Perfect Pecan Pie

Rich and delicious a perfect pecan pie is a study in contrasts… nutty crunchy pecans on top with a layer of silky-not too-sweet filling underneath.  Chef Mia is our pecan pie purist (she’s been making pecan pie since she was knee high!) and insists that this contrast between gooey filling and the pretty concentric circles of whole nuts on top is what pecan pie is all about.

Pecan Pie with Chantilly Cream | Dear Martini

Her secret to the perfect filling is resisting the urge to whisk the filling.  Unlike many other pie fillings, you DO NOT want to incorporate air in the filling.   To make it look as good as it tastes, we take the time to place the nuts in concentric circles in the bottom of the shell before pouring in the filling.  Many cooks just toss them in with the filling.  Using our preferred method as you pour the filling over the nuts they are coated with the filling and magically float to the top (creating the two distinct layers!)  Top off the pie with a dollop of Bourbon Chantilly Cream and it’s heaven.  And, before we fall into that sugar coma after the Thanksgiving meal we usually head outside for  an after dinner walk (or as Mia’s dad likes to say “the pre-amble to a second piece-o-pie”!)  Be sure to check out our post Perfect Pie Crust to learn the secrets to making the best pie crust (ever!)  and video tips on how to roll and crimp the dough.

Check out the video to see for yourself the pecan magic.

Pecan Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

Yep, you read that right… the recipe calls for a pinch of finely ground black pepper!  Just as with savory dishes a little salt and pepper brings out and enhances the flavors in a sweet dish too.

4 large eggs, beaten

1 cup dark corn syrup

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch finely ground black pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

1 ¼ cups pecan halves

1 recipe Bourbon Chantilly Cream

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, combine eggs and corn syrup; stir to combine.  Add sugar, salt, pepper, and vanilla, and melted butter.  Allow filling mixture to rest while you place the pecans in the pie shell.

Remove your pie shell from the refrigerator.  Place pecans in concentric circles on the bottom of the pie shell.  Pour filling gently over the pecans following the concentric circles as a path.  Once all of the pecans are floating, continue to pour the remaining filling around the edge trying not to disturb the circles.  If you have left over pecans, you can fill in gaps and or slide them gently underneath the top pecans.  Bake pie in the center of the oven 40-50 minutes or until center is firm.  Remove pie from oven and cool on a baking rack for at least 1 hour before serving.  Do not even think about cutting this pie before it cools — the pie needs the cooling time for the filling to set — if you cut it hot the filling will ooze all over the plate.  

Cut pie into wedges and serve with a generous dollop of Chantilly Cream.

Cook’s note: Pecans have a tendency to go rancid quickly (as do all high fat nuts.)   Store nuts in the freezer for best results.

How to Make a Pecan Pie | Dear Martini

Bourbon Chantilly Cream

Makes 2 cups

Chantilly Cream is the  cooking term for any lightly sweetened whipped cream that includes a liqueur.

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon bourbon

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Place your bowl and whisk in the fridge 20 minutes before you are ready to whip the cream.  Whip the cream with bourbon and powdered sugar. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Cook’s note:  Substitute 3 teaspoons of vanilla if you’d rather skip the bourbon.  

Piece of Cake

Piece of Cake | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

First things first — you do not need to make your cake look like a store-bought cake with the fanciest of decorations (sigh of relief heard ’round the world.) Focus on making your cake TASTE great and the looking-good will follow. In pursuit of making cake baking easier, we’ve outlined some of the tips and techniques to help you avoid the common pitfalls novice bakers face.

MAKE:

Adjust the rack before you light the oven. We’ve all opened up the oven to find the rack in the wrong place. Bake cakes (unless instructed otherwise) on the center rack for even heat distribution.

Bring ingredients to room temperature | www.dearmartini.wordpress.comBring all refrigerated ingredients to room temperature. It takes about 20-30 minutes for most ingredients to reach room temp about 65-70 degrees. Eggs are always large (not extra-large) and butter is always unsalted unless your recipe states otherwise.

Cold eggs are easier to separate. If you are an egg novice — try separating while cold and then bring them to room temperature.

Take the time to prepare your pans properly. It sincerely sucks when you’ve spent a lot of time making a cake only to have a major fail when trying to get it out of the pan.

Use the freshest ingredients available. This sounds like it goes without saying, but before you start a baking project, the day before double-check your expiration date on the baking powder and, if you bake infrequently, that your flour is not a million years old. Rancid flour (develops a sour-off taste) and baking powder that is old will ruin all of your hard work. It’s also the time to double-check that you have all the ingredients you need in your pantry so you don’t have to make a middle-of-the-project run to the store. Having all of the proper ingredients at hand will also prevent you from falling to the temptation of substituting ingredients or using less of an ingredient. Baking is an exact science and making substitutions is the purview of the experienced baker ONLY.

Measure your ingredients carefully. For liquid ingredients always use a liquid measuring cup (one with a spout.) For dry ingredients use the dip and sweep method. For the most accurate results, experienced bakers weigh all of their ingredients with a digital kitchen scale.

No skimping on the sifting! Sifting aerates the ingredients and ensures that all of the dry ingredients are thoroughly combined. If you don’t have a sifter (we never use one) you can use a wire mesh strainer.

Take your time when combining butter and sugar. It takes about 5 minutes to beat or cream these ingredients together. Creaming adds tiny air pockets to your batter and is the secret to a light cake.

Incorporate dry ingredients on low or by hand to avoid too much gluten development. Recipes always say don’t over beat… this is what they are referring to. Gluten development results in tough, dry cake.

Whip egg whites to the proper consistency as called for in the recipe. Need help with being able to tell soft peaks from firm peaks be sure to watch the video!

BAKE:

Cakes Need Space

Baking 2 cakes? Allow enough room in between (a couple inches — pans should not touch) and on all the sides for proper heat circulation.

The Big Switch | ww.dearmartini.wordpress.com

twist the pans for even baking | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

When you start to smell a cake, that’s usually a good indicator that it is done. But that’s not always the case. To check if your cake is done insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out with just a few dry crumbs, the cake is done. If the toothpick is moist, continue baking and check again after 5 minutes. Resist the urge to open and close the oven multiple times! Every time you open the oven you lose heat from the oven.

COOL:

Unless otherwise stated in the recipe, allow cakes to cool 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove cake from the pan and completely cool on the wire rack.

NEVER try to ice/frost a warm cake. Cakes need to be completely cool or the frosting will melt.

Enjoy:

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Wishing you many great cakes and happy baking!

Mia and Terri xxoo

Ps. We love hearing from you and would love to see photos of your cakes. Send us a photo and we will share!