Project Pie: Vegan Maple Pecan Pie with No Refined Sugar

Project Pie: I'll be baking 24 pies before Pi Day 2016 to get over my fear of baking pies. And to eat delicious things. You can join me by posting about your pies in the comments or tagging your twitter, instagram, or facebook posts with #projectpie. Make something gooey and delicious!

Pecan pie was pretty standard holiday fair in my childhood home. There might be some discussion about whether we added on an apple pie or pumpkin pie (which I didn't like as a kid), but there was no question that twice a year - Thanksgiving and Christmas - my mom would make that sweet, gooey dessert.

One Thanksgiving in high school, I was tasked with putting together the pie - not a difficult job since we used a prepared pie crust and the filling essentially involves mixing a bunch of things together. But it looked funny when I put it into the oven, not quite brown enough. I figured maybe it caramelized in the heat and got that dark rich hue from cooking. Unfortunately, after an hour at 350, it looked even worse, like a puffed up pecan cake inside a pie shell.

"But I did everything the directions said!" I told my mom. She picked up the recipe and scanned it. I looked over her shoulder.

"Oh," I said quietly.

 I looked at her sheepishly. "I put in two cups of flour instead of two tablespoons."

She burst out laughing. "Well that'll do it."

I think we ate it anyway. Perhaps I'd invented some new confectionary delight, and we didn't even realize it.

That was the only time I ever made pecan pie, in part because we had it less as I got older, and in part because I've never made it in my own home.

When I started Project Pie, one of the first pies my wife asked about was pecan. And I told her there was no way I could make a pecan pie that could meet our dietary restrictions. It was all eggs (me) and corn syrup (her). But the idea stuck in my head, and a week ago, I googled "pecan pie without corn syrup" and "maple pecan pie" and "pecan pie flax egg" just to see if anything like that was in the realm of possibility. Turns out, it is. I combined a bunch of different recipes and added in some of my own substitutions, and folks, I am redeemed.

When you bite into a piece of gooey, pecan-y goodness, you can't deny that Southerners know what they're doing. It even works when you change everything up and prepare it with ingredients that would make my grandmother shudder!

Vegan Maple Pecan Pie
Adapted from Epicurious 

One crust (of your choice - this is my go-to*)
2 tablespoons chia seeds, ground
6 tablespoons warm water
1 cup maple syrup
3/4 coconut palm sugar
1 tablespoon flour (I used whole wheat)
3 tablespoons earth balance (or other vegan margarine), melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cup pecan halves for topping (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350, and prepare crust.
2. Mix together ground chia seeds (fresh ground are best, but you can find them pre-ground in some health food stores) and the warm water. Place in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes.
3. Combine the maple syrup, coconut sugar, flour, earth balance, and vanilla in a bowl. Once the chia seeds and water have reached an egg-y consistency, pour them into the maple syrup mixture.
4. Pour the chopped pecans into your pie crust, and top with the maple syrup mixture.
5. Arrange the pecan halves on top and place in the oven on a baking sheet (to catch drips) and bake for 55 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a pie rack to cool.

p.s. Making recipes from my childhood that my wife can eat is my favorite

* I prepared my crust this time by hand instead of in the food processor with this recipe - just to see how that would go. I didn't like it nearly as well - it was dry and crumbly. I did have to roll it out twice because I got it stuck the first time, so perhaps that's what went wrong?

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