Posted on January 6 2012

Tartine Baking Project: #30 Pecan Maple Pie with bourbon and kumquats

Up until now, kumquats was just another “swear” I’d mutter to strangers who annoy me (people cutting me off while driving, crazies at the grocery store, etc.).  I’d never had a kumquat before.  I didn’t even know what they looked like!  This reminds me of the summer in San Francisco where I was a nanny, and the woman I was working for asked me if I’d ever had a kiwi before.  She knew I was from Michigan, but it seemed like the strangest question to ask – like she assumed I was from some tiny area of the world without running water, toilets, or kiwis.  Michigan was a foreign place to her, a place deprived of kiwis, apparently.  Who doesn’t know what a kiwi is?  What kind of person did she think I was?  Now, if she’d asked me to describe a kumquat…I’d have been stumped.

Those are kumquats – the second most perfect addition to this pie.  Bourbon is the first.

For making the pie dough, I had a special guest in the kitchen.  Little JackJack is in this stage of wanting to help with everything.  “I help” is uttered close to a bazillion times a day, and when I sought him out to join me in the kitchen, he was excited.  Dancing in circles, asking for spoons, insisting on using the measuring spoons.  Adorable.

When it came to shaping the dough, he was just so ecstatic to do it exactly how I was doing it.  He would try to secretly pinch little bits, but would give himself away when he declared, “Yum!” 

When it came down to making the filling, it couldn’t have been any easier, which is just what I needed yesterday after having a “rough” go at things in the morning.  Total first world problems, I know, but stars were just not lining up in my favor.  Some schmuck using our credit card (that I must have dropped/left somewhere!), realized I was out of parchment paper when I needed it, and on the way home I almost got hit by a train.  Well, I was coincidentally driving over tracks and forced to stop on the tracks due to traffic.  I heard the train coming, it was getting louder and louder, and I screamed as I frantically was looking for the train that was sure to crash into me when hear, “That was another ‘Sounds of Michigan’ clip brought to you by Michigan Radio, your local NPR station.”  Traffic had moved and I just had to take a moment to regain composure.  So yeah, an easy day in the kitchen with the reward of a pie at the end was exactly what I needed. 

Those kumquats played a pivotal role in bringing a delicious balance to this very sweet maply pecan pie, as did the bourbon.

I was a little concerned, because when I poured the filling in it had spilled beneath the crust.  I can count the number of pies I’ve baked in my life – the world of pies is new to me.  I didn’t know if this was a fatal move for my pie, or just a bump in the road.  I was reassured it would not screw it up, which helped to allay my panicky, anxious nature when something foreign is in the oven that I think I’ve potentially ruined.

Pecan pie wouldn’t be the first thing I’d gravitate towards if I were have my druthers for dessert.  I was concerned the crust was a bit soggy from the filling overload fiasco.  But, it turns out when you bite into this pecan pie, nothing matters any more.  Time stops, and the bourbon/kumquat combo erases any concerns you may have about the texture of the crust.  I am so won over, I would even choose this pie over a great many cakes.  When I asked our friends kids (who are hanging out here today while their parents work) if they wanted pie today, they cheered.  Avery, age 8, replied, “If I don’t have pie, I don’t have my life.”  Truer words were never spoken.

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