I know I shouldn’t be doing this. Even though I cut the sugar quite a bit, we Americans already eat waaaaay too many sweets. And, I’m pretty sure dessert does not need the extra pub. The thing is… this pie is so f’ing amazing – it is, quite literally, a stunner. I made it several times over the holidays, refining and streamlining, and well, it’s been a while since I had a recipe that was so unique.
Additionally, this pie is exquisite proof that you CAN make a scrumptious pecan pie with a delectable consistency without the dreaded, indigestible corn syrup! You just have to follow directions! So, here they are:
*Adapted in large part from Cooks Illustrated (a marvelous magazine for home cooks with a very reasonably priced, searchable online subscription service) with a few tips from Martha Stewart Living, the Kitchn and Emeril Lagasse.
Serves 8 (incredibly rich slices – I’d cut it in 12 or even 16)
1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. finely ground sea salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 – 5 tbs. ice water
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ tsp. finely ground sea salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sorghum or golden syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped into small-ish pieces
3.5 – 5 oz high quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1/4 cup bourbon (optional)
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
- Don’t skimp on blind baking the pie. It makes the crust soooo flaky!
- Sorghum syrup gives this pie a truly unique flavor. I found it at Baker Creek, an amazing heirloom seed shop. You can order it online here: sorghum syrup Alternately, you can use golden syrup or make a simple syrup made from cane sugar (1 cup sugar dissolved in ¼ cup water.) But really, try the sorghum, its pretty amazing.
- Chop the toasted pecans by hand or buy pecan pieces; a food processor will grind them too small.
- If you really like pecans, you could try to add another 1/2-1 cup, but you may run into volume problems. With this recipe, a standard pie pan works great. If you use more pecans, be careful when filling the pie crust. There should be a good 1/2-1 inch of space between the top of the crust and the top of the filling/pecans. Hold some back if you are getting close. During the baking the pie will expand, mine turned into quite a dome. As it cools, the filling will settle back into the pie crust.
- You could also skip the bourbon, but it gives the pie another unique layer of flavor. Plus, by the time the pie is served all of the alcohol will have burned off, so need to worry about your teetotaler friends, if you have any.
1. FOR THE CRUST: Mix flour, sugar, and salt in food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter over dry ingredients and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, 10 to 15 seconds. Sprinkle with 3 tbsp water. Pulse until dough forms a ball. If it’s still crumbly, add more water.
If you don’t have a food processor, mix the dry ingredients with a fork. Add the butter chunks. Using quick rubbing motions between your thumb and first two fingers (kind of like the international hand signal for cash) incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. It’s ok if there are a few clumps of butter left. Add 3 tbsp of the water and stir with a flat wooden spoon. The mixture should form a rough ball. If its crumbly or if there is a lot of flour left in the bowl, add more water, 1/2 tbsp at a time.
2. Shape dough into ball with hands, then flatten into disk 4-inches in diameter. Dust dough lightly with flour, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. (You can also make pie dough well in advance and freeze it until you are ready to use it. When using frozen dough, allow enough time for it defrost completely, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.)
3. Roll dough on lightly floured surface into 13-inch circle and transfer to 9-inch pie pan, preferably glass. Press dough into corners and sides of pan, being careful not to stretch dough. Trim edges of dough to make 1/2-inch overhang. Tuck overhanging dough under so that folded edge is flush with rim of pan. Flute edge.
4. Chill shell until firm, about 1 hour. Prick sides and bottom with fork and line entire shell with heavy-duty aluminum foil, pressing foil firmly against shell and extending it over fluted rim. Prick foil with fork and return shell to refrigerator while oven is heating.
5. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake until crust is firmly set, about 15 minutes. If the dough seems to be puffing up, press once or twice with mitt-protected hands. Remove foil and continue to bake until bottom begins to color, about 10 minutes longer.
6. Lower oven temperature to 275 degrees.
FOR THE FILLING:
7. Melt chocolate. Place chocolate in a small glass, heat-resistant bowl. Put the bowl in a skillet with about an inch of water heated to the point right before the water simmers. Mix chocolate constantly to distribute heat. You want to heat the chocolate gently, to the point where 99% of the chocolate is melted. If using a microwave, it shouldn’t take longer than 30 seconds on high, but heat the chocolate in 10 second increments, stirring in between. If you need more heat, heat in 10 second segments. The chocolate should be shiny and smooth. If it looks crumbly, set that batch aside for something and start over.
8. Melt butter in medium heatproof bowl set in the same skillet of water. Remove bowl from skillet; mix in sugar and salt with wooden spoon until butter is absorbed. Beat in eggs, then syrup, vanilla, nutmeg (if using) and bourbon. Return bowl to hot water; stir until mixture is shiny and warm to the touch, about 130 degrees. Be careful not to overheat the mixture. You want to temper the eggs without scrambling them before they go in the oven. Mix in the chocolate and then promptly remove from heat. You can mix the pecans into the filling, or layer them on top after the filling has been poured in.
9. Pour mixture into warm shell (if shell has cooled, place it in the oven at 275 for a few minutes). Bake pie until center feels set yet soft, like gelatin, when gently pressed, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer pie to rack; let cool completely, at least 4 hours. Serve pie at room temperature or warm, with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
If you prefer to serve the pie warm, cool the pie thoroughly so that it sets completely, then rewarm it in a 250-degree oven for about 15 minutes.
And let me know how it goes!