Really good Pecan Pie (to my humble palette) is that perfect balance of flaky pie crust, pecans and chewy caramel. This is not your typical Pecan Pie with soft custard for filling, It’s more like pecan candy in a pie. If that sounds good to you then watch and read on.
The trick doesn’t lie so much in the ingredients but in a few simple tips.
• One, cook the butter and sugar mixture prior to baking the pie. This gives a head start on caramelizing. You’ll end up with a chewier texture and deeper flavor.
• Two, cook your pies in 8” standard pie plates (not the deep kind), this avoids the thick custard like filling we are trying to avoid.
Southern Pecan Pie
• 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
• 2 cup sugar
• 2 cup light corn syrup
• 6 eggs, beaten
• 2 1/2 cups lightly chopped pecans
• 2 unbaked 8-inch pie shell
• 1 Tbsp. Vanilla
• ½ tsp salt
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter slowly on low heat (don’t let it brown). Add sugar, corn syrup and salt. Turn the heat up to medium and stir until sugar dissolves, approx. 5 minutes. Bring to a boil and let simmer (stirring occasionally) for 10 – 15 minutes or until you start to see a little color in the mixture. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally while cooling.
While mixture is cooling you can mix the other ingredients, chop pecans and/or roll out dough. I roughly chop the pecans. You can leave them whole, but I find it’s easier to cut the pie if they are chopped a bit.
Mix 6 large eggs in a bowl and add vanilla. Mix with a fork. When butter/sugar mixture has cooled off a bit, slowly add egg mixture, mixing at the same time so it doesn’t curdle. Mix in pecans. Pour into the pie shells and bake for 1 hour or until firm when shaken.
Flaky Pie Pastry
This is my Mother’s Pie crust recipe and it never fails to be flaky. Again, it’s the technique that guarantees you success.
What we’re trying to achieve with pie crust is layers of fat between flour. This is what makes it flaky. If you mix it too much, you lose those layers. If your fat is not cold, it will melt into the flour and yup, you guessed it, no more layers. This recipe has a combination of butter and lard. Lard makes dough flaky and butter makes it taste good, a perfect pie world!
This may all sound complicated, but once you do it, you’ll see it’s very easy and quick. And did I mention flaky?
• Keep everything as cold as possible.
• Touch dough as little as possible.
• Do everything quickly.
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp salt
• ½ cup cold butter, cubed
• ½ cup cold lard, cubed
• 1 egg
• 2 tsp vinegar
• Ice water
In a large bowl, whisk flour with salt. Using pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter and lard until in coarse crumbs with larger pieces. If you have the time, it’s a good idea to cube the butter and lard ahead of time and refrigerate the cubes so they are super cold.
Break an egg into a 2/3 cup measuring cup. Add vinegar and then top it off with ice water. Drizzle this mixture over the flour mixture and toss with a fork until it starts clumping together. Use your hands to finish creating a ball of dough, but just press, don’t knead it. Flour is sensitive to humidity. If you dough seems too dry to form into a ball sprinkle a little more water, a tsp at a time, and most likely not more than a tsp.
On a floured surface, cut dough in half and flatten each half into a disk shape, approx. ½” thick. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a half hour. You can keep dough in fridge for up to 3 days. If the dough has been refrigerated for a long time and is very hard, let sit at room temperature to soften a bit before rolling.
I like to use a rolling mat with pie dough, but my Mom would roll out the dough between waxed paper which worked wonderfully too. When you’re ready to roll out the dough, flour your mat lightly and your rolling pin. (I use a marble rolling pin to help keep things cold.)
Starting in the middle, roll out toward edges slowly, maintaining the shape of a circle. When disk is a little flatter, but still quite small, I turn it over and sprinkle a little more flour on the surface of the mat and the dough. This avoids the dough getting stuck on the mat. Continue rolling until the diameter is large then the circumference of the pie shell, approx. 14” for a 8” pie plate.
Carefully transfer to pie plate. Gently lift edges (never stretch dough) and let it fall into the shape of the pie plate. Cut dough approx. 1” from edge of pan with a knife. Tuck dough under and crimp with your fingers or fork.