We’re just weeks away from the start of the holiday baking season, and it seems like most holiday gatherings aren’t complete without enjoying some pecan pie.
Pecans are very versatile cooking ingredients. Beyond pies, pecans are great for encrusting meats; as a topping for fresh salads; or covered in chocolate. They also can be enjoyed as a standalone snack, full of healthy monounsaturated fat, vitamin A, thiamin and riboflavin.
This fall, pecan cooking contests were held at the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh and N.C. Mountain State Fair in Fletcher. Sponsored by the N.C. Pecan Growers Association, the contests were open to pecan recipes that used the ingredients in a tasty and original way.
Amanda Boury of Raleigh took home first-place honors at the N.C. State Fair for her Savory N.C. Pecan Palmiers recipe. At the N.C. Mountain State Fair, Rheta Merrell of Rutherfordton earned a blue ribbon for her Pecan Biscotti and Dippers. You may want to try one of these delicious winning recipes this holiday season:
SAVORY NC PECAN PALMIERS
- 2 sheets of puff pastry
- 2 cups of chopped, toasted N.C. pecans
- 2 cups chopped kale
- ½ cup pesto
- 4 ounces herbed goat cheese
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
For each sheet of puff pastry, unroll and use rolling pin to roll out to about a 13×13 size square. Spread half of the pesto on each sheet, then top each sheet with half of the remaining ingredients. When done take one end and fold the sides of the square towards the center so they go halfway to the middle. Fold them again so the two folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Slice the dough into about 3/4-inch pieces. Place each piece cut side up onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for about 5 minutes, then flip and bake for another 5 minutes.
PECAN BISCOTTI AND DIPPERS
- 2 sticks salted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons butter and nut flavoring
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup chopped N.C. pecans
- Confectioner’s sugar, if desired
In a large bowl, mix butter, sugar and lemon zest. Add egg yolk and flavoring and mix well. Combine flour and salt, and sift into mixture. Stir in pecans until thoroughly combined. Shape the dough into a long log, and flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes.
When ready, heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and unwrap. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough at a slight diagonal into 1/4-inch slices. Place on baking sheets, spaced well apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, using a spatula transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired.
Serve with cappuccino or hot chocolate.
Wherever you live in the state, there is more than likely a pecan orchard near you. There are about 1,500 acres of pecan orchards located across 45 counties in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State is one of the national leaders in pecan production. Our state produces about 4 million pound of in-shell pecans each year.
You can celebrate the state’s pecan industry at Pecan Day during the State Farmers Market on December 11. Guests can enjoy free samples of a pecan dessert prepared by the State Farmers Market Restaurant and purchase locally grown pecans for holiday cooking.
To find other pecan recipes and locate pecan growers near you, go to www.buyncpecans.com.