Wild Honey (Walnut) Pie

A few weeks ago, when a local art gallery announced they would be hosting a "Best Pie in Philly" baking contest in honor of the opening night of its Twin Peaks inspired art exhibition, "The Black Dog Runs at Midnight", I took it as an opportunity to  get some baking in.  Having a tiny kitchen with near-zero counter space coupled with an apartment mate that avoids desserts like the plague, I find my baking skills are exercised purely for the regulatory holiday meal and the occasional BBQ or get together with friends.  It's a sad situation, I know.  I would bake every week if I had someone to share my dessert with.  Aaah, woe is me.

Wayne Thiebold, Pies Pies Pies, 1961  

I quickly decided that I would prepare not one, but two pies.  How exciting!  That evening I sat down to plan out my attack. I knew I wanted a chocolate caramel confection inspired by a tart that I seem to find every single excuse to make.  The other pie had yet to be determined.  

For as much as I love to bake I've made very few pies.  The first pie that I ever made was a peach pie that I made around my 16th birthday.  I remember standing in the kitchen, covered in a mix of flour and sweat from the late July heat, when my grandfather arrived. He had come to bring me to my grandparents house.  Obviously unaware that this was part of the day's events, I obliged, brushed the flour from my face, and hopped in the car.  Little did I know he was shuttling me off to my surprise 16th birthday party.  It was a memorable day filled with friends, family, birthday cake and a peach pie that tasted oddly of apple pie.

For 10 years I never attempted another pie until I made this apple pie, sans the Southern Comfort, with great success.  The ever important crust, which my mom believes the success of a pie banks on, turned out spot on.  This past Christmas I used the same crust to make a pie of apples, ginger and cranberries.  It was tasty, but not quite as successful as it's apple predecessor.  The up coming pie contest was an opportunity to add to my very lacking pie repertoire.

After a week of scouring the web in search of the perfect 'knock yer socks off' pie, I stumbled upon this honey walnut pie.  The simple list of ingredients whispered baklava wrapped in a blanket of pie crust.  If it tasted any where near as good as baklava, which makes me swoon and buckle in the knees after one bite, it would surely not disappoint.

The weekend before the event I gathered up the ingredients and set off to create a Honey Walnut Pie.  Everything went swimmingly.  Until. . . 

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Beekeepers, ca. 1567-68

...all of my anticipation for a drenched-in-honey-baklava-like filling came crashing to the ground with my first bite.  It tasted of Christmas (in April) and winter desserts.  Walnuts and oranges battling it out to see which ingredient could overcome the other all on a hard, dry pie crust of a battle ground.  The presence of the honey I was looking forward to was completely lost.  I was so disappointed. 

The following evening it was chopped into thirds and divided amongst two of my neighbors and myself.  The next day I received a text from my neighbor explaining that they absolutely LOVED the walnut honey pie.  Stunned, I gave it another go and packed it for breakfast.  It was DELICIOUS! Especially paired with coffee.  It just took a few days for all of the flavors to meld.  Rather than fighting one another, the walnut, orange, and honey formed a happy symbiotic relationship. 

Unfortunately I was not confident that it would succeed as my second weapon of choice in the pie competition. (Meaning, I needed to find another pie, stat.)  However, I do plan to make it again- only it will be in the fall or winter time, rather than an unseasonably warm April. 

Honey Walnut Pie
from Martha Stewart Living, November 2008

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
Pate Brisee, Walnut Variation (I opted for the regular Pate Brisee rather than the walnut)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 lightly beaten egg for brushing
3/4 cup acacia, or other mild honey
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, plus 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
Fine sanding sugar  (plain ol'sugar worked fine for me)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a 9 1/8-by-1 3/8-inch tart ring on a baking sheet lined with parchment; set aside.  (I used an ~9" regular pie dish.) On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disk of dough to 1/8 inch thick; cut into a 14-inch round. Fit into tart ring; trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Refrigerate while making filling.

Whisk together 4 eggs, the honey, granulated sugar, butter, orange zest and juice, salt, and flour in a large bowl. Stir in walnuts and then pour into your prepared tart/pie shell.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out remaining disk of dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into an 11-inch round. Cut 5 slits for vents. Drape over filling. Trim overhang to 1 inch; fold over bottom crust. Press edges to seal, and tuck into ring. Brush with remaining beaten egg, and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake until a knife inserted in one of the vents comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack; let cool completely. If using a tart ring, remove ring before serving. The pie can be stored, covered, overnight.

*As I noted above, I did not use the walnut variation patte brisee.   Next time around I might consider this version as I found the plain pate brisee to be lacking in flavor and texture.  However, my neighbor loved the crust.  It's up to you.  Either way, after a day or so, that filling is going to taste amazing and will offer a very fine breakfast as it isn't too sweet.  Enjoy!