Choosing a winner for the 2014 Holiday Recipe Contest was challenging, with so many tasty pies and other desserts, not to mention surprising savory dishes, all featuring Texas pecans. After multiple rounds of testing the top entries, we determined the winners in three categories—Savory, Sweet and Pecan Pie—as well as a grand prizewinner, Griffin Clarke of Heart of Texas EC. He collects $2,500 in prize money for his Ultimate Chocolate Pecan Pie, a delicious and densely flavored chocolate pecan pie spiced with cayenne and cinnamon.
The winner for best pecan pie, the two winners for best savory dish and the two winners for best sweet dish each claim $500 in prize money.
Ultimate Chocolate Pecan Pie
$2,500 Grand Prizewinner
Griffin Clarke | Heart of Texas EC
Griffin Clarke “always loved Granny’s pecan pie and decided he wanted to make pecan pie as good as Granny,” says the prizewinner’s mother, Arla H. Clarke. Building on the family recipe, the 23-year-old experimented with chocolate and spice, seeking the “ultimate” pecan concoction.
1/2 cup Texas pecan halves
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup shortening, cut into chunks
4-6 tablespoons ice water, as needed
3 cups Texas pecan halves
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into chunks
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1 cup light Karo corn syrup
1/2 cup Grade A dark amber maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch or 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie dish.
- Toast all pecan halves—3 1/2 cups—in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat about 10 minutes or until fragrant. Stir often to avoid burning. Set aside 1/2 cup toasted pecan halves for pie crust. Pulse remaining 3 cups of toasted pecans in a food processor until finely chopped, and set aside to use in pie filling.
- Crust: Pulse 1/2 cup toasted pecan halves with flour and kosher salt in a food processor until combined and the pecans are finely ground. Add shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water 1 teaspoon at a time and pulse until the mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate 1 hour, then roll out and press into pie dish. Refrigerate while making the pie filling.
- Filling: In a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate chips until fully combined. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large glass bowl, combine eggs, sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup and vanilla. Stir in salt, cinnamon and cayenne. Add the melted chocolate mixture and stir until incorporated. Stir in the remaining 3 cups of finely chopped toasted pecans.
- Pour filling mixture into the pecan pie crust and bake 50 to 70 minutes or until the pecans have formed a crust on top and the filling is nearly set. Let cool completely while making caramel sauce.
- Caramel Sauce: Combine butter and brown sugar in a cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat until butter is melted and brown sugar is dissolved. Add the heavy cream and boil, stirring often, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and salt and mix well.
- Chill pie before serving so that it slices neatly. Serve with whipped cream and warm caramel sauce. Store pie and extra sauce in the refrigerator.
Servings: 12. Serving size: 1 slice. Per serving: 1,129 calories, 12.07 g protein, 81.99 g fat, 88.56 g carbohydrates, 7.62 g dietary fiber, 568 mg sodium, 54.10 g sugars, 150 mg cholesterol
- To save time and labor, a premade pie crust may be used. A premade caramel sauce may also be used, although it won’t be as good.