Monday, November 19, 2012

Pecan Pie

I'm a savory cook, not a baker.  The one exception to that rule is pie making, particularly pecan pie. To both bake and eat it feels so familiar and comforting.  Having grown up going to the back country of Idaho every Summer for vacation, with no TV or electricity, we kids had to find things to do - baking pies and riding horses were my chosen sport.  I made all kinds of pies, from fresh rhubarb to apple and berry pies --  made one just about every day. And it always takes me back to being that ten year old girl -- baking for my family, feeling so useful and proud as everyone ate their slice of my days work.  And I always knew it was one of my better pies when my Father would eat it for breakfast, when all traces of pie were gone.  But, I digress...

I've used many different recipes throughout the years but quick and easy pie crust recipe from the Joy of Cooking married with the tried and true Karo corn syrup filling recipe are by far the best.  I've tried many variations including adding chocolate but I prefer the simple pecan-only execution.  One change I have made and insist works best is that in lieu of using half cup of butter for the crust, which the recipe calls for, I use 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup Crisco.  It makes the crust ever so light and crisp.  Here's the recipe:

  • 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1/4 cup Crisco
  • 4 Tbsp ice water
  • 3 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C Karo light or dark corn syrup (I prefer light)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 1/4 C pecan halves
For the crust: begin by filling a glass with water and several ice cubes, set aside.  Then mix together the first two ingredients. The recipe calls for a mixer but since I never had one, I do it all by hand and it's just as good if not a little more of a workout.  Add the chilled butter and Crisco and take a fork or a pastry cutter to the mix.  Make sure to get all the butter and Crisco clumps out with the fork so that there are no large pieces. Then add a tablespoon of the reserved ice water and add one by one, mix as you go.  The recipe calls for 4 Tbsp but I tend to need five.  It varies by elevation.  Once the mix begins to stick together, form into a ball.  Once ball is formed, wrap with wax paper and refrigerate for at least two hours.  This will make it easier to roll out.  You can even make the day before or even freeze if you really want to get a jump start.

For the pie filling: preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl add the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and melted butter.  Mix so there are no clumps.  Then add the pecans.  Cover and set aside.

The last step is rolling out the pie dough.  My trick is to put two sheet of wax paper down: one vertical, one horizontal.  Add some flour on top and grab your pie dough from the fridge.  You want your pie dough to roll out to be at least 14."  Once it's rolled, put the pie dish on top of the dough and scoop underneath the wax paper with one hand and flip the pie dish over.  Then simply peel the wax paper away from the pie.  Easiest transfer ever!  I like to make the edges pretty.  Fold over any excess and make a waffle like weave with your index and middle fingers.  You can also use a fork.  Whatever you think looks pretty!

I've read many articles on cooking pies at different temperatures.  My most successful attempts have been cooking a bit longer on a lower heat: 15 mins on 350, bringing the heat down to 300 for about 50 - 55 mins. that way you don't burn the crust and the filling will still crack (which you want to happen).  You know it's done when you see cracks in the filling or when you stab the area between the middle of the pie and the edge with a knife and the knife comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 1 hour.  Reheat for 10 mins on 300 before serving alla mode. Have fun and enjoy!