Welcome to March! This month’s Cookbook Club selection is Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South, by Vivian Howard. If you’re a PBS watcher, Vivian is the chef at the center of the show A Chef’s Life. Selim loves that show, so this was a fun selection for us! Our first selection is a recipe she calls “Viv’s Addiction.” These spiced nuts really are addicting! We used slightly different spices than she does, but the addiction level is still there. I could not stop eating them as soon as they were cool enough to touch. I had to make myself save a few – I made them with the intention of them going in my work lunches! This recipe is clearly adaptable to essentially any spice you want, and we’re definitely planning to try a few variations.
Smoky Spiced Pecans
- 2 egg whites
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp ancho chile powder
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 4 cups pecan halves
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Then slowly add the salt and sugar while still whisking. Continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Then add the spices and whisk until combined.
- Add the pecans to the bowl and stir until well-coated.
- Spread the coated pecans in a single layer on a lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and flip the nuts over, breaking up clumps as able.
- Repeat the steps above, stirring again at the 20 minute mark, and removing from the oven for good at the 30 minute mark.
- Once cool, break up any nut clusters that are stuck together.
Selim’s father is one of our most loyal blog readers. He’s been telling us for years that we should try a twist on the traditional baklava that we usually make. Our baklava recipe is a fairly traditional Turkish one and incorporates tips from him. But he’s been suggesting that we try to make a Southern twist on baklava using pecans instead of more traditional nuts like walnuts or pistachios. We’ve thought this was a great idea, but just never have gotten around to doing it.
Lo and behold, we had our baby last week (she’s pretty awesome), and Selim’s father is in town from Texas to visit and meet her this week. Texans seem to love pecans, hence how we got to this point! Since he’s here, we decided to put him to work and today he and Selim gave Southern Baklava a whirl. The main difference, outside of the substitution of pecans, is the addition of cinnamon and maple syrup.
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted, clarified butter
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- 2 cups + 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 cups pecans
- ~40 sheets of filo dough (usually 2 packages)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- (If you have clarified butter, melt the appropriate amount. If you only have regular butter, melt it in a saucepan and then skim off the foam and slowly pour the liquid into a bowl making sure to not transfer solid milk fats which are at the bottom.)
- Prepare the syrup: combine cold water, 2 cups of sugar, the maple syrup, and whole cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes, then lower heat to barely a simmer. Continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, as the cinnamon sticks open up and the syrup thickens.
- Stir in the lemon juice and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, combine pecans and 2 tbsp sugar in food processor. Process until “medium” ground – don’t let it get too fine.
- Now brush the inside of a large cookie sheet with clarified butter.
- Place a sheet of filo dough in the pan. Brush with more clarified butter. Continue in this pattern until you’ve placed half of the sheets (~20) of filo dough in the pan.
- Now spread the pecan-sugar mixture onto the top layer of filo dough. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and then drizzle with more clarified butter.
- Return to the pattern of layering dough and clarified butter until you use all of the rest of the filo dough sheets. Brush the top layer and the edges with clarified butter.
- Take a very sharp knife and dip it into hot water. Slice down halfway through the height of the dough into the size and shape of baklava pieces you want at the end.
- Bake for 25 minutes in the center of the oven.
- Lower heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
- Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- Slice all the way through, along the lines you previously made.
- Pour the syrup over top, along the cut lines.
- For best results, let sit for a day before eating. This is hard to do and it’s still delicious if you eat it immediately. The longer the syrup soaks in, the better though!