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I saw the question about UK, but I don't think I can find treacle of any kind in Germany.

I am looking for a substitute which will keep the physical qualities of the pie filling reasonably close to the original. I don't mind if the sweetness changes (in fact, I'd probably like it if it is less sweet than the original) and I don't mind introducing new aromas into the recipe.

My first idea was to make a very light caramel, and eventually keep it sticky with a dash of lemon juice. Then I could probably try to solve sugar in maple syrup, which will also introduce a new flavor and also keep it sweet.

Probably the closest thing to real corn syrup sold in the supermarket here is beet sugar syrup. But it isn't high on my list, because I probably won't use the rest up.

I also plan to use walnuts instead of pecans, if it makes any difference (pecans are quite rare here too).

The substitution shouldn't be too adventurous, I am baking this for guests (if I were alone and the filling got too thin or too thick to call it a pie, I'd still eat it as long as the taste is OK).

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Note that while I'm sure you can make a very good dessert with chocolate and walnuts, it will be pretty much nothing like chocolate pecan pie. Walnuts and pecans have very similar shapes, but quite different flavors. –  Marti Feb 15 '11 at 0:58
    
Some of the Zuckerrübensirup look suitable as a replacement, the darker versions. Should be purchasable in healthfood stores. –  Orbling Feb 15 '11 at 2:02
    
@Marti, this is OK. My guests don't expect a genuine American pecan pie, they only expect a cake. But it had better be good, I have a reputation to uphold. –  rumtscho Feb 15 '11 at 11:50
    
@Orbling I thought of that, but I am not really sure that it is the same. Besides, I never use it, so I'll have to throw the rest away - if not now, then in five years when I clean the pantry. –  rumtscho Feb 15 '11 at 11:51
    
@rumtscho: It would probably be sufficiently similar for the recipe. But really, most proper sugar syrups would suffice. I think maple would make an excellent replacement, though with a strong flavour change. –  Orbling Feb 15 '11 at 12:29
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8 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If treacle would make a good substitute, what about molasses? I think your idea of maple syrup would probably be delicious, so if you have that, it's what I'd try!

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Treacle is vastly sweeter than molasses. –  Orbling Feb 15 '11 at 1:56
    
I think that molasses are as hard to get as treacle, but I'll look for both in a health food store. I can easily get real maple syrup, but I don't know if I can get the consistency right as I never have handled corn syrup. –  rumtscho Feb 15 '11 at 11:57
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@rumtscho - The corn syrup I've used is similar in consistency to maple syrup. I actually think molasses is probably thicker. In the Netherlands, molasses can be found in jars at the Natuurwinkel (a chain of healthy/organic food stores), so some place similar in Germany is probably a likely bet. –  Allison Feb 15 '11 at 14:17
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Back then, I chickened out and made a reliable choco-banana cake for the guests. But I still wanted to try the pie, and finally got around to making it, even getting real pecans for it.

I cooked the substitute to get an idea of the desired consistency, but I think it got way too dense. Then I looked over all the sweeteners I had, and settled on a 1:1 mixture of beet sugar syrup and honey. The syrup was there to make it dark and, well, syrupy, and I hoped that the glucose in the honey will prevent sugar crystalization (it didn't do it perfectly, but it was OK) and that I'll get a denser consistency.

Now the pie is ready, after a night in the fridge. The consistency is really good, firm, but not overly sticky. It doesn't have the soufle-foamy feel you sometimes get with egg-heavy pie filling, and this is a big advantage in my book. But the taste would have been much better if it were less sweet. Next time I think I'll skip all the sugar and use less of the honey-syrup mix. Today, my co-workers will get some sweet pie.

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I asked my chef-instructor this question once when I took a cake baking class. She replied that Agave nectar is a good one-to-one substitute.

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The point of the corn syrup may be to help the sugar dissolve or stop it crystallizing, in which case you need a substitute that includes glucose or fructose rather than sucrose. If you can't get corn syrup or golden syrup or glucose syrup then boiling a syrup made with sugar and an acid such as cream of tartar will convert some of the sucrose to fructose and glucose.

You can probably reduce the need for glucose or fructose by mixing the filling very thoroughly so that the sugar is all dissolved.

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If the recipe is so sweet that I risk the sugar crystallizing, I'll just make it without the sugar - I am trying to make a pie, not bonbons. But anyway, I think that this isn't much of a problem, the 8 eggs should provide enough fluid to prevent crystallization. –  rumtscho Feb 15 '11 at 12:13
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If you can find it, glucose syrup is an excellent substitute. It's arguably healthier, preferred in confectionery work, about half as sweet as corn syrup, and a 1:1 substitute in most cases (except for the sweetness).

Here in the US, I have to order mine from Amazon, but it's worth a look in your local stores.

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Strange, most German sources state that glucose syrup is a synonym for corn syrup. Anyway, I can't get it locally, and it is too late to order over the Internet. –  rumtscho Feb 15 '11 at 12:03
    
It's a matter of the fructose quantity. In the US, corn syrup is almost always mostly fructose. Glucose syrup should have very little fructose if any. At least that's my understanding. –  Computerish Feb 19 '11 at 22:39
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I did a little research and found this page which has a modified sugar syrup recipe for a substitute.

In case the link breaks:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (spelling corrected by me)
  • dash of salt

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a heavy, large pan. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and put a cover on for 3 minutes to get sugar crystals off the sides of the pan. Uncover and cook until it reaches soft ball stage. Stir often.

Cool syrup and store in a covered container at room temperature. It will keep 2 months. Yield: almost 2 cups. For dark corn syrup add 1/4 cup molasses to the above recipe.

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This works. I have made pecan pie using a syrup similar to this one (just the sugar and water) and it worked very well. –  Sobachatina Feb 14 '11 at 19:55
    
This is interesting, but first, it sounds like lots of sugar for the filling, and second, I thought that corn syrup had its own taste, else why use it instead of dissolved sugar? Third, the recipe specifies dark syrup, and I can't get molasses. Anyway, your answer is already very helpful because now I know that it has the same consistency as a softball stage sugar syrup, so whatever I try as a substitute, I now have a guideline for consistency. –  rumtscho Feb 15 '11 at 12:10
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@rumtscho, actually, corn syrup doesn't taste like much of anything. It's just a different kind of sugar than the usual sucrose, and thus using both sugar & corn syrup is a way to prevent crystallization in the final product. –  Marti Feb 15 '11 at 14:55
    
I finally tried it, and I think that while the idea could work, the ratios are way off. The syrup is very oversaturated and extremely difficult to work with, one small slip and it turns into fondant. If I try it next time, I'd work with somewhere between 3:1.5 and 3:1.8 sugar ratio, not a 3:1.15 like given here. –  rumtscho Mar 15 '11 at 8:47
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Well, it's basically a Pecan Pie, and there are tons of Pecan Pie recipes that don't include corn syrup. The most common substitution is brown sugar: you can go roughly 1-to-1, but you'll need to increase the amount of butter, and you might as well just replace the white sugar with brown as well. (so, in this case, 2 cups DARK brown sugar (packed), and 1/2 cup butter.

Not sure how the chocolate will react, but your recipe calls for dark syrup, so the taste shouldn't be a big factor.

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Good idea, but when I am cooking an untried recipe for guests, I'd only take one from a book I trust. The random ones could be good, but sometimes they can backfire really bad. –  rumtscho Feb 15 '11 at 11:53
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not sure if it would yield the same results, but i was going to suggest maybe sorghum syrup? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorghum_syrup

it seems like something that predates the introduction of commercially-produced stuff like corn syrup. it certainly would change the flavor, but maybe it would be for the better. : )

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Not easily available either. But a nice thought, maybe I'll try to get some for later just to taste it. –  rumtscho Feb 15 '11 at 12:04
    
there's always the internet : ) but it came to my mind because, even though i live in the west and far from the south where it is probably better known, i can pick it up at my local grocery store. i see it on a dusty shelf every time i go there, and i keep vowing to pick up a bottle for experiments in the kitchen, haha. –  franko Feb 15 '11 at 14:40
    
I did a Google search; in German, there are practically no hits. It seems to be available in the UK if one is willing to search health food shops, but I couldn't turn up an European source selling it online. And getting it from an online seller situated outside Europe is not worth it because import tax + sales tax + shipping will easily triple the price (if I can easily import food over a postal service, which may be prohibited by law). So I guess I won't taste the stuff until I travel to another continent. –  rumtscho Feb 15 '11 at 15:14
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