Thanksgiving is coming, Hurray! Yes, Thanksgiving is just down the corner. As usual, my mind draws up an internal list of all the things I have to be thankful for. At the same time my brain storming what recipes I am going to be using for my Thanksgiving feast. My husband loves Monsoon recipe (butternut squash casserole) and this recipe was added to our “make it again” list. Thanks Monsoon!! Also, on my list is Kim’s recipe (butternut apple ginger soup). Thanks Kim! Speaking of desserts, since I’m obsessed with pecan nuts (all kind of nuts actually), I’ve found this amazing recipe called Pecan Mascarpone Cheesecake (you’ll see the recipe below) seems to be really delicious and I think it deserves a try. Today’s post is about the oblong shaped pecan, that it is possibly the most popular edible nut in the whole world!
The pecan, Carya illinoinensis or illinoensis, is a species of hickory, native to south-central North America, in Mexico from Coahuila south to Jalisco and Veracruz, in the United States from southern Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana east to western Kentucky, Florida, and west into New Mexico. A pecan, like the fruit of all other members of the hickory genus, is not truly a nut, but is technically a drupe, a fruit with a single stone or pit, surrounded by a husk. The husks are produced from the exocarp tissue of the flower while the part known as the nut develops from the endocarp and contains the seed.
The nut itself is dark brown, oval to oblong. The outer husk is 3–4 mm thick, starts out green and turns brown at maturity, at which time it splits off in four sections to release the thin-shelled nut. Pecans are a good source of protein and unsaturated fats. Like walnuts (which pecans resemble), pecans are rich in omega-6 fatty acids, although pecans contain about half as much omega-6 as walnuts. They can be eaten fresh or used in cooking, particularly in sweet desserts but also in some savory dishes. One of the most common desserts with the pecan as a central ingredient is the pecan pie, a traditional southern U.S. recipe. Pecans first became known to Europeans in the 16th century.
The Spaniards brought the pecan into Europe Asia, and Africa beginning in the 16th century. In 1792 Willia Bartram reported in his botanical book, Travels, a nut tree, “Juglans exalata’ that some botanists today argue was the American pecan tree, but others argue was hickory, “Carya ovata”. Pecan trees are native to the United States, and writing about the pecan tree goes back to the nation’s founders. Thomas Jefferson planted pecan trees, Carya illinoinensis (Illinois nuts), in his nut orchard at his home, Monticello, in Virginia. George Washington reported in his journal that Thomas Jefferson gave him “Illinois nuts”, pecans, which George Washington then grew at Mount Vernon, his Virginia home.
8 ounces shortbread cookies
1/3 cup pecans (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 8-ounce containers mascarpone cheese,* room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap outside of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil. Finely grind shortbread cookies and pecans in processor. Add melted butter and process until crumbs are moistened. Press crumb mixture onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. Bake crust until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool crust completely on rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth. Add mascarpone and flour; beat until smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Gradually add sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in vanilla and lemon juice. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
Pour filling over crust in pan. Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake cheesecake until top is golden and cake is almost set (center 2 inches will still move slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool cake on rack 1 hour. Refrigerate uncovered overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)
Arrange Candied Pecans decoratively atop cake. Cut cake into wedges.