This week’s post is from Randle Browning, a Texan whose inventive yet thoroughly Southern recipes I am fortunate to have found. Three are included in Southern Cooking for Company, and I tell ya, they’ll make you want to go in the kitchen and cook.
“Hey!” I jumped out of my chair and banged on the window, “Those are our pecans!” I shouted at my dozing husband, banging my palm against the pane and flailing my arms, “Honey! That guy is back! He’s taking our pecans!!”
Standing there in a fluffy pink bathrobe at 6:00 in the morning, I was helpless to stop him—one of many foragers who cycled down our street last autumn, a plastic grocery sack bursting with pecans swinging off each handlebar.
I looked on in panic as he walked in a leisurely circle around our pecan tree, scooping up the fresh-fallen nuts and adding them to his collection before moving on to the next house.
Waco is known for a lot of unsavory things (like this), and a few good ones (like this and this), but for me, the best thing about living in Waco is the pecans—The old pecan tree that drops thousands of oblong, thin-shelled nuts on the roof of our restaurant, where my husband uses a deck brush to push them off into the truck bed. The hundreds of trees at Pecan Bottom along the Brazos River that put off tiny, sweet pecans with thick shells. The mature trees that rain pecans all over Baylor campus, and my favorite, the plump, oily, pecans that fall from the tree in our front yard.
Not everyone shares my devotion to the walnut’s juicier, oilier, more flavorful cousin. Maybe it’s because I grew up in pecan country. I grew up rolling pecans under my shoes in the fall, and in spring when I ran barefoot, I tried my luck at the pecans leftover from the last season by cracking them between 2 rocks.
Some Texans need brisket; I need pecans. Last year, when my husband and I moved into our first house together, I almost felt like I was purchasing a pecan tree that came with a house, rather than the other way around.
That’s probably why I felt the need to guard it so fiercely, even before dawn.
That was before I realized 2 things:
- There are plenty of pecans for everyone. (Seriously, there are.)
- Shelling pecans sucks.
Let me rephrase—it takes for.ev.er.
And it’s really hard not to eat them as you’re cracking them. They’re just so good! You just have to keep telling yourself that if you eat all the pecans as you shell them, beautiful, special things like pecan pie and these Sorghum-Pecan Banana Muffins won’t become a reality. Or maybe you have more willpower than me.
Luckily, I was able to freeze a few pounds of these beauties, and erm…supplement that with pecans from my friend who didn’t try to shell 5 lbs. of pecans with a regular ol’ nutcracker.
Next year, I’ll be ready. I’ve already ordered the fancy pecan-shelling tools all the pros use.
- 1 cup pecans
- ¼ cup sorghum syrup
- 2 cups spelt flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 overripe bananas (about 2 scant cups)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease 4 cups of a jumbo muffin tin (the kind with 6 muffin cups instead of 12).
- Roughly chop pecans until the largest pieces about the size of a raisin. In a small bowl, combine the pecans and sorghum and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together spelt flour, baking soda, and salt.
- In a medium bowl, combine melted coconut oil (if your coconut oil is solid, microwave the bowl on low heat for 5-10 seconds at a time until it’s liquified), applesauce, maple syrup, vanilla, and bananas. Mash the bananas into the mixture with a fork.
- Add wet ingredients to dry and stir with a wooden spoon just until combined.
- Add half the batter to the 4 muffin tins, then top with half the pecans. Use a knife or fork to gently mix the pecan-sorghum mixture into the batter in each tin. Top with remaining batter, and pack remaining pecan-sorghum mixture over the tops.
- Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Note: Watch the pecans. If they begin to scorch, loosely tent the muffin tin with a large sheet of foil.
- Let cool for 10 minutes and serve.
- Note: If you don’t have a giant muffin tin, the recipe makes 8 regular-size muffins (start checking for doneness after 12 minutes), or a 9x4-inch loaf pan (bake for 45-55 minutes).