Everyone knows pecan pie is delicious, but did you also know pecans contain oleic acid; are rich in vitamin E, thiamin, magnesium, and copper; and are a good source of fiber? Here are some more helpful tips about pecans and some recipes that will make you want to dig out your favorite baking tools and celebrate the pecan every day of the year.
Buy fresh, healthy nuts. Though the best time to buy nuts is in the fall when they are harvested, pecans are available year-round. If you're buying unshelled pecans, look for plump nuts that are uniform in size and color. When buying shelled pecans, look for nuts that are smooth and unblemished. If you rattle the nut in its shell and hear rattling, that means the nut is old.
Store your pecans correctly. If you aren't going to use shelled pecans immediately, they can be stored for up to two years in the freezer. Seal the pecans in a plastic bag before freezing. If needed, the nuts can be thawed and refrozen during those two years. If you would prefer to not freeze them, place your pecans in an airtight container; they will keep up to nine months in the refrigerator or up to six months in a cool, dry cupboard.
Crack the tough nuts. There are nutcrackers designed specifically for pecans, but any nutcracker or hammer will do. If you don't have any tools on hand, grasp two pecans together and squeeze. One will crack the other, and you can peel the shell off. Once you have shelled the nut, make sure there isn't any shell material left in the nutmeat. Pecan shells taste bitter, so you don't want them to sneak into your food. When shelling your pecans, remember that 1 pound of shelled nuts equals 4 cups of pecan halves or 3 and 3/4 cups chopped pecans.
Roast pecans to bring out the flavor. Spread shelled pecans on a baking sheet and bake them in a 350 degree oven until the nuts are golden brown and fragrant. This usually takes between 8 and 20 minutes. Toasted pecans have a more buttery flavor and more of a crunch, perfect for baked goods. Warm nuts are also easier to chop than cool ones.
Use pecans in more than just pie. Pecan meal is a delicious addition to breads, pancakes, and other baked goods. And since it is gluten-free, pecan meal is a great substitute for flour or bread crumbs in recipes. You can grind your own meal at home, but be careful to not grind too quickly. Pecans have an especially high oil content, which means that the meal turns buttery quickly when overground. Freeze the pecans beforehand, and then grind them in a nut mill. If you are using a food processor, use the pulse setting, so you can keep a better eye on the consistency. Store pecan meal in the refrigerator or freezer.
Pecan tassies are like a pecan pie cookie, complete with individiual pie shells. Use a muffin tin to create the cookie pies that are a crowd-pleasing treat.
Combine the crust ingredients with a pastry blender, gather into a ball, wrap with plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease muffin pan.
Cover the bottom and sides of each muffin cup with pastry.
Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl.
Fill each pastry cup about halfway with pecan filling.
Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes or until filling is set when shaken.
While many people think of pecan pie only at Thanksgiving, July 12 is National Pecan Pie Day, so you can indulge in the dessert more than once a year. Serve this pie warm with ice cream or whipped cream.
Combine flour, butter, and salt with a pastry blender.
Add water a tablespoon at a time until dough binds.
Gather the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine butter, sugar, and corn syrup in sauce pan on low heat. Stir constantly until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool slightly.
Add beaten eggs, vanilla, and salt. Stir well.
Roll out pastry dough and place in 9-inch pie pan. Fold edges under and crimp with your thumb and forefinger.
Pour filling over unbaked pie shell and cover with pecans.
Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes or until mostly set when shaken. If crust starts to brown too quickly, cover edges with foil.