This isn’t quite pecan pie, but it certainly fits the bill. And while pecan pie will always be a classic, there are a few good reasons to try this spiced walnut date molasses pie this holiday season, so I’ll just go ahead and start listing.
1) This recipe doesn’t use any corn syrup. While I’m not particularly concerned about the health implications of cooking with corn syrup, I just don’t think it tastes all that delicious, and date molasses is such a lovely alternative. It adds the same syrupy sweetness and moisture, but with a distinctively rich date flavor.
2) No one will be expecting walnuts in place of pecans, and it’s a refreshing change of pace. Pecans are wonderful, but they’re a bit richer and sweeter than walnuts, and while I’m definitely not going to insist you make frozen yogurt or fruit salad for Thanksgiving dessert, it is nice to lighten things up like two percent, so you can actually eat a whole slice of pie with a scoop of ice cream at the end of an epic meal.
3) Walnut pie embraces messiness. Walnuts are bumpy and weird looking, and pecans are perfect and uniform. So while pecan pie looks at its best with pecans arranged in perfect concentric circles on the surface, this pie looks at its best when the filling is simply poured and smoothed out. When you’re entertaining around the holidays, it’s nice to have one or two super forgiving recipes that look beautiful without much labor.
spiced walnut date molasses pie
yield: 8 slices
active time: 20 minutes
total time: 3 1/2 hours
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1 single unbaked pie crust (like a half recipe of this one)
71g (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter
240g (1 1/4 cup) brown sugar
175g (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) date molasses or date syrup*
3.5g (1/2 teaspoon) salt
3 large eggs (142g)
340g (about 3 1/2 cups) whole walnuts
1.5g (3/4 teaspoon) cardamom
2g (1 teaspoon) cinnamon
1g (1/2 teaspoon) allspice
4.5g (1 teaspoon) lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
2.5g (1/2 teaspoon) vanilla
optional: vanilla ice cream and more date molasses, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350° F (177° C) convection.**
On a floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thick. Keep dusting with flour while you work to make sure it doesn't stick. Gently roll the dough around your rolling pin (sort of like roller window shades) to transfer it to the pie pan, and then carefully unroll it onto the pie pan.
Crimp the edges however you'd like, and place the pan in the fridge while you work on the filling. The pie shell needs to be chilled solid before you fill and bake it.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it melts, add the brown sugar, date molasses, and salt, and whisk constantly over medium heat for about 2 minutes, just until it smooths out and becomes a little less viscous (it won’t quite come to a simmer, but it should get hot).
Temper the eggs: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until they're well-combined. Place the egg bowl over a wet paper towel so it doesn't skid. Take the hot butter-sugar mixture, and hold it above the eggs. Whisk vigorously, and then start to slowly drizzle in the hot butter-sugar while you continue whisking constantly.
Once the two mixtures are completely combined, add the walnuts, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, lemon juice, and vanilla, and mix together until combined evenly.
Pour into the chilled pie crust, smooth out as much as possible, and bake for about 50 minutes to 1 hour. During the last 15 minutes of baking, you may need to tent the pie with aluminum foil to keep the crust from burning, and the walnuts from over-caramelizing (keep an eye on it to make sure this isn't happening earlier, and tent earlier if necessary). Different pans cook at different rates, so keep an eye on it while it bakes. You know it’s done when the center is no longer wobbly (it’s pretty forgiving and hard to overcook).
Let the pie cool to room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving. As you serve slices at the table, top each with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and more date molasses (these toppings are totally optional, and the pie is delicious on its own).
* Date syrup and date molasses are two names for the same thing. It’s is easy to find in Middle Eastern markets, but it’s also sometimes available in US supermarkets with good international aisles (e.g., if you’re in the Midwest, look for a Ziyad display). If you don’t have access to date syrup or date molasses, you can make this recipe with dark corn syrup, but it will taste different, and the cook time may vary a little. You can also make your own date syrup, but it’s an involved process (and you must make sure you strain it and boil it to the right consistency, to ensure the recipe turns out right).
** If you’re not using a convection oven, you may need to slightly increase the temperature and/or cook it a little longer.