Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nesting with Pie

Back before Baby Grady was born, when I should have been scrubbing the grout in my bathroom with a toothbrush, I was instead returning to my annual pie challenge. Yes, instead of proper nesting behavior, I was busy ensuring that, even if we were in the hospital on or prior to Thanksgiving, we would still have pie waiting for us when we arrived home. Because for me Thanksgiving success is pie-dependent. I tend to think that an adequately appointed Thanksgiving feast spread includes one pie per adult guest. Less than that makes me a little nervous, if I’m being honest.

My favorite pie is pecan. But wouldn’t you know that even at my age, I was still searching for the perfect recipe? I always felt that while the pecan pie was my favorite, it was failing to live up to its full potential. So, really, my idea of the perfect pecan pie was my favorite. Actual pecan pies are so often too gooey, too cloying, Well, no longer, because this year? This year I did it. I made the perfect pecan pie, and now you can too.


Suz’s Perfect Pecan Pie
(adapted from a recipe that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle many years ago, according to the internets)

For the crust: Just buy a dang crust, okay? I buy mine from the Whole Foods, because I’m gluten-free like that. But seriously, those frozen Pillsbury ones are awesome. I’m pretty sure they are Pillsbury... and pretty sure they are frozen... Granny J would know for sure. Now that I’m thinking more about it, it could be that they are sold in the refrigerated section, but Granny J freezes them. I know I once called her from the supermarket because I couldn’t find them, and I think this might have been why. And yes, I know some of you out there are feeling appalled, offended, hurt... thinking that if I were a food blogger, you would definitely stop reading me. You’d unsubscribe! All four of you! Well, I am not a food blogger, and I have eaten many a pie crust that someone made from scratch, with great heaps of disdain for the possibly Pillsbury, possibly frozen ones. And I didn’t like them as much. This can possibly be blamed on my upbringing, much the way I prefer diet soda to regular. Totally Granny J’s doing. Anyway, if you don’t buy the crust, you are on your own. Make whatever labor-intensive traditional pastry pie crust has been handed down through the generations in your family.

For the filling:  
1.5+ cups pecans (I used a mix of “chopped” and “chips” to provide maximum coverage. Halves are prettier, but I like the smaller pieces from a gustatory perspective.)
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon maple whiskey (You could probably substitute just ordinary whiskey or bourbon, since maple whiskey is not that easy to come by, unless you are in Canada or the Northeast. But, on the off-chance you have a bottle of maple whiskey in the cabinet, like, from your honeymoon in Canada or something, this would be a really good use of a tablespoon of it. It also makes a mean hot toddy. Or ice cream topping. Or straight-up beverage. Also, you could probably leave this out, and still have a delicious pie.)

First, I like to pre-bake my pie crust, even for a pie that gets cooked. It’s just how I do. So, do that, according to package or recipe directions, or don’t, if that’s not how you do. It might be a gluten-free thing -- gluten-free baked goods tend to need a little more time to get the right toasty texture.

Once your crust is ready, in whatever form you like it, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

To make the filling, combine the pecans, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, flour and salt in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat. Cool 15 minutes.

Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and whiskey. Stir about 1/2 cup of the hot sugar mixture into the eggs to temper them, then stir this mixture into the hot sugar mixture. Pour the filling into the pie shell.

Bake 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until the custard has set and the nuts rise to the top, about 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool.

Serve with vanilla ice cream. (Obviously.)

1 comment:

  1. MAPLE WHISKEY? ok now I have to search for that, it sounds amazing!

    One of the pies I had last weekend was hazelnut pie, Oregon having lots of hazelnuts and not so many pecans. IT WAS FABULOUS!

    now I want pie. see why I don't watch food shows on TV???