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Mock pecan pie recipe – a baking challenge with a difference

August 19, 2018
tags: , ,

hands reaching in for slices of mock pecan pie

Can you walk past a second-hand book shop without going in? I certainly can’t, and I generally leave with an ancient, well-thumbed cookbook in hand. These days ‘ancient’ means pre-1980’s and I’m drawn to those with lurid, colour plates of weirdly jellied concoctions or domed things with whipped cream, garnishes of rose radishes, and recipes for ”mock foods (more of this later). They were common place when I was growing up and something I shunned when I started to cook for myself. Both my Mum and my Mother-in-law looked to them for inspiration.

Opening a doorway to another world was not what I expected when I set up this blog over eight years ago but that is what happened. I could never have predicted the joy and experiences it’s brought to my life. At the heart of that are the people I’ve met both on and off life.

What is Pieathalon?

One of the people who I’ve ‘known’ for years is Jenny Hammerton of Silver Screen Suppers. I love her honesty, sense of fun, passion for the past era of silver screen glamour online, and when I met her briefly in real life, at Food Blogger Connect many years ago, she was exactly the same. Jenny also connected me to the Pieathalon gang. Once a year ‘Yinzeralla’ of Dinner is served 1972 blog sets a challenge to a group of people who have to pick a pie recipe from a pre-1990 cookbook. They email it to her then she assigns it randomly to another pieathlete. They bake, they post, and the group shares. I love this kind of group challenge. It gives a focus, takes you out of your comfort zone, you connect with people and there is the element of surprise.

And KP and I love pies. KP loves pies so much that we plan our UK trips around them (no joke). We bring pies home in our suitcases and tuck them into the freezer. Visitors from the UK are given an even more warm welcome if they unwrap a pie or two on arrival.

Many of the blogs involved in the Pieathalon are dedicated to retro cooking – often stuff that we find quite extraordinary these days – stepping stones for our parents and grandparents, that eventually led us to our eclectic ways of cooking today.  I hope you’ll enjoy a little foray into a very different corner of the internet. Meeting people who are obsessed with a different kind of cooking style, bags of enthusiasm and tongue firmly in cheek.

mock pecan pie and a cup of tea with hands

The history of mock foods

Mock foods have become very talked about recently as they are usually substitutes for meat and dairy products such as the Impossible burger.

The motivation for mock foods in the past was very different, usually to replace expensive ingredients or because there was a shortage (especially during war-time). “Cheap eating largely revolved around loading up on carbohydrates to fill you up so you didn’t need too much meat, which was much more expensive,” says food historian Annie Gray. She alludes to dishes such as mock cream, mock goose complete with stuffing, and a chicken-shaped oatmeal pudding called ‘Fitless Cock’. The Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland was named after the popular Victorian recipe for soup. None of this sounds particularly appetising.

Why make a mock pecan pie?

My pie challenge came from Sue Jiminez, the world record holder of the largest cookbook collection. KP moans about mine which is just over 100, give or take a few (ahem), but Sue’s currently stands at 6453. It’s a recipe for Mock Pecan Pie from a 1974 called “Chuck Wagon Cookin'” by Stella Hughes.

Pecans have become extremely expensive recently and this recipe uses pinto beans instead. If you don’t use the garnish it would be excellent for people with nut allergies. I converted the recipe from cups to grams, cut down the sugar content a bit, substituted dark brown sugar for white and used maple syrup instead of dark corn syrup. You could cook dried pinto beans but I found unsalted, tinned ones (in Tesco). Three generations were involved in this as I baked in my Mother-in-law’s kitchen. She was on hand to give expert pastry-making advice (ex Domestic Science teacher) and my daughters to be hand models. I tried to think how to make this vegan for them but four eggs were hard to replace. I might try this with even more beans next time.

Did it taste like real pecan pie? As I’ve never eaten this American classic I’m not really sure. It reminded me of a less cloying version of treacle tart with a slightly different texture. The centre is soft and gooey with delicious flavours of nutty caramel and vanilla. A large blob of double or clotted cream would go brilliantly.

Mock Pecan Pie

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A soft but firm filling that tastes of vanilla, caramel and pecans inside a crisp shortcrust pastry case - with a secret ingredient of pinto beans. Serve warm or cold with clotted cream or ice cream.


If you use tinned pinto beans make sure they have no added salt. 


Ingredients

  • 160g dark brown sugar
  • 55g butter (or margarine)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 60g pinto beans, cooked and mashed
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • 23cm pastry case, baked blind (see below)
  • a few whole pecans for decoration (optional – leave out if serving to people with nut allergies)

Directions

  1. Cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy in a food processor (or hand mixer, or by hand with a wooden spoon and lots of elbow grease).
  2. Add the beaten egg, little by little, beating all the time until all is incorporated.
  3. Beat in the cooked pinto beans, maple syrup and vanilla extract to make a very smooth, quite liquid mixture.
  4. Pour the filling into the tart shell. You can scatter a few pecans on at this stage but they will sink during cooking so add afterwards if you want them to be more prominent. Place in the centre of an oven, preheated to 180 C. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until cooked. The centre should be just set and will firm up as it cools, the edge puffed up and slightly cracked.

Making a shortcrust pastry case and baking it blind

I always use Tamasin Day-Lewis’ proportions for shortcrust pastry made with 110g flour and 55g unsalted butter. Make sure the butter is very cold (or even frozen) and blitz in a food processor until it resembles bread crumbs. Add ice-cold water, a little at a time, and whizz briefly until the pastry comes together in a ball. Wrap and rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. Allow to come to room temperature, lightly grease a 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin with butter.  Roll out the pastry evenly with a rolling pin then gently ease into a the tin without stretching it but making sure it fits into the edges. Lightly roll over the top of the tin to remove and excess pastry neatly. If you have time place in the fridge (or freezer) for another 15 minutes. Place on a baking tray. Screw up a piece of baking parchment into a ball then smooth it out and lay over the tart shell. Fill the paper with baking beans (or dried pulses). Bake in a preheated oven at 180 C for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, take out the paper and beans, brush the tart shell lightly with beaten egg white and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Continue with the rest of the recipe. 



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Here are some of the other Pieathletes and the pie recipes they made (some more successful than others). Do have a browse…

What do you think of foods that pretend to be something else? Have you ever cooked ‘mock’ food? Have you ever been part of baking challenge?

66 Comments leave one →
  1. mistimaan permalink
    August 19, 2018 8:45 pm

    Awesome recipe 🙂

    • August 20, 2018 12:47 pm

      Thank you – sounds a bit odd but actually does work 🙂

  2. August 20, 2018 12:23 am

    I bet this also tastes really great the next day, eaten as breakfast.

    • August 20, 2018 12:48 pm

      I like your thinking Jameson. Now for the wine match?

  3. August 20, 2018 7:44 am

    I’ll have to try this. Pecan pie is my husband’s favorite. I love the old cook books. My favorite is a Watkin’s cookbook from the mid 1940’s. It’s so simple, anyone could use it…if they can get past the old-fashioned instructions and substitute for non-existent ingredients.

    • August 20, 2018 12:48 pm

      That book sounds intriguing. I’d love to get my hands on some from the 1940s or earlier

  4. August 20, 2018 8:00 am

    What a fantastic idea. I was wondering for a second there why you even make a mock pecan pie but it totally makes sense. And It looks amazing yet the recipe is so simple. Nicely done (:

    • August 20, 2018 12:49 pm

      I totally wondered why you’d use beans instead of pecans before I made it!

  5. August 20, 2018 11:34 am

    Your passionate statements about retro cooking were heartwarming and well put. Your pie looks and sounds wonderful (fabulous photos)!

    • August 20, 2018 12:49 pm

      Some things were so strange in the past but they lay the foundations of our vibrant food scene today don’t they.

  6. tarynnicole permalink
    August 20, 2018 12:26 pm

    Your pie looks and sounds amazing! I want to try making it now!

    • August 20, 2018 12:50 pm

      Loved your pieathalon event – wish I had gate crashed.

  7. August 20, 2018 4:22 pm

    I’m working my way through several reports on the big pie event (or maybe big pie shared disaster story). You obviously saved the day by revising the recipe into something plausible, though it seems funny to make a “mock” version of something when you haven’t tasted the “real” thing. But you had your assignment! I’ve eaten both commercial and home-made pecan pies and I can’t get my mind around using beans in the custard part.

    You leave me with the same question that I asked the other two participants (whose results were much less appealing to them) — I wonder if it would be better to choose more mainstream cookbook recipes that are certain to have been tested in a real test kitchen, and leave the nostalgia cookbooks to just satisfy our curiosity.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    • August 20, 2018 5:55 pm

      Your photography is always so gorgeous. And I love the thorough research. Through these recipes and cookbooks we really are doing a bit of a lesson in food history.
      Thanks again for joining in. Good work!

    • August 20, 2018 7:35 pm

      There’s something very intriguing about some of these kitsch recipes from the past. Like early recipes from the 17th and 18th century it is hard to believe people actually cooked them (and ate them). But I think actually baking them gives a link to the recent past and maybe an understanding of those times. Personally wouldn’t want to cook them everyday but I understand the fascination. With this recipe the motivation then was to save money, these days it could be to satisfy someone with different dietary requirements so perhaps even the strangest recipes can be the catalyst for something relevant to today. The accounts have been extremely entertaining too – many made me chuckle out loud. Hope you enjoyed your browse through. Thanks for commenting. Join in next year?

  8. August 20, 2018 5:57 pm

    I love that it works! I may have to try it sometime just to see how it turns out. Thanks for participating!

  9. wendyklik permalink
    August 20, 2018 6:00 pm

    What an interesting recipe. My BIL loves pecan pies. I wonder what he would think of this?

    • August 24, 2018 9:36 pm

      I’d love to hear what he thinks as an arbiter of the real thing.

  10. August 20, 2018 6:38 pm

    it looks so delicious. thanks for the recipe

  11. August 20, 2018 6:54 pm

    Wow…your version of Mock Pecan Pie looks a lot neater than the one I made a few years back. Very attractive!

    • August 20, 2018 7:28 pm

      I only wish you could taste it and let me know what you think. PS Revealed to KP how many cookbooks you have today and he almost fainted.

  12. August 20, 2018 10:32 pm

    I love pecan pies, so this mock pecan pie sounds pretty intriguing!

    I am used to making mock foods, since I’m vegetarian. I have a mock Italian sausage recipe that I really love making.

    • August 24, 2018 9:37 pm

      That sounds so interesting. Both my daughters are vegan so there are a few replacement things we have to get when they come to stay.

  13. August 21, 2018 1:14 am

    I just read about a navy bean pie last week that supposedly tastes like a sweet potato pie. Maybe I should start making bean pies so I can count my dessert as a vegetable!

    Your blog is beautiful! I’m glad to have a new one to follow.

    • August 24, 2018 9:38 pm

      A door to a whole new world of bean desserts eh! Thanks for your very generous comment too Kari.

  14. August 21, 2018 2:29 am

    I seriously did a double-take when I got to pinto beans. I am so trying this for the upcoming holidays to fool the family!

    • August 21, 2018 2:34 am

      Debra, when I first came across the recipe in a chuckwagon cookbook, several years ago, I think my comment was “no way!” However, after wanting to try something different, I was surprised at how good it was. Trust a cowboy to improvise!

      • August 24, 2018 9:38 pm

        That’s a good point. You had to make do with what you could find.

    • August 24, 2018 9:38 pm

      Let me know what you think and whether you fool anyone!

  15. August 21, 2018 2:51 am

    Wow!!! I would never have thought to use pinto beans in a pie, but am so curious about this pie that I actually might make it for my family and see what they think without telling them what’s in it! I’m glad to hear your positive feedback!

    • August 24, 2018 9:39 pm

      The new era of duplicity by the sound of it – he he.

  16. August 21, 2018 5:09 am

    Love the history of mock foods. Have you ever looked up wartime recipes? There are some ingenious ways people came up with to make foods out of missing ingredients. Also, I would have never thought you could put beans in a pecan pie. I have a lot of relatives in Texas. The pecan is the official state tree and the official state nut there, so people in that state tend to have very passionate feelings about a pecan pie. I absolutely have to try this on them now. When I (eventually) get around to it, would you like to know what they thought?

    • August 24, 2018 9:40 pm

      I’d love to know what they think of it – although a bit nervous as they are so acquainted with the real thing. War time mock foods are fascinating – although I’m not sure I’d like to eat many of them.

  17. August 21, 2018 5:03 pm

    What an interesting post – firstly I rarely can pass a secondhand bookshop and i particularly love the older cookbooks. Just this weekend I picked up Mrs Agnes B Marshall’s cookery book which has plates of her old advertisements in and was first published in 1887!
    I love the idea of the pieathalon and the mock foods origins are so interesting. The mock pecan pie sounds good. I can image the pinto beans would work well…

    • August 24, 2018 9:41 pm

      Oh a cookbook from 1887 – I would have snapped it up. Are you going to cook from it?

  18. August 21, 2018 8:29 pm

    Don’t mess with my fave, pecan pie 😉 I am actually curious to try this version now. And the recipe is as old as me lol. Fun group for sure.

    • August 24, 2018 9:42 pm

      Oh golly – my knees are trembling now… If someone tried to fool me with mock custard I would be equally non plussed! Very fun group. I hope you check out some of the other recipes.

  19. August 22, 2018 4:54 am

    Pinto beans? That’s a new one! Glad the pie turned out well. Maybe it’s just as well you’re not so familiar with the American traditional pie – less possiblity for comparison.

    • August 24, 2018 9:43 pm

      You’re probably right. Not sure whether it would fool anyone.

  20. August 22, 2018 8:00 am

    Oh, my God! That pie looks stupendous! I’d love to have a bite of it right away. 🙂
    The challenge surely sounds interesting. 🙂

  21. Dovile Sinke permalink
    August 22, 2018 9:17 am

    I’m currently doing 21-Day No Sugar challenge with 21DayHero so I’m thinking what if I replaced sugar with stevia? Or mashed dates? Because this cake looks simply too good :))

    • August 24, 2018 9:44 pm

      You could definitely try it with mashed dates. It would be a very different texture but would be interesting to see how it turned out. I did a whole series of date recipes recently – should add in a date pie.

  22. August 23, 2018 10:32 pm

    thats a really well explained recipe 🙂

  23. matraskaratedo permalink
    August 25, 2018 10:45 am

    Beautifull Post

  24. September 2, 2018 12:29 am

    I have indeed been part of many baking challenges. 😉 none involving mock food though. I love beans in sweet stuff. Have just come back from Vietnam where this is the only use they have for beans. Mung beans boiled to a mush and sweetened with jasmine syrup followed over the lychees. Bliss!
    Must admit I am not a fan of mock foods. I am veggie and nothing annoys me more than veggie sausages. If you want a sausage. Eat a sausage! But I do like the sound of this pie. I love pecans so I am intrigued as to what this will taste like.

    • September 2, 2018 9:14 am

      Both my daughters are vegan and I’m also not a fan of mock foods – neither are they although they will reach for the odd Linda McCartney sausage at barbecues. What do you think of the impossible burger?
      So interesting that the Vietnamese only eat beans as dessert. Would love to hear more about your travels.
      I miss the cosy camaraderie of baking challenges and this definitely captured the old feeling of the early days of blogging.

      • September 2, 2018 5:20 pm

        I was given this book recently and I am obsessed already about the opportunity of burgers. I never order them. Soft shell crab burger was as close as I got recently on a dinner date with Kavey.
        So many great recipes in this book . All veggie and great ideas for sides too.

    • September 3, 2018 8:42 am

      Will pass this info and your recommendation on to my daughters – the photography on the cover is fantastic. Thanks so much

  25. September 2, 2018 11:47 pm

    I really enjoyed learning about the history of mock pies.

    • September 3, 2018 8:42 am

      More to it than you first think isn’t there?

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