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ISO Not so Sweet, no Corn Syrup Pecan Pie

I did a search and a thread came up about this, but the link was broken, so I'm perfectly happy to read that thread if someone can send me over there...but in the meantime -

I used to adore pecan pie, but ever since we started eating more healthily a few years ago, my tried and true Karo recipe just tastes too sweet and cloying. I'm finally biting the bullet and changing to a new recipe for the first time in, oh, fifty years, since Mom only used the Karo recipe too.

Here's what I'd like: a traditional pecan pie that's heavy on the pecans, both in flavor in number - I'd like it to taste more like sweetened pecans than nut-flavored syrup. No chocolate or cranberries or caramel or other acoutrements, though I do like it with bourbon, and I don't have the counter space to make a pie crust, so I have to use pre-bought. Also, I won't be able to do a dry run before Turkey Day, so I'd appreciate only recipes that have actually been tried and tasted, rather than ideas, etc.

Thanks so much, chowhounders!

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  1. I haven't tried this one myself but if you're willing to be a pioneer:


    1. you can do it pretty easily by subbing a brown sugar solution for the corn syrup. personally i might use some brown rice syrup to increase the viscosity.

      Candy provides her recipe within the body of her post/query...

      or you can try this one (though i can't vouch for it):

      1. Lately I've switched to Mark Bittman's (from How To Cook Everything) pecan pie. I found it on the web here. (about half way down the page)


        As he remarks in the book "If you ever taste corn syrup on its own you would never cook with it again"

        It tastes "traditional" and nutty. Probably a lot more like what our great grandmothers would have made.

        1. I made this one a couple of years ago and really liked the flavor - I thought the maple with the pecans was delicious. I used 2 c. of pecans instead of the 1 1/2 c. listed in the recipe. However, it was still fairly sweet (not too sweet to me and not as sweet as the "classic", but still quite sweet). Given your taste preferences listed above, you may want to cut back on the custard a bit and increase the pecans even more.

          2 Replies
          1. re: LauraB

            I've made t6his, too (also increasing the pecans) and I also liked the flavor, but found it very intense and rich, so a little piece was enough.

            1. re: LauraB

              Someone brought a pie cooked from that recipe to our Thanksgiving last year and I absolutely loved it. I love pecan pie but am, like the OP, wary of using corn syrup in my own cooking.

            2. http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-make-a...

              With much written about living w/out corn syrup, this article answered the pecan pie dilemma for me.

              1 Reply
              1. re: HillJ

                The modifed recipe within the article has a custard-like base.

              2. The sugar/corn syrup in pecan pie is serving two roles, sweetness and texture. Texturally, if you dial it back too much, you get something along the lines of scrambled eggs with nuts. It's not pleasant. Even if you dial back the sugar just a little bit you lose the characteristically gooey/custardy texture. The bulk of the sugar also helps stabilize the eggs so they are less likely to cook too fast/weep liquid. Pecan pie can often be cloyingly sweet and can definitely benefit by less sweetness, but it needs sugary bulk or the texture suffers tremendously. It would be wonderful if you could just use less sugar and still have a less sweet/appropriately textured pie, but, you can't.

                Corn syrup (and sugar) contain glucose and fructose. Both glucose and fructose have some sweetness and some bulk, but, glucose is primarily bulk and fructose is primarily sweetness. If you want less sweetness while still maintaining the appropriate texture/cooking properties, you want to use a form of sugar with less fructose than corn syrup. Sugar/Brown sugar has more fructose. Maple syrup- more fructose (along with a maple flavor that's going to fight with your 'pure' pecan note).

                Due to the chemical composition of these ingredients, switching to a sugar/brown sugar/maple syrup recipe will most likely give you a product that's sweeter than what you're making now. If it isn't sweeter, then it will be texturally compromised/eggy. I can see how these other posters are trying to help by finding you alternatives to corn syrup, but the bottom line is that they aren't, for the most part, addressing your sweetness concerns. Sugar is not the answer.

                Goodhealthgourmet, although missing the mark with brown sugar, was on the money when they recommended brown rice syrup. Brown rice syrup is primarily maltose. Maltose is a little bit sweeter than glucose, but still considerably less sweet than fructose. Rice syrup is made using an enzymatic process, so the composition/level of sweetness can vary, but, that being said, I feel fairly confident that rice syrup will give you the texture you require will scaling back the cloying sweetness. It should also be able to be swapped out 1:1 with the corn syrup in your present recipe without any testing/experimentation.

                The one thing I would do before you start is just taste the rice syrup side by side with the karo, just too make sure that it is less sweet and also confirm that the texture is in the same ballpark. If it's thinner than the corn syrup, use a tiny bit more (about 5%), reduce the baking temp by 25 deg. and bake it a bit longer. If it's not sweet at all (a slight possibility) then you might want to consider going 50/50 rice syrup/corn syrup.

                19 Replies
                1. re: scott123

                  When I first read the title of this thread, I decided that I'd write something to try to convince the OP that corn syrup is a necessary part of pecan pie. I must qualify that, although I like most of my desserts less-than-over-the-top sweet, to me, pecan pie should be like candy.

                  Then, I read scott123's post, above. It should be entitled "sugars and texture." What a great post!

                  The chefs I work with use both brown rice syrup and solid maltose. I haven't baked a pecan pie in years, but I'm inclined to do it and experiment with two things that go in separate directions: 1) a nutty, not-so-sweet pecan pie, and 2) a pecan pie with maple syrup, which, due to the flavors, must be called a "maple/pecan" pie.

                  1. re: shaogo

                    Shaogo, thanks for your kind words.

                    You have access to maltose? Ooh, nice :)

                    I want some maltose. I don't know what I'd do with it, but I'd love having it around. I have a bit of a sweetener fetish :) I googled maltose and noticed it was used for Peking duck. I pretty much have all the items at my Asian grocer memorized, but I'll check again the next time I go.

                    1. re: scott123

                      The maltose we use comes in a squat jar about 4" high and 3" wide, with a wide mouth and sides that taper inward a bit. It's solid -- not granulated.

                      For the Peking Duck (or any other roasted duck, for that matter) you "paint" the skin of the duck with a brush dipped in water and then touched to the solid maltose. It's a lot of work.

                      1. re: scott123

                        Maltose is the most amusing sweetener I know of - it's a solid liquid if such can be - you have to push a spoon into it really hard to get any of it out. Like super-resistant honey but much less sweet. You should add it to your collection. It's available in just about any Chinese grocery I've been in, and makes a big difference with duck. (Table i.e. white granulated sugar is straight sucrose, no? I didn't think there were other sugars in it.)

                        1. re: buttertart

                          "(Table i.e. white granulated sugar is straight sucrose, no? I didn't think there were other sugars in it.)"
                          table sugar is sucrose, but sucrose isn't a monosaccharide, it's a disaccharide - it contains glucose and fructose.

                    2. re: scott123

                      I assume that because you have dismissed outright recipes that use sugar but no syrup, such as the recipe posted by Candy that goodhealthgourmet linked above or the Mark Bittman recipe DGresh linked to above, that you have tried them and considered them a failure. Or is this hypothetical?

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        Caitlin, if you understand the science involved, you don't have to prepare a dish to know how it's going to turn out. I'm not 'hypothesizing' that sugar and maple syrup are quite a bit sweeter than corn syrup, they are quite a bit sweeter than corn syrup.

                        The OP wants something less sweet than Karo. Sugar and maple syrup aren't it.

                        1. re: scott123

                          Fair enough regarding their sweetness - I agree that corn syrup is less sweet than sugar. I guess I skimmed your post and was reacting to your comments about texture. Sorry for misunderstanding.

                          I do think it's pretty impossible to make pecan pie that's not quite sweet, simply because sweeteners make up the bulk of the filling. My recommendation to the OP is to make a tart instead of a pie. Because it is much shallower, in a pecan tart, you can enjoy all the pecans with less custard per bite. As someone who doesn't like super-sweet desserts, I enjoy nut tarts more than pies for this reason.

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            No problem, Caitlin.

                            A tart is an excellent idea. My previous post is based upon the premise that the OP wants the dense gooey custard but not the sweetness. I'm probably projecting a bit, because I LOVE the texture of pecan pie, but find the sweetness off putting. If the OP can live with less custard, then a tart will really make those pecans pop.

                      2. re: scott123

                        Excellent post, right on the money. I once made an Italian walnut tart that used honey as the sweetener (certainly super sweet), but the tart was essentially a network of nuts bound with the slightest amount of honey. As you noted, pecan pie needs something gel like and gooey to differentiate it from simply a nut pie. Also, amp up the nuts and it really gets too dry -- have you ever eaten a handful of peanuts without something to drink.

                        I was thinking maybe some sort of custard based on sweetened condensed milk might handle the goo factor without the overwhelming sweetness.

                        1. re: sbp


                          Yes, I've amped up the nuts before on pecan pie and regretted it. If memory serves me correctly, during baking, the nuts all floated to the top, forcing some out of the liquid- those that were exposed got very dark. I now tend to stick to just a little bit more than a single layer.

                        2. re: scott123

                          Hi Scott123,

                          Wow- lots of great and interesting info here, thanks to your (self-described) sweetener fetish. I'm hoping you can answer a question for me based on your knowledge. Perhaps the answer is already in your long post, but here's the question:

                          I'm making a Maple Pecan Tart (in place of Pecan Pie) this year. I would like to shift around some of the sweetener ratios. I'm not concerned about too much sweetness but I am concerned about (radically) compromised texture or egginess along the lines of what you mention in your post. So here goes:

                          The recipe calls for 3 lg. eggs, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/2 c. maple syrup, 1/2 c. corn syrup, 1/4 c. butter, and 1.5 c. pecans.

                          Since some reviewers noted that this recipe (Bon Appetit Nov. 2007) was light on maple flavor I'd like to increase the amount of maple syrup. Here's the change I'm thinking of making: I'd like to increase the maple syrup to 3/4 c. and decrease the corn syrup to 1/4 c.

                          Do you think this would result in textural (or eggy) disaster? Many thanks in advance for your thoughts.

                          1. re: cakewhole

                            Cakewhole, maple syrup, as I'm sure you're aware, varies in composition. The nutritional label should tell you what you need to know, specifically the total carb count. My light Karo lists 31 carbs per 1/8 cup, or 62 carbs per 1/4. As long as your maple syrup is 50 carbs per 1/4 cup or higher, I think you should be fine. If it's less, you might want to put about 1 cup in a saucepan and boil it down to 3/4.

                            As it stands, this recipe has about 320 grams of sugary 'bulk.' 12 grams less shouldn't affect the texture adversely.

                            1. re: scott123

                              Thanks for your clear explanation (and math skills). My maple syrup is 53 carbs per 1/4 c., so I feel confident about changing the recipe a bit. Thank you for walking me through this.

                          2. re: scott123

                            I took a look at the nutritional information for Karo light corn syrup vs Lundberg brown rice syrup. I'm concerned about substituting 1 for one, because 2 T of the corn syrup has 10g of sugars and 30g of carbs, and the brown rice syrup has 22g of sugar and 36g carbs. I am not a math whiz, but does this mean the brown rice syrup is over 2x sweeter than the corn syrup?

                            1. re: farmersdaughter

                              Farmersdaughter, nutritional information is pretty much useless for determining relative sweetness. There's so much information that it isn't telling you, such as the types of sugar being measured, the proportion of these sugars, the components of the non-sugar carbs, the proportions of these components- all of these impact relative sweetness. Not to mention that the regulations governing labeling are so incredibly convoluted, that you really can't even trust sugar carb counts.

                              A label is good for determining water content (the total carb count is precise/anything other than carbs is water), but, for relatively sweetness, it's a really crummy barometer.

                              I could look at that info and conjecture that:

                              1. The 10g sugars in the corn syrup are a combination of glucose and fructose, and most likely in a combination that's sweeter than sugar

                              2. The 22g sugars in the brown rice syrup are maltose.

                              3. Since maltose is 40% as sweet as sugar, the rice syrup will be less sweet than the corn syrup.

                              But that's really all it would be- conjecture. The composition of corn syrup is documented in excellent detail, but, so far, I've been unable find anything too specific regarding brown rice syrup. Without precise data, the only way to compare these syrups is to taste them side by side.

                              1. re: scott123

                                Yes, experimenting is helpful afterall. This has been a very interesting lesson.

                                1. re: scott123

                                  Thanks scott123 for such a clear explanation. I will give them both a taste but unless the brown rice syrup is crazily off base tastewise, I'm going to use it in lieu of corn syrup.

                            2. If you're accustom to a traditional pecan pie, I wouldn't hesitate to experiment sugar subs and balance by creating mini tarts in muffin tins. Best way to find the recipe right for you. I have made several pies using rice syrup and the flavor is completely unique. Good luck!

                              25 Replies
                              1. re: HillJ

                                Fair enough, brown rice syrup does have a unique flavor. If memory serves me correctly, though, it's relatively bland (at least the brand that I used to bake with was).

                                Personally, if I were making this, I would just sub glucose syrup for corn syrup. Glucose syrup is basically just less sweet corn syrup (karo without the 'high fructose corn syrup' component). Glucose syrup, as long as the water content was similar (easily detectable by the nutrition facts) would be a no brainer 1:1 sub.

                                I recommended brown rice syrup, though, because it's a lot easier to track down and time is of the essence.

                                I did a little more poking and found one person's experience subbing rice syrup for karo in pecan pie:


                                "Also, when I use brown rice syrup for pecan pie, I think it lessens the excessive, teeth-hurting sweetness that Karo puts in the pie."

                                1. re: scott123

                                  Nothing wrong with good old fashioned experimentation. Happy Holidays all!

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    What about a corn syrup sub for folks who eat very low carb to control diabetes? I have been missing pecan pie for years. Anyone know of a way to approximate the viscosity without corn syrup or equally high sugar subs?

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      by way of example mcf, would a fruit juice sub, sugar-free syrup or apple puree work?

                                      1. re: HillJ

                                        No, unfortunately, fruit juices and concentrated fruits like apple butter are way off limits for diabetics who seek to avoid complications. Sugar is sugar is sugar. SF syrups tend to be kind of thin/watery. Thanks for the ideas.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          That is challenging and confusing considering both recipes were on sites geared towards diabetic recipes. Best of luck finding a better solution, mcf.

                                          1. re: HillJ

                                            HillJ, there's a myriad number of approaches when it comes to diabetes, and there's also a great deal of misinformation. Some diabetics eat low carb, some reduced carb, some who feel that natural sugars are okay, some eat what they want and compensate with medication- what works for one diabetic doesn't automatically work for another.

                                            1. re: scott123

                                              scott123, your contributions to this thread have been full spectrum. What a knowledgeable CH you are. Thanks!

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                You're very welcome! Thank you.

                                                1. re: scott123

                                                  I want to ditto HillJ's praise and thanks.

                                            2. re: HillJ

                                              It's a shame, but the ADA is mostly funded by cereal, soda and drug manufacturers and they don't adhere to endocrinology or international diabetes guidelines. Carbs are what raise blood sugar, yet they tell diabetics to eat a diet of mostly starch and sugars. Go figure.

                                        2. re: mcf

                                          Mcf, there's a few low carb options for pecan pie. They all have their caveats, though. Maltitol syrup makes a flawless pecan pie, but... it can be laxating in large amounts and it's GI, according to some sources, is not all that low.

                                          Next is polydextrose/inulin. Polyd is very low GI, but, like Maltitol, it can be laxating in large amounts. It also has all the viscosity/bulk of sugar, but with very little sweetness, so you'll need to combine it with a high intensity sweetener such as splenda. I use a blend of erythritol, splenda and polyd, that, imo, perfectly mirrors both the taste AND the texture of sugar in most baked goods.

                                          There's also a commercial product call 'not sugar' that contains a blend of gums. It's supposed to approximate the texture of sugar in baked goods. I've known people that seem to like baking with it, but I kind of have my doubts as to how well it would work in pecan pie. And again, because it's pure fiber (zero carbs), it can produce the same gastrointestinal issues as the ingredients above.

                                          I really can't recommend maltitol (too much blood sugar impact, imo), but many people can tolerate polyd (it's usually the main player in most commercial low carb ice creams). I'd never use polyd for something I served to company, but if you find you can tolerate it, it will make a pecan pie just as good as the one you remember.

                                          1. re: scott123

                                            Scott, that's really interesting; I have some polyD but haven't tried it, having no experience with it. Inulin is a gas factory, though, IME! I often blend erythritol, xylitol and liquid sucralose for better sweetening. Can you give me a ratio or recipe to try? I could test it with a small recipe for starters. Do you just sub the polyD measure for measure for corn syrup?

                                            1. re: mcf

                                              Mcf... polyd and inulin are molecularly very similar (polymerized glucose vs. polymerized fructose). If inulin is causing you troubles, it's almost guaranteed that polyd will as well :(

                                              How much inulin did you consume? Was it a lot? Maybe you can get away with a smaller portion. Also, I'm not sure how important a slice of 'real' tasting pecan pie is to you, but I've known a handful of people who were able to slowly build tolerance to polyd by consuming a little bit every day over a few weeks. It takes some dedication, but the ability to tolerate polyd really opens culinary doors. Polysaccharides (inulin/polyd) are what give beans their aromatic stigma. In cultures where beans are consumed frequently, this is less of an issue.

                                              Here's a recipe for corn syrup using your ingredients:

                                              1 1/3 cups polyd
                                              1/4 C. xylitol
                                              1/2 C. erythritol

                                              3/4 cup cool water

                                              3/16 t. salt (scant 1/4 t.)
                                              1/4 t. vanilla

                                              In a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup, combine sweeteners and blend well. Measure water in a separate cup. Add water to pyrex cup and quickly stir with a knife, breaking up any dry areas.

                                              Microwave until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute , then set aside for a couple minutes to allow the polyd to melt. Stir it to see if there are any clumps. If there are, return to the microwave, boil it for another minute and let sit again. As you stir the syrup with a knife, small polyd clumps might stick to the knife- don't scrape them back into the syrup.

                                              Once the syrup has no lumps, set aside to cool. Once cool, stir in other ingredients and refrigerate until needed.

                                              When cold (possibly even at room temp), the erythritol will crystallize, developing frost like patterns. When you're ready to use this in a recipe, microwave until warm and then measure. When warm, there should be no crystallization.

                                              It should yield about a cup and a half. And, like regular corn syrup, this syrup can be refrigerated indefinitely.

                                              If your recipe requires dark corn syrup, add a tiny amount of blackstrap molasses (about 1/4 to 1/2 t.). This will give you the dark flavor while impacting the carb count negligibly. Polyd can be browned into a caramel, but that's another discussion.

                                              I don't have any xylitol at the moment or I'd try this myself, but I feel this should be very very close karo. The water might need a tiny bit of tweaking. If you have some light karo on hand, it might be worth comparing the two for consistency (at room temp), but, if you don't, I wouldn't worry about it.

                                              You might want to take your favorite karo based pecan pie recipe, divide it by eight and bake it in a custard cup sans crust. That will give you an idea of how well you tolerate it, without having the temptation of an entire pie. Believe me, when you have the taste and consistency of the real deal, eating more than a slice is very tempting :)

                                              If you want to sub for sugar in other recipes, I can give you a formulation for that, although polyd almost always needs to be melted into a syrup first, so this recipe is a good start.

                                              1. re: scott123

                                                Scott, husband and I have reacted extremely strongly to Jerusalem artichokes and to inulin based sweetener. Just not worth using much. I definitely tolerate less concentrated sources of it, though. Thanks so much for the formulation for corn syrup; I have all those things in the house!

                                                I'm okay with my variable combination of sweeteners (erythritol, xylitol, liquid sucralose, isomalt) in combinations depending upon the use for other things, just never got the pecan pie thing together.

                                                1. re: mcf

                                                  Mcf, you're able to tolerate isomalt? How much? Your blood sugar is okay with it? I didn't bring it up earlier because it's a little obscure/hard to find, but if you can consume isomalt without any major repercussions, then you can definitely whip up a texturally authentic pecan pie. Isomalt can actually make a pretty good corn syrup just on it's own. It's a LOT of isomalt, though. Here's what I would consider to be a happy medium:

                                                  3/4 cups polyd
                                                  1/2 cup isomalt
                                                  1/3 cup erythritol

                                                  3/4 cup cool water

                                                  3/16 t. salt (scant 1/4 t.)
                                                  1/4 t. vanilla


                                                  If you certain you tolerate isomalt well, you can take the plunge and go with:

                                                  1 1/2 cups isomalt

                                                  1/2 cup water

                                                  3/16 t. salt (scant 1/4 t.)
                                                  1/4 t. vanilla

                                                  1. re: scott123

                                                    I rarely use it, and only in small amounts as part of an erythritol mixture. It has a strong cooling effect, I don't like also. I think the Diabetisweet I use is isomalt mixed with acesulfame K. I mostly use natural sugar alchohols mixed with a little liquid sucralose. I get a yucky mouth feel and aftertaste from Splenda otherwise.

                                                    I don't think I can handle a lot of isomalt. I tolerate SAs pretty well generally, but even xylitol (my favorite) caused a reaction when used in large amounts in a frosting recipe.

                                                    OTOH, if I cut the amount of sweetener by subbing a lot more nuts as another poster suggested, it could work. Thanks so much, again.

                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                      Oh, it's diabetisweet. Yes, that's isomalt + ace k. Cross off my isomalt formulations above. They won't work at all with the added ace k.

                                                      Splenda definitely has taste issues. On it's own, it completely fails with both dark chocolate, coffee and lemon desserts. Any time you have bitter ingredients that require additional sweetener, splenda can't rise to the task. SAs have a good synergy with splenda, so adding erythritol and xylitol helps, but you can only add so much before you start running into crystallization/cooling issues. Crystallization is the kiss of death for erythritol. Not only do you get the almost otherworldly cooling effect, but, much like adding sugar to cold ice tea and having it sink to the bottom, you take a tremendous hit in sweetness when the erythritol doesn't stay dissolved. Ace K has issues of it's own, but it goes a very long way in helping splenda taste better. The trick is, though, that you have to use very little. When I make a cup's worth of sweetener, I use only about 2 t. equivalent worth of ace k. (Sweet One brand). I would suggest doing the same with the diabetisweet. Even just a tiny little bit improves the quality of sweetness dramatically.

                                                      The other really wonderful thing about ace k, is that, because of it's synergy with splenda, you get a net boost in sweetness- more than the individual components themselves. Because of this, you can use less splenda and save considerable money in the long run.

                                                      Regarding SAs and crystallization- polyd is a very powerful crystallization inhibitor, making it an ideal partner. The more polyd you can use in a recipe, the more erythritol you can use without crystallization/cooling issues. I've done quite a lot of experimentation in an effort to maximize the amount of erythritol I can add to recipes without problems. It really depends on what other ingredients are in the recipe, but, as a general rule of thumb, without polyd, you're really limited to one or two tablespoons per cup of sweetening equivalent, when polyd enters the picture, the erythritol can go as high as 1/3 C.

                                                      Btw, isomalt doesn't have crystallization/cooling issues. It has pretty much the same molecular weight as sugar and acts similarly. Same thing for maltitol. Like maltitol, though, it can pack a glycemic punch, and, like all the other non erythritol SAs, it can be laxating. If you were experiencing cooling, though, it was either the erythritol or the xylitol, not the isomalt.. The off taste might very well have been diabetisweet as well. Diabetisweet has way too much ace k. Ace k, as I said before, is absolutely sublime in small amounts, but once you approach a certain percentage of the entire baked good, it's pretty much inedible.

                                            2. re: scott123

                                              Scott123, this is really interesting. I am in Egypt and since I have not been able to find corn syrup, I was planning on using Lyle's Golden Syrup. I am less concerned with sweetness (Egyptians love sweet things) than I am in the texture. I doubt that I can find rice syrup, but I also have maple syrup that I brought from home. Which of these would make the better pie, do you think?

                                              1. re: roxlet

                                                Roxlet, go with the Golden Syrup. I've never used Golden Syrup, but all of my research points to it being a good sub for corn syrup. Expect it to be sweet, though.

                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                  You might try 2/3 Golden syrup and 1/3 maple - Golden is rather thicker than corn syrup, may make a more soild pie.

                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                    Thanks for the advice, scott123 and buttertart. Here's the part that I don't get though. I'm not a science person, but isn't sweet, sweet? why would one type of sugar syrup be sweeter than the other? I may go with buttertart's suggestion to add a little maple twist. I will post about the results when I am done.

                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                      Roxlet, all of these syrups contain different types of sugars in different quantities. Table sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. When melted in water, glucose is thick and gooey, but not very sweet, while fructose is the opposite. In syrups, the ratios of these ingredients vary tremendously. There's also other types of sugar in the mix (maltose, galactose, lactose, etc.) that each have their own consistency/levels of sweetness. Lastly, syrups, unlike table sugar, have other non sugar carbohydrates that may add sugary texture but not sweetness.

                                                      Table sugar is very pure/very straightforward. Syrups, being boiled down and or enzymatically processed versions of natural liquids can get very complex. They are as varied as the plants from which they're derived.

                                                      1. re: scott123

                                                        Wow. I never took chemistry, so maybe that's my problem! I'm better with process than with concept I think. Very interesting though.

                                              2. re: mcf

                                                I made a "crust" with 1 cup almond/pecan meal, 1 tsp SF sweetener and 3 TBS melted butter, set aside to cool.

                                                For filling, I simmered down 1.5 cups SF maple syrup, over medium heat, for about 20 minutes, until cooked down a bit and thickened. Cool this. Melt 5 TBS butter, let cool. Add 1 TBS molasses, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 cup Splenda, mix well. Add 4 eggs, beat one at a time into mixture.Add 2 cups pecans, then add in cooled syrup, and combine. Add to cooled crust, bake at 325* for about 35 minutes.

                                                Just like any SF dessert, it was OK, not spectacular. Made it better with low sugar whipped cream from the can.

                                        3. A lot of interesting information above but I'd just cut the corn syrup and sugar (tasting the filling and adding sweetener until it is as sweet as you want it), load up on chopped nuts, use less filling and go.

                                          1. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/280374

                                            A few inspiring pecan pie suggestions from CH's back in 2005.
                                            The palm sugar has me curious.

                                            21 Replies
                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              I checked the thread and didn't see the reference to palm sugar, but man that would be good with pecans. There is a John Thorne recipe with all golden syrup that should suit roxlet's needs in the thread.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                CH petradish refers to the use of palm sugar. I noted the golden syrup recipe as well and hoped it would be add'l good information here.

                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                  Thanks. Palm sugar + pecans, sounds wonderful. I've got that taste in my mouth again, to quote Jarvis Cocker (but he wasn't talking about palm sugar, of course).

                                                2. re: buttertart

                                                  well, the pie is cooked (it's nighttime here in Cairo), and it looks fantastic. I did a mix of Lyle's and maple syrup. Interestingly, I refrigerated the filling after I mixed it since my pumpkin pie wasn;t out of my totally lame oven yet, and when I poured it into the pie shell, it looked like the lyle's had separated. Since I froze my pie shell after I rolled it out, I gave the filling a quick stir in the shell, and it seemed to be fine. Results show tomorrow...

                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    My son said it all -- "the pie is good mom, but not as good as the one made with corn syrup." I think that it had something to do with the texture, which surprised me since I make pecan tassies several times a year and they taste exactly like pecan pie and don't have any hfcs. Well, I know it's un-PC, but I think I will stick with HFCS to make my pie once a year at Thanksgiving!

                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                      You aren't going to die from 1 dose of HFCS once a year, after all! (The golden syrup is a different breed of cat, works differently in recipes.)

                                                      1. re: roxlet

                                                        Roxlet, Karo corn syrup does not contain HFCS. Corn syrup for home use and HFCS, which is in so many manufactured foods and gets the bad rap, aren't synonymous, so you don't need to worry about that aspect of it.

                                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                          Caitlin, after reading your post, I spent about an hour googling Karo and the supposed 'reformulation' that occurred within the last year. From what I'm seeing, unless there's some official press release out there that I'm totally overlooking, I'm calling foul here (on Karo, not on you).

                                                          I am 99.99% certain that, rather than removing the HFCS from their formula, they just altered the ingredient listing to sound better to the average HFCS phobic consumer. Why am I so certain of this?

                                                          1. Removing the corn syrup would be a VERY big deal for the company. It would be a reformulation of a product that's been untouched for decades. Because of the current witch hunt against HFCS, if they did actually remove it, they'd market the crap out of it. I googled it and scoured the Karo website. Not a peep.

                                                          2. Food labeling regulations tend to be surprisingly loose when describing ingredients. I'm positive that, since the inception of Karo, they were allowed to label the HFCS as 'corn syrup' or 'light corn syrup,' but, because there was no stigma against HFCS at the time, they chose to be more specific. With the new anti-HFCS wave, though, they decided to exercise their right to be vague and alter the label.

                                                          3. Lastly- and this is really the most concrete reason of all, removing the fructose would lower the sweetness dramatically. All the thousands of pecan pie makers across the nation would have to change their recipe to compensate for the loss of sweetness. Karo would never remove the primary source of sweetness in their syrup- not in a million years. That would be like a crack dealer removing the cocaine from the crack :)

                                                          So, Karo corn syrup most definitely does contain HFCS, they're just finding legal loopholes to weasel out of being truthful about it in an effort to curry favor with an HFCS phobic public.

                                                          1. re: scott123

                                                            Interesting. I don't know the definitive answer regarding the supposed reformulation of the light syrup. The dark AFAIK has never included HFCS in the ingredients listed.

                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                              I read that as well regarding the dark corn syrup. Any time you caramelize sugar, though, you lose some sweetness and you gain some bitterness (very dark caramels have almost no sweetness), and dark corn syrup is pretty sweet, so... I have a feeling that they're playing the same game.

                                                              Although... dark corn syrup, unlike light, never had HFCS listed in the ingredients. My gut feeling, though, is that where there's sweetness, there's bound to be fructose.

                                                              I just scoured the Karo FAQ for a second time today. I mean, come on, do they really there's a question out there that's asked MORE frequently than 'Do your syrups contain high fructose corn syrup?' That's like a margarine manufacturer not talking about trans fats- it's ridiculous.

                                                        2. re: roxlet

                                                          Roxlet, it's just a guess, but I'd wager to say that the golden syrup has a little more water than corn syrup, and, because of the maple syrup had a lot more water, you might have put it over the top moisture-wise.

                                                          1. re: scott123

                                                            I just asked my son again why it wasn't as good. He said that "it was almost dry. It wasn't as gooey." I don't know how that jibes with the moisture thing, but the pie definitely wasn't over-baked. I did notice that the pie was quite puffed up when I took it out of the oven, and I don't remember my usual pies being quite like that...

                                                            1. re: roxlet

                                                              I did the Bitman pie I referenced above, and I agree exactly with what your son said. I think I may have overcooked it (though I took it out long before the "advertised time"). I don't recall it being as dry other times I've made it. Mine was also puffed up.

                                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                                Well, mine definitely wasn't overcooked! The crust was a pale golden, and wouldn't have been good taken out any sooner, so I am convinced that wasn't the reason. It's funny you had the identical experience, though. Clearly there is a reason for this, but I would have to defer to scott123 on this since he is the real expert!

                                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                                  FYI, puffiness = overcooked = compromised texture

                                                                  Overcooking pecan pie, though, like custard, results in weeping, as the moisture oozes out of the tightening egg matrix.

                                                                  Pecan pie crusts should always be par baked and then baked gently with the filling so it doesn't boil/puff up. The high quantity of sugar tends to make a pecan pie more forgiving than custard, so it might be tempting to bake the filling and crust together, but I wouldn't. Custards are always about slow and even cooking.

                                                                  1. re: scott123

                                                                    I usually blind bake my pie crust for pecan pie, but I'll certainly confess that I didn't this time, and I am happy to know that this is the reason for the change in texture. However, I was following a recipe that suggested using a frozen pie crust, which is what I did -- I froze the crust and then baked the pie. Obviously, if that is the reason for the poor texture as opposed to the change in ingredients, I won't do that again. Thanks for the info!

                                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                                      Freezing the pie crust? Hmmm... I think that freezing a pie crust might be a good idea- I freeze chocolate chip cookie dough and get considerably less spread, so I'd expect less spread for crusts as well. But baking a pecan pie in a frozen crust might not be a great idea, as the freezing will cause the crust to take longer to bake, thus exposing the filling to even more heat.

                                                                      So, yes to freezing/blind baking but I'd pass on freezing the crust and then baking with the filling.

                                                                      1. re: scott123

                                                                        Just to clarify, I didn't freeze the crust with the filling in it. I froze the crust, then filled, then baked. If I remember correctly, Rose Levy Beranbaum uses the frozen pie crust method in her pie book. I believe that she suggests freezing a filled pie -- a fruit pie if recollection serves -- and then baking it on a pre-heated pizza stone. This is all to prevent soggy bottom crusts, and to that end, she also paints the crust with apricot preserves before filling and freezing. But I use pyrex for my pies, and truthfully, I never have much of a problem with soggy bottom crusts. I also tend to roll my dough out rather thinly, so perhaps that helps as well.

                                                                    2. re: scott123

                                                                      scott, are you talking about baking a non-traditional pie? if not, i'd take issue with the "puffiness=overcooked" comment, as well as the admonition to blind bake the shell.

                                                                      "puffy" will subside and even sink a wee bit in a properly baked pecan pie. if i blind baked the shell, it would be overdone. i do not blind bake the crust and cook my pie according to the karo recipe -- namely 350 for 50 minutes.

                                                                  2. re: DGresh

                                                                    I did not make the Bitman recipe exactly because every other non-corn syrup pecan pie recipe I saw had only 3 eggs, and Bitman used 5. Could it be the extra protein, etc. from the eggs that made your both puffier and dry?

                                                                    1. re: thursday

                                                                      I didn't use Bittman's recipe at all, but I think I'll take scott123's word for it and say the pie was over-baked. I mainly used the Joy of Cooking recipe, with the suggestion to freeze the crust from another on-line source, whose name escapes me at the moment...

                                                      2. I'm always trying out new pecan pie recipes. Last year, I made what I consider the best one yet. It was published last year in the Washington Post - a recipe by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I'm going to make it again this year. The filling was terrific. The cream cheese crust was excellent, but a little labor-intensive, so I'm going to make an all-butter crust instead. If you do a web search, it will pull up 3 links: one for the pie filling, one for the crust, and a general article describing her process.

                                                        1. Update:

                                                          I didn't have the time to hunt down fructose, but really appreciated the discussion and may have to experiment again.

                                                          I ended up combining a few of the recipes found here and it turned out perfectly! I used 3 eggs, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 3/4 cup butter, melted, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 tbsp bourbon, poured it over 2 cups toasted pecans laid in a frozen pie crust, and baked for about an hour at 350. The only thing I might change next time is that it needed a little more filling - when sliced, some of the nuts fell out on the plate, but they were covered is sugary goodness and were delicious! It was still quite sweet, but not as cloying as when made with corn syrup or even, I imagine, white sugar - it had the mildly richer mouth feel I was looking for. Thanks everyone!

                                                          1. Report: Success! I substituted brown rice syrup 1:1 for the corn syrup in my usual recipe. I tasted it first as Scott suggested and it was slightly less sweet than the corn syrup. I didn't add any extra sugar until I was ready to pour it into my blind baked crust and realized it tasted plenty sweet to me (it's been a while since I made pecan pie, and I had forgotten how sweet it is!). So I didn't add any extra brown sugar. The pie turned out great -- no consistency issues and it got lots of praise. In the end, I'm not sure the corn syrup is significantly unhealthier than the brown rice syrup, but I feel better about my choice so I don't see any reason to go back to corn syrup. Thanks to everyone for their contributions to this thread!

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: farmersdaughter

                                                              Farmersdaughter, that's good to hear that it went well.

                                                              Although the HFCS in Karo is the nutritional whipping boy du jour, Karo is ultimately no healthier/unhealthier than most other forms of sugar, including rice syrup. Chemically, it's almost identical to table sugar. In fact, in a way, corn syrup is actually a little bit healthier than sugar, as it has prebiotic polysaccharides that foster better colon health. It's the pure HFCS and the even purer fructose that pose the greatest health risks, due to the different manner in which the body processes it.

                                                              Now, if you feel comfortable sticking to rice syrup because of the superior results you're getting- I heartily applaud your decision. I know Americans have a sweet tooth the size of Mount Rushmore, and pecan pie is pretty much the poster child for sweet, but, as prepared... it's just too gosh darn sweet. It's sweet on steriods. Sweet on crack ;) If sweetness were a color, pecan pie would be day glo orange.

                                                              Don't get me wrong, I practically worship pecan pie, but, as traditionally prepared, it's just too sweet.

                                                              I get the feeling that when pecan pie was in it's infancy, corn syrup was just that- corn syrup. Not a a combination of corn syrup and super sweet HFCS. Unadulterated corn syrup, would, imo, make the most delicious pecan pie the world has ever seen. Rice syrup takes it into that less sweet direction. For my own pecan pies, I'm planning on taking it even further. Beyond reducing the sweetness, I might even kick the sugary texture up a notch. The more texture you have, the densier, gooier, chewier you get.

                                                              1. re: scott123

                                                                I actually dislike intense sweetness, and now that he's been low carbing a while, too, my husband has lost is taste for it. Like salt, when you stop having it, you get much more sensitive to the taste. So I really don't mind losing sweetness in pecan pie, but I love the
                                                                warm, gooey goodness. So far, for brown sugar substitute, the best tasting I've found is Diabetisweet brown. I suppose real brown sugar cut with liquid sucralose is something I could try, too, for taste.

                                                                1. re: scott123

                                                                  I have never been able to eat corn or its refined products, so it's been a quest to find good substitutes. My father, a candy maker in the Seattle candy houses during WWII, maintained that the molecular structure of corn sugar made it such that it would not crystalize, hence the utility of using it in soft candies and the non use of it in hard candies. Cane and beet sugars were rationed more than corn sugars then, so there were serious problems in the candy kitchen. The HFCS seems to have different rules, but from losing my formula as an infant to intense headaches as a child and adult, I stay away from all corn. I am learning to substitute tapioca starch and potato starch in some things, and, of course there is good old wheat flour. This is not necessarily a corn sweetness issues, although I don't care for its taste, I suspect some of us northern European types should just stay away from that stuff. Is there a corn-free cookbook out there?

                                                              2. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                                                                I was looking for a recipe that would use my leftover cranberry sauce and holiday mixed nuts and found this recipe for a bar cookie. I sub'd the amt of corn syrup called for in the recipe with the same amt. of brown rice syrup and the result is a moist nutty bar cookie that isn't too sweet and maximizes the wonderful homemade cranberry jelly.