Maple Walnut Pie

Ok, you pie-o-phobes, this is the pie for you. So easy! So quick! So impossible to screw up! And oh, the way it makes your kitchen smell!

Here’s the brief version, then we’ll walk you through the step-by-step, with photos. You mix dark brown sugar, maple syrup, a little flour and a couple chunks of butter in a saucepan and warm it, stirring, til the butter melts. When it’s cooled a bit, you drizzle it into a few beaten eggs and maple extract. Pour that over some walnuts that are waiting in an unbaked crust. Then put it in the oven. That’s it. A mapley, walnutty version of pecan pie.

Where’d this lovely thing come from? Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, Maine, that’s where. This place is so old-fashioned it doesn’t even have a website (not one that I could find, anyway). I heard about it from the good folks at Roadfood.com, who recount their adventures in cafes and diners across America on the Splendid Table radio show every week.

Judging from the pictures on Roadfood’s website, I’m already scouring my calendar to see when I can get up there, and scheming to figure out how I can roll out my sleeping back in their back hallway, so I can hang around the kitchen to learn, and grab tidbits of yummy stuff whenever I can. Just look at their baked Indian pudding, for crying out loud! And get a load of that raspberry pie!

One of Moody’s don’t-miss dishes, according to Roadfood’s Michael Stern, is their maple walnut pie. And the Moodys were kind enough to share the recipe with the Roadfood gang. They told Stern that it was modeled after Southern pecan pie, but less sweet. Replacing Karo syrup with maple syrup, and pecans with walnuts, seems to do the trick (though I still love pecan pie!).

So last night, when I was in the throes of intense pie withdrawal and needed to make at least two, I had to figure out how I could stretch what I had in the house. Too lazy to go out on a cold dark winter night. While I made a double batch of pie dough, I considered my options.

I wanted to make at least one creamy pie and one not-creamy pie. The only fresh fruit in the house, aside from avocados, were some pitiful strawberries. And even if they had been gorgeous, it just seemed wrong to make a strawberry pie on a 30-degree January night. So that left nuts. I did have walnuts and some grade-A maple syrup. So things worked out perfectly. (I used my pint of heavy cream for a Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie. I’ll post separately on that.)

So here’s how it went:

I rolled out a circle of Good Basic All-Butter Pie Dough and laid it in a 9-inch pie pan, fluting the edge. I stuck it in the freezer to chill, then preheated the oven to 375.

In a medium saucepan, I combined 1/2 c. of dark brown sugar with 2 Tbsp. of flour and 1 1/4 c. of maple syrup.

I tossed in 3 Tbsp. of butter in a couple of random chunks (the Moodys call for salted butter, but I used unsalted and added a couple of pinches of salt).

I put a low heat under the mixture, stirring until the butter was melted.

While that mixture was warming, I beat 3 eggs very lightly in a bowl. The Moodys call for maple extract, but I didn’t have any, so I skipped it (please forgive me, O Spirit of Maine!). I measured out a heaping cup of walnuts.

When the butter had melted in the brown sugar/maple syrup mixture, I took it off the heat and let it cool just a bit.

I dumped the walnuts into the unbaked (and now nearly frozen) pie crust, shook them a bit to spread them out. I mixed the brown sugar/maple syrup combo into the lightly beaten eggs, and poured that whole mixture over the walnuts, poking them slightly so the liquid surrounded (and got under) the nuts. (The Moodys suggest you pour the filling into the crust and then pour in the nuts. Do it whichever way works for you, I guess.)

I put the pie onto a parchment-lined, lipped baking sheet and baked it for about 45 minutes, until the edges were set and the middle was only the slightest bit wobbly.

Maple Walnut Pie, from Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, Maine

1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/4 cups pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons salted butter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 cup walnut halves
Whipped cream to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix together the brown sugar, flour, maple syrup, and butter. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until butter melts. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Mix together the eggs and maple flavoring. Very gradually, drizzle in the sugar and syrup mixture. Mix and pour into the prepared pie shell. Top with walnuts.
  4. Bake 45 minutes or until set.
  5. Serve at room temperature, dolloped with whipped cream to taste.