I’ve been tackling my holiday to-do list. At the top: develop, test and master a new version of my grandmother’s pecan pie recipe that doesn’t use corn syrup, but a healthier option without sacrificing the sweet and gooey center.
Every Thanksgiving, my grandmother would pour corn syrup into the filling of her holiday pie because of the easy benefits it produced. Corn syrup sweetens quickly, enhances flavors and often removes the risk of pesky sugar crystals in homemade baked goods. Regardless of how easy corn syrup is to use, it does have some disadvantages.
In recent years, high-fructose corn syrup has been continually linked with obesity, diabetes and other serious health problems.
Because it’s cheap to manufacture and easy to use, corn syrup can be found in everything from candy corn to Diet Coke.
Many recognize that Americans consume way too much corn syrup — as highlighted in the 2007 documentary “King Corn” — but there are several ways to reinvent this ingredient for holiday baking that is natural and just as easy.
But, if you must use corn syrup, popular baker and food writer David Lebovitz recently wrote an excellent primer on when to use corn syrup in your baking.
The takeaway? Use only a teaspoon or tablespoon when absolutely necessary.
Otherwise, as Daniel Schumacher from Louisiana Cookin’ magazine says, just don’t stock the stuff in your kitchen. This way, you won’t be tempted to pour large amounts of corn syrup into baked goods, but use more creative (and equally satisfying) ways to produce the same results.
Since the key to my grandmother’s traditional pecan pie is the gooey center, I’ve combined a healthful portion of brown sugar, beaten eggs and syrup as the base of the pie filling.
For those of us averse to corn syrup, a simple homemade reduction of good-quality maple syrup, brown sugar and your choice of whiskey, bourbon or scotch substitutes beautifully. Boil this mixture until thick and syrupy, and the baking results mimic corn syrup but without the health-related anxieties. Together, the maple syrup highlights the seasonal flavors of a good pecan pie, while the subtle whiskey taste adds a grown-up flair to this dessert.
This Thanksgiving, I’ll be baking my grandmother’s pecan pie for family for the first time without the corn syrup. The pie may be a little less like Grandma’s, but makes for an excellent healthy substitution without losing its famous gooey center.
Helena Brigman is a food writer, photographer and cookbook author. She can be reached with daily recipes at http://clearlydeliciousfoodblog.com or via email at email@example.com.
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