Growing up in Arizona, there were palm and citrus and pecan trees everywhere. I have wonderful memories of fall, when as kids, we would crawl around in the yard searching for pecans that had fallen. Having them so readily available gave me perfect opportunity to make some great pecan pie. I didn’t think anything of dumping a cup of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) into the filling because I only made pie when the pecans were in season, and in those days, who knew that it was a highly processed bottle of gunk?
Before I decided that I would take on a HFCS-free pecan pie, I read recipes to see how other folks had handled the situation. From using a homemade sugar syrup to incorporating a full cup of expensive grade A maple syrup, cooks were having success. However, I had this crazy idea in my head that I was sure would work: coconut. I didn’t want to change the taste or texture except for making the pie less overtly sweet. I thought the coconut might give the flavor an interesting twist.
The results were just what I expected. Out of the oven came a beautiful pecan pie that had a filling with the lovely texture one would expect, and a hint of a more sophisticated flavor. This is a pie that could take the addition of chocolate, but I didn’t try (yet.) I also have another idea in the works, and I will post that option if it is successful. At the moment, I am happy to offer this no-fuss pecan pie recipe that is free of gluten and HFCS.
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup coconut palm sugar (sustainably produced)
1/2 cup grade A pure maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut cream (I use Coco Lopez brand)
1 1/4 cup pecans
1 gluten-free pie crust (I use Deanna’s)
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Crack eggs into a large bowl and beat well. Add melted butter, vanilla and coconut palm sugar and combine.
3. Add maple syrup and coconut cream. Mix well.
4. Stir in the pecans.
5. Cover a baking sheet with baking paper or foil to catch any drips or spills. Place the pie shell on the baking sheet.
6. Pour the filling into the gluten-free pie shell.
7. Place the baking sheet with pie on it in the oven. Let bake for 60 to 70 minutes. If the crust or nuts brown too quickly, cover with foil.
8. Let cool on a wire rack completely before serving for best results.
Note: Coconut palm sugar is thought to have a lower glycemic index than other sugars, and unlike other sugars it does contain some nutrients. For those reasons, it has become a hot commodity amongst health conscious consumers. Whenever any product becomes overly popular, issues arise as to how the food source is grown. Coconut palms can either be the source for coconuts or sugar, but not both. Many farmers have converted to producing sugar instead of coconuts, and it has lead to sustainability issues. I used a coconut palm sugar that was sustainably sourced.
Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut comes in a can, and was the cream of coconut used in the first piña colada made in Puerto Rico, and its rich and creamy taste contributed to the lasting fame the drink has enjoyed. While not a completely natural product (every cream of coconut on the market contains gums and emulsifiers,) it contains natural cane sugar instead of HFCS. Coco Lopez is usually found with the mixers in the liquor section of the supermarket, and may also be available at Latino, Indian and Filipino markets. There are a full line of Coco Lopez products, so be sure to purchase the coconut cream.