AN EXPERIMENT IN PECAN PIE by Sandra Lewis
by Sandra Lewis    Thu, Dec 1, 2005, 01:09 PM

pecanpie.jpgWhile growing up my mother’s favorite cooking adventures were desserts.

But I’ve never been a dessert person, ever.

While my family was chowing down on whatever ooey-gooey, sugary creation my mom had prepared, I’d have a second helping of black-eyed peas, squash, okra, or whatever vegetable was on the table. The extent of my dessert consumption would be a “taste” so I wouldn’t hurt my mom’s feelings.

So I guess it will come as no surprise that before this Thanksgiving I’ve never made a pie.

I've never had an interest. In addition to the fact that pie falls into my least favorite food category, I thought pie crust was tricky, time consuming, and, yawn, just not exciting.

But as fate would have it, my neighbor had a bumper crop of pecans this year. (I had written about my pecan shelling adventure previously here.)

And it just seemed time that I try my hand at pecan pie. Thanksgiving was approaching and so I did.

I made a test pie a couple of weeks ago. Making pie crust was not as tricky or time consuming as I thought and definitely not boring.

According to Brian, Ariel’s boyfriend, I made the best pecan pie he’s had in all of his 18 years.

With feedback like that there will definitely be more pies in my future.

I made the same pie again at Thanksgiving with only one complication. Note to self: next time don't leave the pie unattended in the presence of a teenager who picks the pecans out of it before Thanksgiving dinner.

So here is the recipe. There’s plenty of time to give this a try with the upcoming holidays.

Let me know what you think.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Crust
1/4 cups all-purpose bleached flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg

Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl and stir well to mix. Cut butter into 1-tablespoon pieces and add to dry ingredients. Toss once or twice to coat pieces of butter. Then using your hands or a pastry blender, break the butter into tiny pieces and pinch and squeeze it into the dry ingredients. Occasionally reach down to the bottom of the bowl and mix all the ingredients evenly together. Continue rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse-ground cornmeal and no large pieces of butter remain visible. Beat the egg(s) in a small bowl and pour over the flour and butter mixture. Stir in with a fork until the dough begins to hold together, but still appears somewhat dry. Scatter a teaspoon of flour on the work surface and scrape the dough out onto it. Press and knead the dough quickly 3 or 4 times, until it is smooth and uniform.

Press the dough into a disk.  Sandwich the disk of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and press it into a 6-inch circle. Refrigerate the dough until firm, or until you are ready to use it, at least 1 hour.   Storage: Keep the dough in the refrigerator up to two days, or freeze it double-wrapped in plastic. Because the dough is thin, it will defrost quickly at room temperature when you intend to use it.

Variations:  Add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon each freshly grated nutmeg and ground cloves to the dry ingredients before mixing in the butter.  

Filling
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 cups chopped toasted pecans
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten

While the crust is baking make the filling: In medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stirring constantly, continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts, bourbon, and the vanilla. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. (If the crust has cooled, return it to the oven for 5 minutes to warm through.) Whisk the beaten eggs into the filling until smooth. Put the pie shell on a sheet pan and pour the filling into the hot crust.

Bake on the lower oven rack until the edges are set but the center is still slightly loose, about 40 to 45 minutes. (If the edges get very dark, cover them with aluminum foil half way during baking.) Cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or room temperature.

Sandra’s Kitchen Notes:

  •  I adapted this recipe from a couple of recipes I found on FoodNetwork.com.
  • I chopped and toasted ½ cup of the pecans.  I will try toasing all of the pecans next time.
  • I used two tablespoons of bourbon :).  
  • I didn’t use the spices in the crust, but think it would make for an interesting variation.
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