Sunday, July 18, 2010

Perseverance & Practice Pay Off: A Perfect Chocolate Walnut Pie

When it comes to baking, I’m no Martha Stewart, no Ina Garten, not even Betty Crocker. And pies are my nemesis. Peculiar really, since pies, especially fruit pies, are among my favorite desserts. (I’ll never rarely pass up cheesecake, any variety.) As a kid, a raspberry pie was my birthday request. 

I have a few baking successes under my belt, precious few. A recipe for a chocolate chip pie given me by a friend years ago has served me well as my stand-by when I need a dependable dessert.

But given my baking history –or maybe it’s fear of baking-- I really could understand the look of amazement, incredulity, maybe even panic, on my husband’s face when he saw me sign up for two, yes, two, pies to donate to the church’s annual fund-raising dinner. I could hear what he was saying to himself, “Why is she subjecting herself to this again? Does she want to be embarrassed? And in public no less!!!!”

I calmed him and told him that I really would try—earnestly--to do a good job, reminded him I’d made the chocolate chip pie dozens of times (“Yeah, and you nearly burned half of them!”), and promised if I did fail I would go to a bakery, buy two pies, repackage them and pass them off as my own.

But I didn’t need to.

The pies turned out great. I even got a little creative, just like I do with cooking. Maybe I will get the hang of this!

True to my word, I did everything just right. I preheated the oven, I assembled all my ingredients. I measured precisely. I adjusted the oven racks. I looked through the oven’s window, instead of opening the doors.  I didn't even leave the kitchen. I was a baking machine. And the pies rewarded my diligent attention.

Although I’d like to take full credit for the pies, I believe one of the reasons they looked as pretty as they did, all puffed up to perfection, was my neighbor farmer Dude’s (yes, that’s his real name) fresh farm eggs. They really do make a difference.

I'm sure the biggest reason baking and I don't get along too well is that baking seems to me so precise and exact and I prefer to be more free-wheeling in the kitchen.  And you can't peak and adjust as you go.  But I'm determined to, if not be a great baker, be an adequate one, at least enough so that I can confidently contribute to a Christmas cookie exchange.

I wish I would have inherited my mother’s pie-making genes, but I didn’t. She was a great pie baker. She was one of those -- you know the kind -- who didn’t measure or time a thing. She did it all by feel, smell and some innate sixth sense. Since I loved to hang around the kitchen so much, she did try and teach me but her lessons didn’t take. I did, however, became a master at making the cinnamon pinwheels with the leftover pie dough. Can still taste them fresh from the oven.

I got this recipe over 25 years ago, handwritten on a card, so I can’t really credit the original source. I did a few things differently:

  • The original recipe called for pecans, but I used walnuts and I toasted the walnuts first.
  • I added ½ cup coconut to the mixture.
  • I’ve tried using a graham cracker crust, but I like pastry better with this pie.
And as for the pastry, well, I still haven’t mastered that, and used Pillsbury’s roll-out pastry sheets.

One baby step at a time.

Chocolate-Pecan Pie
1 C sugar
½ C melted butter, cooled (no substitute)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 t vanilla
1 6 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1 unbaked pie shell

Gently combine the first seven ingredients and spread into the unbaked shell and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Best served warm, with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Serves 6.


  1. now that is one nice looking pie....would love a slice right now with my coffee...I do have my trials with pies too, I think I finally found a really good crust though so that should help!

  2. That looks so good! It reminds me of a nestle tollhouse cookie. Something you don't see everyday.

  3. Looks awefully good to me. Persevere! I''l be the "royal taster" aka. guinea pig anyday!


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