is more.

From now on, I'll stick to the pie basics. Then I can keep thinking "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."

Robert and Elizabeth Browning, reconciled in their great-great-great-niece's kitchen.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie
adapted from makes one 9-in. deep dish pie

Pâte Sablée

1 cup pumpkin purée
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 TS pumpkin pie spice
1/2 TS cinnamon

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 TB butter, melted
1/2 TS vanilla extract
1 cup pecan halves

Make pie dough and press it into pan. Freeze for at least 30 minutes before baking.

Bake dough, covered with foil and with pie weights, for 20-25 minutes at 375°F.

Mix pumpkin, sugar, egg, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon in a medium bowl and stir well. Spread on bottom of pie shell.

Combine maple syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, pecans and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Spoon over the top of the pumpkin filling.

Bake at 350°F / 180°C for 50 minutes - 1 hour until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely (at least one hour) before serving.

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claudia said...

love your writing! and I agree with you, i'd rather have a pumpkin pie or a pecan pie. Talking about pecan pie COOK's magazine published a recipe which i still make every thanksgiving. One pecan pie a year is enough for me!!

Suzanne said...

I agree...I'd rather have LARGE slices of just one or the other...or both..on the same plate..but NOT In the same pie! THanks for trying this out for us!