Recoveries and Second Feasts and 80 Acres Mystery Fungus

R- recovered enough from his version of my disease by this past weekend for me to redo the feast of the weekend before.  Success, we enjoyed it, our guest enjoyed it, and in the process I invented a post-invention-obvious pie.  Having been less than thrilled with the commercial pie I’d ordered to satisfy a yearning for dark chocolate, gooeyness, and pecans in a pie (the perfect combination is in Lamme’s Candies dark chocolate Longhorns, IMO), I created a chocolate pecan pie that actually satisfied my imagination of how good it could be.

I’ve made brownie pies for years, because a brownie pie (brownie mix batter in a pie shell) is the easiest “fancy looking” pie you can make, most people like brownies, and it’s easy and quick if you have unexpected (or expected) company.  If you put chopped nuts in brownies, they go fine in the brownie pie.  But a pecan pie is a different animal, and the commercial pie did not come close to satisfying either the brownie pie or the pecan pie half of the desired tastes.  I went online and looked at multiple (lots!) of recipes for something like that, read them, imagined how they’d taste, looked at the pictures, and decided (as I so often do) to wing it.  The ones that wanted to make a traditional pecan pie base (Karo syrup based) made me remember what was wrong with the commercial pie (the pecan pie layer didn’t taste strongly enough of pecan pie.  And the chocolate part didn’t taste strongly enough of chocolate.  SIGH.)

Hence the Brownie Caramel Pecan Pie, for which you really do need GOOD pecan meats; they should taste good, not bitter or dried out.  (If you don’t like pecans…well…use something else.  I feel sorry for you.)

1 box of Hill Country brownie mix from HEB.   Yes, you can use any brownie mix you like but the flavors will be slightly different.

1 container of Smucker’s Caramel Sundae Syrup (ice cream topping).   Yes, you can use a different kind of caramel topping or even make your own caramel.  Flavors will vary slightly. Liquidity of the caramel sauce at fridge temperature will vary.  Have fun.

~1 cup (I may have added more pecans) of pecan pieces, fresh or frozen while fresh.  Still tasty raw.)  Not finely chopped…coarse pieces that can hold the pecan oil with its flavor.

1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell.  I used commercial refrigerated pastry in my mother’s old china pie dish.  It’s not a deep-dish pie dish; if you use a deep-dish pie shell you might get more of the brownie mix into it.

Follow box directions for making the brownie batter.   Put a cup (at least) of coarse chopped pecan pieces into the pie shell.   Pour a quarter to a third of a cup of caramel sauce over the pecan pieces, and if you left some pecans out, drizzle more caramel over them  so that all or almost all the pecans are wet on top with caramel.   I started with 1/4 cup, and then drizzled on more so all the pecans had some caramel on them.  You don’t want them swimming in the stuff, but wading maybe waist deep in it.  Pour the brownie batter on top, to the right level for your pie plate.  Bake in 350F oven until the brownie layer is almost done (if you stick your test object all the way to the caramel layer, that remains gooey.  I left the center not quite done near the caramel layer.  Cool completely, refrigerate to firm it a bit more, and serve with either whipped cream or ice cream for maximum luxury, though I ate my last piece last night with nothing on it and it was still…wowza.

If all the brownie mix won’t fit in your pie plate (it didn’t in mine) just bake the remainder in a different oven-safe container.  If you have one of those mini-muffin tins you can make ‘brownie bites’ (I don’t, but sounds good to me.)

The caramel keeps the pecans down low, and the caramel and brownie batter communicate with each other, turning the caramel layer mostly dark chocolate in color and flavored to varying extent with chocolate, while the bottom half of the brownie layer is flavored with pecans and caramel.  The texture at the interface is more custard than either brownie or caramel, interrupted by the chewy chunks of pecan.   This thing has an intense chocolate flavor and near the bottom picks up a more and more distinct caramel, and recalls (without matching it) the flavor of pecan pie.  It’s messy to cut, because of the caramel sauce, which doesn’t firm up much at all when refrigerator-cold, but not that messy to eat with a fork; the brownie mix has thickened the caramel somewhat.

There could be, of course, many variations.  My first variation (for Christmas?) will be using more pecans, to see if that makes it better or too much of a muchness.  I hit a very happy spot on the flavor mix in the first pie, so won’t be filling the whole pie plate with nuts for the second!   I think a modest increase might work.  Also thought of various ways to include crushed/broken peppermint candies.  Adding ginger to the brownie mix.  Etc.

Yesterday, R- and I were walking on the N fenceline of the dry woods when we spotted a fungus we’d never seen before .  Several of them, erupting from the ground.

It was cloudy, windy, and cold.  All the fungi we saw were in this area.

                                                                                                              Chorioactis geaster  (name added later)

Notice the “nose” of another one coming up near the first we saw.    Second pic appears to be one rising from a different “silo” and just splitting open.

Not sure whether this last one was coming out or retreating back in.   This is the same area of trail where large Cyperus sp. sedges showed a month or so ago.

If anyone know what these are, please let me know.  (“Is there a mycologist in the house?”)



17 thoughts on “Recoveries and Second Feasts and 80 Acres Mystery Fungus

  1. The pecan brownie pie sounds good, I’d try it, but the pecans we get over here are really not that good. Enjoy your further experiments.

    I am a tiny little bit of a mycologist, but mostly confined to the safe edible species in the UK. We are very lucky in that it is hard to confuse the vast majority of our edible species with something that will kill you, you may end up with a far less tasty meal, but you aren’t likely to die. You won’t die that is, as long as you don’t risk trying any of the edible Aminitas, as we do have lethal species of those. However if I were in the UK I would identify your fungi as earthstars – Lycoperdales Geastraceae geastrum. I know that continental Europe has more species of fungi that Britain, and would think the same would be the case for coninental America, but it’s a place to start looking.

      1. And I’ve just gone back to the MushroomExpert site and looked down his list for the correct name given in the iNaturalist site, and yes–there it is, with more discussion of the site characteristics, and more photographs. Definitely associated with decaying cedarleaf elm (U. crassifolia), the Chorioactis geaster is found in scattered sites in central Texas, but uncommon to rare overall. Wahoo!! It goes on the site’s list of growing things.

    1. Very much like! Thank you. There is a kind of mushroom called an earthstar, and they come in various forms, but they usually have a round spore container in the middle, and the “points” are more equal. I found them on a site last night, These don’t have the spore chamber in the middle (or it disappears before it can be seen?) but may be related.

    1. Arwen gave us snow here – Greater Manchester – I’ve not seen snow that early in the eleven years I’ve lived here.

  2. To enhance the flavor of the pecans, you can toast them lightly in the oven. Just spread them on a rimmed cookie sheet, and maybe stir them around every so often. If you toast them at 250F, you’ll have plenty of time. You can toast them at 350F, but have to watch them much more carefully. This works for pecans in cookies and should work for your pie. Pecans on top of a regular pecan pie might get toasted too much.

    If you want more chocolate, stir half to a full cup of good chocolate chips into the brownie mix.

    I’ve baked brownies from scratch after finding a good recipe from cooks illustrated. I can send that to you. To make “Mexican brownies,” I add 2 tsp of cinnamon and a scant 1/8 tsp cayenne powder (or another with more flavor).

    1. I don’t *think* we have any of this genus, from the photos I’ve looked at. We do have (some years) and abundance of large puffballs, but they’re definitely not as hard-skinned as the Scleroderma species. The irregularity of our Texas stars may be do to our frequent foot travel in that area–we may have (before we recognized what was just underground) tromped on and “dis-armed” some about to emerge.

  3. I saw earthstars for the first time, but with the round things in them, in large patches surrounding the four foot diameter [I planted it 39 years ago as a sapling….] butternut tree in my yard. The summer here [eastern Massachusetts] was VERY wet, and there were mushrooms all over of all shapes and sizes… the only ones I could be certain were edible were puffballs [and perhaps a birch polyphore? (Nothing else seems to look like those..) growing on dead branch of a native black cherry [which has edible fruit and is otherwise toxic… so the native wildlife do NOT girdle THOSE trees…]

    {Took me a while to find the Universes blog, having checked other Elizabeth Moon sites before hitting the Universes on and the blog link on it… the other sites and blogs don’t that I noticed crosslink to one another…]

    1. Paula, the sites don’t all crosslink with each other because I anticipated strikingly different audiences for each, with little crossover (except between SF and fantasy.) Everything is connected via the original site, the oldest and (I thought) the most likely place for everyone to find first. Evidently not.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.