The French eat too

December 8, 2010 § 1 Comment


There are few things that make me happier than a group of rail-thin French women cooing with delight and diving into slices of a warm American pecan pie for their petit gouter alongside steaming cups of thé vert. Or when they profess to adore carrot cake, cream cheese frosting and all, and suggest I open up an American style bakery in Paris, because they just know it would be a huge success. Indeed there are several American-style places here, if you want to search out bagels and brownies — which seem to be the main focus — but few places to buy ingredients with which to make your favorite American treats. It’s surprising what Americans seem to feel they need imported — the likes of Betty Crocker icings in all flavors, yellow cake mixes, and colored marshmallows, although I think it was the French girls that were cooing over those in the Etats-Unis aisle of La Grande Epicerie at the Bon Marché.

But it was on that aisle that I finally found Grandma’s molasses and ordinary corn syrup, which are both still practically unheard of here. Actually I take that back. The minute you say corn syrup here, you get a quick intake of breath and a mumbled “c’est pas bon pour la santé” as if the pound of butter dumped in every French dish is bon pour la santé. So needless to say, you don’t see any French women dumping the container of corn syrup into their tarte fillings — because tart is the closest approximation I can find to pie — but they won’t hesitate to eat it when it’s placed in front of them in the form of this gooey-still-warm-from-the-oven tart that the little American girl brought in this morning. Because, eating is, afterall, about indulgence.

This pecan pie — or pecan squares as they go in my house — is a classic on my family’s Thanksgiving table. It has a strong molasses flavor and is packed full of pecans, avoiding that gooey, far-too-sweet layer of sugar and corn syrup that many pecan pies pack in the middle. Nothing horrifies me more than a badly made pecan pie, with a thick layer of cooked sugar and a sprinkling of nuts on top. I may have Frenchified the classic a bit by making a tart crust with a generous amount of sugar and egg, instead of the simple butter-and-flour combo my dad uses, and baking it in a fluted, rectangular tart pan instead of a brownie pan.

But either way, this is the way to go come Thanksgiving (or for me, come breakfast) no matter where you live. A couple of weeks late to the Thanksgiving post, but there you go. Now excuse me while I eat the last piece with my cup of tea for breakfast. Can’t be worse for you than a café crème with a half a baguette, split down the middle and spread liberally with butter right?

Pecan Squares
Adapted from Jeremiah Tower’s New American Classics

2 eggs
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (or half unsulphered molasses, half corn syrup)
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecan pieces

One recipe of Pasta Frolla pastry dough or simply use your fingers to combine cold butter and flour until you achieve a shortbread-like consistency.

If using a crust made of just butter and flour (combine until crumbly and the dough stips together when you press it with your fingertips), bake pastry shell until golden (about 10-20 minutes) at 350 degrees Farenheit.
If using the Pastra Frolla, there is no need to pre-bake the pastry shell, just follow the directions here and press the rolled-out dough into the tart pan and fill.
Make sure your tart shell has no little holes as the filling with leak and burn in your oven.

Melt butter over the stovetop and set aside. Combine eggs and sugar. Add corn syrup, salt, bourbon, butter, and vanilla. Stir in pecans. Pour the filling into the pastry shell. Bake until mostly set at 350 degrees Farenheit, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cool before cutting.

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§ One Response to The French eat too

  • Lauren says:

    I am a frequent pie-for-breakfast offender! It actually makes me want to get out of bed in the morning. I love your photographs of Paris in the snow! I’ve only ever been there in the spring.

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