I’ve decided that I’m going to make an effort to put more information in my blog posts, starting now. I’ll include a little about my process for developing the recipe, potential kitchen mishaps, and where applicable, historical tidbits.
With all my recipes, I begin by examining where in Westeros the dish appears. I then search for historical counterparts from our own world that seem to jive with what I know of the the dish’s origin, taking into account trade, climate, and so on. This dish was mentioned casually in episode 4.5 of the HBO show, but my ears perked up when I heard it. In this case, there is no visual, actual pie, so some extrapolating was in order.
In the show, the character Locke is the one who mentions it, saying they will “carve them up like walnut pie”. Locke is a northerner, apparently loyal to the Boltons. He is somewhat a reimagining of the book character Vargo Hoat, who hails all the way from Qohor.
So I had a bit of a conundrum. To make a pie that would be comfortable in a Northern hall, or something more exotic? In the end, I think I toed the line. Most recipes I found for walnut pie, including the historic ones, seemed to be a variation on pecan pie, with a sort of gooey caramel filling. Which I’m sure is delicious, but not especially interesting.
This pie is more like an enormous baklava, down to the flaky crust and syrup. Sweet and heavy, with spices that hint at a foreign flavor, it’s wonderful on its own. But add the maple whipped cream, and it becomes near ethereal. The light fluffy clouds of cream counter the density of the nuts, while the maple, cinnamon, and vanilla meld together so neatly that you’ll find yourself eating bite after bite, just to see if the next bite tastes as amazing as the last.
One question I wanted to answer, given the quote from the show, was how easy was it to slice a walnut pie. Since it’s sliced before baking, the answer is: quite easy. But as the knife slides through, it occasionally catches on a walnut with a soft crunch, which is a tad sinister, give Locke’s comparison. I guess that’s appropriate!
In any case, this is one of the best desserts I’ve made in a long time. Everyone who had a slice was quick to assure me that they could help eat the next one, if need be. It’s a fast favorite, and something I look forward to making again!
Walnut Pie Recipe
Prep: 1 hour Baking: 40 minutes
- 1 16 oz. package frozen phyllo dough, thawed
- 1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
- 10 oz. finely chopped walnuts (about 3 cups)
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Ingredients for syrup:
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup cane sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- pinch of saffron
Heat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, combine the walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.
Brush the bottom of a pie dish with melted butter. Carefully unroll the phyllo dough and lift the top layer off. Place this in the buttered pie pan, smoothing it down and letting the excess flop over the sides. Butter the top of this piece, and lay another on top of that. Repeat this until you have 8 layers on the bottom. Spread 1/3 of the walnut mixture over this. Top with another 4 layers of dough, buttering in between each. Add another layer of walnuts, then another 4 layers of dough. Spread the last of the walnuts over these layers, then gradually fold the excess phyllo dough corners in over top of the pie, buttering as you go. Do this with several layers of excess, then carefully trim the rest off even with the edge of the pie dish. If you would like a neater look, add a single layer of phyllo over top of the folded-in corners, cut in a circle to match the pie’s shape, and buttered on top.
Using a sharp knife, cut the pie into 8 even slices. Bake for 40 minutes. While the pie is baking, make the syrup: Combine the honey, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, then add the cinnamon stick and saffron, and let sit to cool.
When the pie is done, gently pour the cooled syrup over it, making sure most of it gets down into the cracks. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes, then serve with a dollop of the maple whipped cream. The pie can be kept for several days in the refrigerator, but don’t cover it, as that will make it soggy. Enjoy!
Maple Whipped Cream
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)
Beat the cream with an electric mixer until it thickens. Add the maple syrup, and sugar, if using, and continue to beat for a few more minutes. The end result should be a nice thick whipped cream with a hint of maple flavor. Best served immediately.