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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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November 24, 2009

Applied Organic Synthesis: Chocolate Pecan Pie

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Posted by Derek

I first published this recipe on the blog a couple of years ago, and I'd like to put it out there again for those readers who will be celebrating Thanksgiving this week. This is a slightly modified version of Craig Claiborne's recipe in the New York Times Cookbook
. He was a Southerner himself, so he knew his pecan pie. Substitutions for the ingredients are listed after the recipe:

Melt 2 squares (2 oz.) baking chocolate with 3 tablespoons (about 43g) butter in a microwave or double boiler. Combine 1 cup (240 mL) corn syrup and 3/4 cup sugar (150g) in a saucepan and bring to boil for 2 minutes, then mix the melted chocolate and butter into it. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat three eggs, then slowly add the chocolate mixture to them, stirring vigorously (you don't want to cook them with the hot chocolate goop).

Add one teaspoon (5 mL) of vanilla, and mix in about 1 1/2 cups of broken-up pecans, which I think should be about 150g. You can push that to nearly two cups and still get the whole mixture into a deep-dish pie shell, and I recommend going heavy on the nuts, since the pecan/goop ratio is one thing that distinguishes a home-made pie. Bake for about 45 minutes at 375 F (190C), and let cool completely before you attack it. Note that this product has an extremely high energy density - it's not shock-sensitive or anything, but make the slices fairly small.

Note for non-US readers: the baking chocolate can be replaced by 40 grams of cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed) and 28 grams of some sort of shortening (unsalted butter, vegetable shortening, oil, etc.) If you don't have corn syrup, then just use a total of 350g white sugar, and add 60 mL water to the recipe.

Comments (21) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blog Housekeeping


1. David P on November 24, 2009 12:05 PM writes...

Can I get these reagents from Aldrich?

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2. Sili on November 24, 2009 12:17 PM writes...

Ooooh. Thanks for mentioning the microwave. Now that I have one, I won't have to fiddle with a waterbath anymore.

I meant to make an applepie today, but managed to forget again.

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3. Hap on November 24, 2009 12:29 PM writes...

You probably can, but I would rather get the ingredients from Kroger or Wal-Mart (or your local market), because the chocolate squares will probably run about $10/g and I don't want to know what the pecans will cost. At least in 2004 (the last catalog I have), you could get the sucrose from Aldrich for $23.50/500g, which seems kind of pricey for a pie. I doubt the ingredients will reach you before Thanksgiving.

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4. Katherine on November 24, 2009 1:10 PM writes...

Who's up for a total synthesis of the pecans?

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5. Charles on November 24, 2009 1:10 PM writes...

A couple of points from a long time pecan pie baker.

Instead of mixing the chocolate in with the sugar, I layer 3-4oz of premium chocolate chips on the bottom of the crust. This creates a great layering effect.

For a nice finish, reserve about 20 pecan halves and put on top.

Since this is a single crust pie, 45 minutes will put some serious brown on the crown of the crust. Protect it with foil for the first 25 minutes of baking.

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6. Derek Lowe on November 24, 2009 1:38 PM writes...

I'm more of a chocolate all the way through person, but I can see the point of the chips-on-bottom variation. And I definitely can endorse the layer of pecan halves - makes it harder to cut the finished product, but it does make it look nice. You're right, though, that if you have that many exposed pecans that things will brown too much, unprotected. I haven't had too much trouble with the crust getting too brown, but it's always possible that I've done these in slightly slow ovens, too. Worth keeping an eye on!

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7. retread on November 24, 2009 7:03 PM writes...

A happy lipidic and carnivorous thanksgiving to you all. Epatez le dietarily correct.

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8. Anonymous on November 25, 2009 4:39 AM writes...

Which size are these "squares"? I think the local market leader makes two sizes of chocolate - 200 g and 300 g - but these don't differ just by area, but also thickness. So, the squares are of different weight.

Of course you could find out what is 2 O.Z., but that's beside the point.

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9. Anonymous on November 25, 2009 5:33 AM writes...

mL, g... and then an "o.z." thrown in...! What's an o.z.? Is it some kind of ancient measurement? Is it a reference to some kind of magical wizard, or perhaps a land down under? I think I'm going to have to ask google to convert this to a proper unit of measurement...

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10. Anonymous on November 25, 2009 5:40 AM writes...

Re. above. Forgot to say... Thanks Derek - Happy Thanksgiving!

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11. Jose on November 25, 2009 9:23 AM writes...

A European friend moved to the States, started cooking. His (American) girlfriend couldn't figure out why everything was seriously inedible... until she saw him use a random drinking cup as a "cup." "Well, it said cup, so I used a cup! How the hell was I supposed to know there was a *special* cup?!"

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12. JAB on November 25, 2009 11:32 AM writes...

Made one last night. Won't get to tell you how good it was until Thursday! I'm definitely from the 2 cups of pecans no spicing other than vanilla and chocolate. My regular pecan pies get some cardamon, and sometimes some mace, nutmeg, etc. as in pumpkin pie. Then there's the pumpkin-pecan hybrid...pecans on the bottom.

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13. Sili on November 25, 2009 11:39 AM writes...

I'm reminded of my favourite 'word' from the pharmacopaea: q.s.

Quatum satis: as much as is enough.

I'm afraid I've actually used that in my notes. Prolly a good thing I never published.

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14. Sir Bean on November 25, 2009 3:12 PM writes...

Do I neeed to adjust the recipe if me and my heating mantle is at high altitude?

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15. Jack Bauer on November 26, 2009 2:07 AM writes...

Great recipe! Thanks Derek!

On a side note, does anyone know if you can prepare Jones reagent, and then re-use it later, store in fridge?

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16. spsp on November 26, 2009 4:33 AM writes...

Jose is correct, the measure "cup" is an American idiosyncrasy. In fact the term "cup" used in recipes might refer to the common coffee cup, which is 1.5 dl, much smaller than the American "cup".

Miles, feet, inches, yard, pint and gallon are in fact known outside the U.S., because they're commonly used in with reference to American products and people might have an intuitive grasp of them. But common American measures Fahrenheit, pound, ounce and mpg are something you might need to look up, since they're complicated to convert or used exclusively in special or American contexts. Even less common are units such as acre, barrel, cup and when people start talking about stones, foot-pounds and cubic feet, or giving their height in feet and inches, it gets esoteric.

Certain units are commonly used, possibly in metric versions: teaspoon (5 ml), tablespoon (15 ml), kilocalorie (4.2 kJ), metric inch (2.5 cm).

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17. sjb on November 26, 2009 7:42 AM writes...

Don't forget though, that gallons are not the the same volume the world over - some are ~ 3.7l, others 4.5l or so.

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18. Ada on November 26, 2009 10:33 AM writes...

I always thought of stones as being more of a British measurement than US. Let's see, one stone = 14 pounds, 2.2 pounds = 1 kg. 14/2.2 = 6.36 repeating kg per stone.

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19. Canageek on November 26, 2009 11:18 AM writes...

Oy, try being Canadian. Metric country but everything is imported from the US, so we all use an odd mix of units. Pints for beer, litres/mL for everything else. You'll occasionally catch people mixing cm & inches in conversation because if you measure something you always use cm, but an inch is a convenient size. People's heights are measured in cm at the doctors office, but you use feet when talking about it. Most colloquialisms use miles, but you never use them for anything as all the signs are in km.

On a vaguely related note have you ever known someone who could eyeball masses ridiculously well? My lab partner last year could eyeball down to about 0.01g on a regular basis, would just take a spactuala and in one scope put the right amount of reagent into the weighboat while the rest of us sat there fiddling with it. Would be a useful skill in the kitchen I imagine.

Ok, final bit: Am I the only one who wants stirbars when I'm cooking? I mean, I'm stirring by HAND, I mean come ON!


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20. Ali on November 27, 2009 8:29 AM writes...

spsp - these measurements aren't just known outside the US, they were in existence before North America was colonised by Europeans.

p.s. why do you use corn syrup? Isn't it's overuse in the states linked to obesity?

I'm getting a feeling of deja vu, I think I might have made that last comment at this time last year when the recipe was first posted.

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21. laura on November 28, 2009 3:57 PM writes...

Agreed, Ali - we use the measurements from the colonial period in our country - same, I imagine, as most countries still do.

Corn syrup is not the same as high fructose corn syrup - corn syrup is a much cheaper way to sweeten food. It, and Karo syrup, were traditionally used in place of sugar during war rationing. Many recipes persist from those times. There's a huge difference between preparing food at home with these ingredients and the way food is manufactured.

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