Where my parents live in Sacramento, their house is surrounded by huge walnut trees. The housing development is in what was formerly a commercial walnut orchard.
When I was younger, the trees blanketed the neighborhood with shade in the blazing hot valley summers, and in the fall, all of us kids spent weekends picking walnuts. We harvested 500 pounds of walnuts a year, just from our five trees.
These days the trees are getting old, two of them are already gone and the other three are just hanging in there, not really producing much.
Still, we have a special affinity for walnuts. Growing up, pretty much any recipe calling for pecans we would just substitute walnuts. Which is how I first started making walnut pie.
At its simplest, it's just a pecan pie for which you swap out the pecans for walnuts. But walnuts can be a little more bitter than pecans, so for this particular version, I've decided to use a dark maple syrup instead of the more commonly used corn syrup.
The sweet maple flavor helps to balance whatever bitter edge the walnuts may have. Like our pecan pie, this walnut maple pie is not overly sweet. I'm quite pleased with it (my parents both call it a winner!) and hope you will be too.
Walnut Maple Pie
- 1 9-inch pie shell, frozen for at least 30 minutes (see pie crust recipe)
- 2 cups roughly chopped walnuts
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup maple syrup (dark robust)
- 1 Tbsp dark rum (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp melted butter
- 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
Make egg, maple syrup base:
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a bowl, mix together the beaten eggs, maple syrup, rum (if using), vanilla extract, melted butter. Sprinkle with flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk until smooth.
Pour base over walnuts in pie shell:
Spread the chopped walnuts over the bottom of a prepared pie shell. Pour the maple syrup egg mixture over the walnuts.
Place the pie in the preheated oven on the middle rack. Place a cookie sheet on the rack underneath to catch any drippings from the pie crust.
Bake at 375°F for 40-45 minutes. After about 20 minutes (about halfway through the baking), you may want to tent the pie crust edges with foil, or use a pie protector, so that the edges don't get burnt.
Don't worry if the surface of the pie "cracks" while cooking. The pie filling will puff up while hot (because of the eggs), and then deflate while it cools.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely before serving.