The Principle of the Pecan

South meets Dutch
We were going to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, as it’s meant to be done, but we ended up postponing our celebration because of a lack of nuts. Sure, some people think it’s not Thanksgiving without the turkey or the dressing or the cranberry sauce. For me, it’s not Thanksgiving without a pecan pie. Unfortunately, pecans can be a bit more difficult to come by here in the Netherlands, or at least our corner of Utrecht.

We can sometimes find them at the grocery stores, but they’re often pricey for a small amount. This week, our usual store just didn’t have them at all. In a last-ditch attempt, we did check out one of the organic grocery stores, but I refused to pay €2,95 for a 75 gram bag of pecans. At a minimum, I needed two bags and just couldn’t stand the idea of paying almost €6 for such a paltry amount. I paid that much for a can of Libby’s pumpkin purée the first year we were here and vowed never again, thus the lack of pumpkin pies at this time of year, as well. (I’m too lazy to go through all the hassle with a real pumpkin.)

You see, growing up, I used to pick pecans from the trees in my great-grandmother’s yard in Florida. Even now, my parents were telling me about all the pecans a friend of theirs had given them. I come from a place where pecans are free or at least downright inexpensive! So to pay such a ridiculous amount for a paltry amount of pecans is just wrong.

Fortunately, I knew that the Saturday market at Vredenburg always has a couple of noten kramen (nut stalls), with a wide variety of nuts. So Saturday morning, we headed out to the market and sure enough, we found pecans at a much better price and quality. The stall we went to had 200 grams for €4,50, which is much more acceptable and the nuts were much fresher and nicer. Definitely worth the delay.

Karo

Using up just about the last of my Karo syrup, I made my beloved pecan pie. It’s sticky, gooey, nuttiness is one of the great pleasures in life! Sadly, I don’t have enough Karo left to make another. My mother has suggested Lyle’s Golden Syrup, but if anyone else has any suggestions for Karo alternatives, I’m all ears. I usually only make pecan pie once a year, so I’ve got time to find alternatives — or hope someone visits from the US and can bring a bottle or three with them.

Ready to Bake

If you want the bare-bones recipe that I use for my pecan pie, here it is. If you need more tips, I’d suggest Googling for better directions. This year I skipped the traditional pastry crust and went with a simple digestive-biscuit crumb and butter base for something different, since it’s easy and not particularly sweet. As for the actual recipe directions, beat the eggs a bit first and then start adding in ingredients. I leave the syrup for second to last and the pecans for last. I also roughly chop my pecans and save a few whole ones to decorate the top. Enjoy!

Pecan Pie Recipe
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup Karo light syrup
2 cups pecans

Bake at 350F for approximately 55 minutes
Pecan Pie

Random Sunday Observations

Shady Oasis
Why is ok for street sweeper machines to be out working at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, but god forbid a normal store be open?

Pippo and I took a little walk before breakfast this morning and wandered through Janskerkhof. Despite the torrential downpours we’ve had in the past 24 hours, the scent of yesterday’s flower market still hung heavy in the air.

The rain looks like it’s on its way back any minute now. We got the walk in just in time. Today is Culturele Zondag (Ga Groen!), but I’m not sure the weather will encourage me to leave the house again. Baking, on the other hand, seems like the perfect rainy-day activity. I think I’ll make a small batch of muffins with a little bit of chocolate and the handful of strawberries I have left.

Foto Vrijdag 2.43 Apples and Pears

Fruit
I’ve had fruit on the brain recently. More in a baked form than fresh, though. The autumn weather — and my increased consumption of coffee — makes me start craving baked good. Rather than going full-out chocolate gorging, I’ve decided to at least try to add some fruit into my baked goods. These two apples — two of only three that appeared on our apple tree this year — were turned into apple crumbles this week. Today, I plan on buying more apples from Albert Heijn (it’s their food magazine sitting beneath the apples), so I can make some apple muffins for my morning breakfast.

As for the photo, I used the Instagram app to take this photo. I still haven’t replaced my camera batteries that died on Sunday. I like the mix of real and fake in the photo itself, and the soft, muted tones supplied by the app give it a bit of a Victorian, antique feel. Cozy. Gezellig even!

Cooking MacGyver Style

Creative Cooking
I’ve been getting creative with various household items to get some cooking done recently. I like to call it cooking, MacGyver style. (If you’re not familiar with MacGyver, he was a television character famous for getting out of tight situations with a bit of creativity, some duct tape, and a Swiss Army knife.)

One of my regular improvs is my version of a cooling rack. You see, in the past, it seemed that a cooling rack invariably seemed to come with any house we bought, so I never had to buy one. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring them with me when we moved, and I haven’t seen any on the few occasions I think to look for one here. As a result, when it comes time to cool some sort of baked good, I’ve had to get creative. My go-to way of working these days is to take a handful of metal skewers we have and spreading them out across a plate. I don’t bake in large batches, so this usually fits my rare baking needs. It’s surprisingly effective!
Going MacGyver
It also takes up very little storage space when not in use, so I’m tempted to not bother buying a proper cooling rack any time soon. If I plan to do any larger batches of baking, I could just buy more skewers! One of my favorite tv chefs in the US was Alton Brown, who always insisted that any kitchen tool should be able to serve more than one purpose. I think he’d be proud of my ingenuity!

As for the cupcakes in my shots, they’re not going to be as good as those made by American Baking Company, but they are on the healthier side of the cupcake divide. They’re an old Weight Watchers recipe that I have and now know by heart. They suit my need for a little bit of something chocolate on occasion.

Chocolate Cupcakes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2-cup brown sugar + 1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup apple sauce (no sugar added) (I use the individually portioned apple sauce cups)
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar (I tend to just use natural vinegar now)
1 1/2 tsp melted butter (I use the liquid stuff)

First combine the dry ingredients and mix them together well. Then add in the liquid ingredients and stir just to combine. Then spoon the filling into a prepared 12-piece muffin tin and bake at 350F/180C for around 18-22 minutes.

I eat them plain, although they’re also good spread with a bit of Nutella. You can also add in a 1/4 cup or so of chocolate chips/pieces. Or sprinkle some hagelslag on top before baking. I’ve also used this recipe to make regular cakes. They’re not the end-all and be-all of chocolate cake, but they’re not bad when you want something chocolate, but also want to avoid lots of calories.