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.  

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Perfect Pie Crust

We admit it, we’ve gone a little overboard in recent years in search of the perfect pie crust.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

We’ve experimented with the food processor, resorted to adding vodka instead of water to our dough, all in the quest for perfection.  We’ve come full circle back to a humble basic pie dough.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

The method relies on a hands-on approach to work the butter into the flour and hand patting and turning the dough to create layers without over working the dough.  The results are a tender-tasty-flaky crust — every time.  And, importantly to us — it’s a method that is as friendly to first time pie makers as those of us looking to return to a simpler method with consistent results.  No fancy gadgets required.  All you need is a bowl and a plastic scraper.  Easy cleanup (woohoo!)

Basic Pie Dough

Makes one 9-inch double-crust pie shell

Want an easy way to remember our recipe without having to look it up again?  3 + 2 + 1!  3 parts flour  2 parts butter 1 part ice water.

2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and frozen for 15 minutes

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

½  teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

½ cup ice water

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, add the chilled butter and toss to coat the butter with flour.  Quickly rub the butter with the flour between your fingers to make flat pieces of butter. Take care not to overwork  the butter – you want to work each piece, but should still have pea-sized lumps of the butter in the flour.  Sprinkle in the salt and sugar and toss with your fingers to mix.  Add the water and using a plastic scraper and a quick a folding motion, mix the dough just until it begins to clump together.   The dough will look sandy and lumpy at this point and that’s okay.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface dusted with flour and gently pat out the dough into a flat disk about an 1-inch thick.  Fold the dough in on itself until the dough just begins to hold together and is no longer sandy on the edges.  Once the dough begins to come together, fold dough in half, turn it a quarter-turn and pat it out flat again to an inch thick.  Repeat this process 4 to 5 more times.  Butter will still be visible in the dough — it’s these pieces of butter that result in a flaky dough!  Divide the dough in half and flatten each piece into a disk one more time and wrap them in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to an hour before rolling out.

Dough Tips:

Always use cold ingredients — ice cold butter and ice water are your friends in pie dough making.

Don’t skimp on the refrigerator time required in the recipe before rolling out.  While the dough rests in the fridge the water is absorbed in the dough and the butter firms up.  A properly rested and chilled dough relaxes,  making it easier to roll out.

To make pie making easier, we usually make the dough the day before we plan to make pies to spread out the work.  Dough tightly wrapped in plastic wrap will last in the fridge up to 2 days (after that it becomes an unappealing gry color) or throw it in the freezer for up to 3 months.  Want to get a jump on the Thanksgiving feast madness?  Make pie dough this weekend and store in the freezer until ready to use.  Allow dough to thaw in the fridge before rolling.

Ready to Roll?

Rolling Tips

Less is more when it comes to the amount of flour used to roll out the dough.  You need just enough so the dough doesn’t stick to your board or your rolling pin.  Brush off excess flour with a pastry brush (or your hands)  before placing your dough in your pie pan.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

If dough becomes too soft and floppy to work with while you are rolling out (first time pie makers sometimes have this problem) put the dough on a baking sheet and return it to the fridge until it becomes firm enough to work with.  The butter in the dough needs to remain firm (not melted and completely incorporated into the dough) for flakiness.

Keep the dough moving!  After every couple rolls give the dough a quarter turn.  Every quarter turn is an opportunity to make sure the dough is not sticking to your work surface.  Dough stuck to the rolling pin?  Rub off the stuck dough with a little flour until it is clean and then add a light sprinkle of flour to the top of your dough.  Your dough is stuck to your work surface?  A long metal spatula is a pie rookie’s best friend.  Using short strokes run the spatula between the dough and the work surface until it releases.  Dust the work surface with flour and continue rolling.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

Scraps!

Hey, don’t throw away those leftover bits of dough.  Here’s a fun delicious Pastry Cookie you can make from the scraps!

Happy pie making!  Don’t forget if you like our videos please LIKE them on YouTube and/or SHARE them with your friends!