No Corn Syrup, No Problem Pecan Pie
Text excerpted from How to Bake Everything © 2016 Mark Bittman.
Recipe type: Dessert
For the flaky pie crust:
- 2¼ cups flour
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 sticks very cold butter, cut into chunks
- 6 Tbsp. ice water, plus more if necessary
For the pecan pie:
- ½ recipe flaky pie crust, fitted into a 9-inch pie plate and chilled
- 2 cups pecans
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 6 Tbsp. (¾ stick) butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- To make pie crust: Use a food processor to pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Add the butter and pulse until it is just barely blended with the flour and the butter is broken down to the size of peas. If you prefer to make the dough by hand, combine all the dry ingredients and butter in a large bowl. With your fingertips, 2 knives or forks, or a pastry cutter, work the butter pieces into the flour, being sure to incorporate all of the butter evenly, until the mixture has the texture of small peas.
- Add 6 tablespoons ice water (not just cold water) to the flour mixture. Process for about 5 seconds or mix by hand with a wooden spoon, just until the dough begins to clump together, adding 1 or 2 tablespoons more ice water if necessary (or a little more flour if you add too much water).
- Divide the dough in half and put each half into a quart-size plastic zipper bag. Press the dough into a disk by mushing along the outside of the bag until you have a thick disk shape. It's important not to overheat, overwork, or knead the dough; squeeze it with enough pressure just to hold it together. Freeze the disks of dough for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling. If you're making a single-crust pie, freeze one disk for another time.
- Dust a large pinch of flour over a clean work surface. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough and dust the rolling pin with flour. Too much flour will dry out your dough; you can always sprinkle on a little more if the dough starts to stick. Using firm but not too hard pressure on the pin, start rolling the dough from the center and outward to form a circle. If the dough feels too hard or is cracking a lot, let it rest for a few minutes. As you roll, add flour as needed and rotate and turn the dough with a spatula to form an even circle.
- When the dough circle is about 2 inches larger than the pie plate and less than ⅛ inch thick, it’s ready. Roll the dough up halfway onto the pin so it’s easy to move, then center it over the pie plate and unroll it into place. Press the dough into the contours of the dish without squishing or stretching it; patch any tears with a small scrap of dough, sealed with a drop of water. Trim any excess dough to about ½ inch all around.
- If you’re making a single-crust pie, tuck the edges under themselves so the dough is thicker on the rim than it is inside; if you’re making a double-crust pie, leave the edges untucked for now. Put the pie plate in the fridge until the crust feels cool to the touch before filling or prebaking. For a top crust or embellished crust, roll the second disk into a circle on a flat baking sheet (dusted with flour) and put that in the fridge too.
- To partially bake the crust: Heat the oven to 425°F. Be sure the crust is pressed firmly into the pan, pricked all over with a fork, and well chilled before baking; the fork pricks and hardened butter in the dough will help the crust keep its shape.
- Butter one side of a piece of foil large enough to cover the crust; press the foil onto the crust, butter side down. Scatter your weights in an even layer over the foil and bake for 12 minutes; remove the weights and foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking the crust until it starts to develop a golden brown color, another 10 minutes of so. The crust is now partially baked and ready for any filling that you plan to bake.
- To make pie: Meanwhile, toast the pecans in a dry skillet, shaking and stirring, for about 5 minutes or until the pecans are hot. Cool the pecans and coarsely chop.
- Start the filling while the crust is in the oven. In a medium saucepan, beat the eggs well until foamy. Beat in the sugars, salt, and melted butter. Warm this mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until hot to the touch; do not boil. When the crust is done, turn the oven up to 375°F.
- Stir in the vanilla and pecans. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the still-hot crust and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the mixture shakes like Jell-O but is still quite moist. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
- Bourbon-Pecan Pie: A sweet pie with a kick: substitute ¼ cup bourbon for the vanilla extract.
- Syrupy Pecan Pie: For those who prefer to use corn syrup: substitute 1 cup light corn syrup for the granulated sugar.
- Coffee-Pecan Pie: For a second wind—and perhaps a second slice: add 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder with the vanilla.
- Chocolate-Pecan Pie: The added step for chocolate-lovers: before beginning step 2, melt 2 ounces dark chocolate with 3 tablespoons butter until smooth. Let cool while you beat the eggs, sugars, and salt (omit the remaining butter). Combine the chocolate and egg mixtures and warm gently as in step 2, then proceed as directed.
- Butterscotch-Pecan Pie: Extra sugary and caramelly: use 4 eggs, 1 cup brown sugar, and add ¾ cup cream. Omit the granulated sugar. Add the cream with the sugar and butter in step 2 and proceed as directed.
- Chocolate-Hazelnut Pie: Make the Chocolate-Pecan Pie variation above, but substitute hazelnuts for the pecans.
- Caramel-Peanut Pie: This is really killer: substitute peanuts for the pecans. Place the sugars in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar melts and the mixture turns a deep amber color, resisting the urge to stir as this can cause the sugar to crystallize. Remove from the heat and whisk in ¼ cup cream (be careful; it can foam up) along with the vanilla and salt. When the caramel is warm but not hot, add the eggs and melted butter and beat until smooth. Stir in the peanuts and proceed with the recipe.