My dad's birthday was Sunday, and birthday cakes just don't fly with him. He'll eat them, but he never request them. Instead, you better be pulling out that pecan pie recipe. (Side note: how do you pronounce "pecan"? In the Midwest, it's pronounced "pe-cahn." In the South, it's "pee-can" or else. I generally go with the latter, despite my upbringing.)
But ugh, pecan pies can be so boring if you're not careful, and making the same things over and over again can drive a girl crazy. But, it was his birthday, and on his birthday, things have to stay the same...with a few amped up modifications, of course!
Enter: bourbon. I love baking with bourbon. I don't like drinking it, but I LOVE the taste of it. It adds a richness, and a bit of sweet vanilla-smokiness that always takes things to the next level. Have you ever tried making vanilla extract with bourbon? Or how about bourbon caramels? I have to tell you, I can never make either any other way again.
Not only is bourbon a key component to this new pie, but there's also the addition of a little maple syrup. It's not a large amount, and it definitely doesn't stand out quite as boldly as the bourbon, but it has a very special place: it helps add more depth, and more complexity. Maple syrup is quite subtly-smoky, and so rich. When you add that subtle hint of smokiness, and mix it with the vanilla and oak notes that the bourbon brings, you've got a very flavorful partnership.
This whole pie works. IT JUST WORKS. The pie crust is flaky and soooo buttery, the pecans are crisp, and add that satisfying crunch, and that maple-bourbon combination? Just out of this world. Dad loved it (perhaps more than the traditional?), and was throughly sad to see an empty pie plate once again, a mere three days later. We were all sad to see it go, really.
So, OK, it's time to come clean: this pie was an experiment. I knew maple and bourbon would get along famously with the rest of the ingredients, but I was a bit nervous about the measurement modifications. When the expectation after dinner is to be served a slice of something you've grown to love just the way it is, deviations can be tricky. Perhaps this recipe was the real deal, or perhaps I got real lucky. Either way, it'll take a few more test drives in the ol' test kitchen before it finds itself on DD.
BUT, I'd never leave you hanging.. Here are some excellent recipes to try in the meantime:
Martha Stewart's Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie
This simple Bourbon Pecan Pie (with an option to add a teaspoon or two of maple syrup) from Garden and Gun Magazine
OR how about this one from Epicurious?
Whichever you choose, know that I'll be right there next to you in spirit, with a fork in my hand ready to dig in.