maple-pecan pie with butternut squash, #10 of 52 pies in 52 weeks

as a pastry chef, it is always fun to take something considered savory and transform it into a dessert.  coming up with an original idea is often as easy as taking a slow walk through the produce aisle in the supermarket.  during the winter months, the selection of produce can be a bit boring because the variety is not always as abundant.  as i shopped for groceries last week, i started out in the produce section since it is right by the main entrance of the store and one of the  first things that caught my eye was a display of hard winter squashes; spaghetti, acorn-golden and green and butternut.  i like butternut squash and so does the gang at home and i serve it every now and then.  we generally like it baked with a bit of brown sugar, cinnamon and a little butter.  sort of like a dessert that you can eat first and not feel guilty about.  at that moment i wondered, would it make a nice pie?  a nice filling for a pecan pie?  what about a maple pecan pie…

pick a squash that weighs at least a pound-you will lose some of the weight to the skin but should have enough for the pie.  if you chose a larger one, that means the rest is a bonus and i suggest you add a little brown sugar, cinnamon and butter to it and eat it.  to prepare the squash, cut it in half and remove the seeds.  place the squash in an oven proof dish, put a small amount of water in the bottom of the dish, cover it with foil and bake at 350 until it is soft.  the time can vary due to the size and the one i chose weighed just over two pounds and took about an hour.  remove from the oven and scoop the flesh out with a spoon.  allow it to cool before using, you will need 1 1/3 cup for the recipe so anything extra is for snacking.  when it comes to maple syrup-purity matters.  pancake syrup is not maple syrup and it won’t give it the same flavor as pure maple syrup.  if you can find grade “b” syrup, it will offer a more intense flavor but grade “a” is fine and that is what i used-no time to make a trip to trader joe’s for grade b and i didn’t want to buy/spend for just a few ounces.

maple-pecan pie with a butternut squash filling
serves 8-10
something funny happened in the oven-the squash filling rose and the maple custard filling sank!

squash filling
1 (9″) prebaked deep dish pie crust-any kind you like, i used a tart dough recipe that has sugar in it but it browned too much so i recommend sticking to pie pastry.
1 1/3 cup baked squash flesh
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) heavy cream
place the squash, sugar, maple syrup and spices in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend.  process the mixture, scraping the bowl occasionally until it is completely and evenly pureed.  add the eggs one at a time and pulse to mix.  scape the bowl, add the cream and combine well.   pour the mixture into the prebaked pie shell and smooth the top.

maple-pecan topping
1 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup
preheat the oven to 350.  toast the pecans until fragrant, about 7 minutes.  in a mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar with the melted butter and the cinnamon.  whisk in the eggs, one at a time and then whisk in the maple syrup.  sprinkle the pecans evenly over the squash filling.  carefully pour the maple filling over the pecans.  ***do this slowly and hold the bowl close to the pie as you pour-the idea is to make layers and if you pour quickly or from a long distance above the surface you will force the pecans down into the squash layer.  bake until the pecan topping puffs up and is firm across the top, 40-45 minutes.
allow to cool before serving and if you like, serve it with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

a few more notes about this pie:  the squash could easily be made with any other sweet hard winter squash such as acorn or turban or some other heirloom variety as well as pumpkin.  sweet potatoes can also be used in the filling and if you prefer walnuts, go for it!

as always, if you dare to bake along, send me a photo and i will post it

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