Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pecan Pie

I promise photos of the house very soon, but in the meantime, I have to share a recipe with you.  Over the weekend I made a pecan pie for a very special family event, and I thought, what better dessert to celebrate autumn than pecan pie?

I've made it before, but I decided to try a new recipe this time, and I'm glad I did.  Actually, I combined a couple of different recipes from Martha Stewart and Nick Malgieri, added a few variations of my own, and came up with what turned out to be my favorite pecan pie ever.  Less dense and gooey than many, this one has almost a custardy texture, and while no pecan pie feels light when you eat it, this is as close to creamy as a pecan pie can get.  It's all due to the eggs--lots of 'em.  Plus, I use very, very little light corn syrup compared to most pecan pies, which often get their sweetness from loads of dark corn syrup.  The sweetness in this version comes instead from molasses and brown sugar, making the flavor deeper and more complex--more autumnal.  Molasses is a traditional sweetener in New England desserts like Indian pudding, so if you like that kind of fall treat, you will love this pie!  It is not health food, that's for sure, but a little sliver is all you need (okay maybe two slivers), topped with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream--or even plain.

The Magpie's Pecan Pie

For the crust (adapted from Nick Malgieri's sweet dough recipe):

Note: I make a double crust recipe, using one half to make the crust and the other half to roll out and make little leaves for the top of the pie.  The recipe here is for one crust. If you'd like to decorate your pie with leaves or other cutouts, simply double it.

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 large egg

I make this in a food processor, but you can make it by hand, too.

  • Combine the dry ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
  • Pulse 3 times at 1-second intervals.
  • Cut the butter into 1-T pieces and toss in work bowl.
  • Pulse about fifteen times until the mixture resembles corn meal.  
  • Add the egg to the work bowl and pulse until the dough forms a ball.  This only takes 10-15 seconds.
  • Scatter a little flour on your clean work surface.
  • Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead it 3 or 4 times quickly until it all holds together.  Do not overwork!
  • Press dough into a disk and sandwich it between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Press into a 6-inch circle, seal it with the wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Ingredients for the filling (adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook):
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 Tablespoon bourbon, dark rum, or rum flavoring
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped, plus 1/3 cup whole pecan halves

To make the pie:
  • Set a rack at the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  • Roll out the chilled crust and set in a 9-inch pie pan.  I use a Pyrex pan for this recipe.
  • Crimp the edges of the crust in your favorite decorative pattern.
  • Place the crust in the fridge until you're ready for it.
  • If you want to make decorative leaves for the top, roll out your second crust, cut the leaves with small leaf-shaped cookie cutters, and then place the leaves on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.  Whisk one egg with a splash of milk or cream and brush this mixture over the leaves with a pastry brush.  Refrigerate the leaves until you're ready to use them.
  • In a medium bowl, make your filling by whisking together the eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, bourbon or rum, vanilla, and salt.  Stir in the chopped pecans.
  • Take your prepared crust out of the fridge and pour the filling into it. 
  • Arrange pecan halves and decorative leaves (if you're using them) on the top of the filling.
  • Brush a little egg whisked with milk or cream over the crust edges for a gorgeous golden color.
  • Bake the pie for about 45 minutes, until the filling is well-set and puffed in the center.  I have a gas stove, so I find that I have to check the pie every 10-15 minutes, and turn it for even browning.  If the crust seems to be browning too quickly, you can always cover just the crust edges with some aluminum foil or, if you have one, a crust ring.
  • Cool on a pie rack.
  • This pie keeps fine at room temperature, loosely covered with foil, for about 3 days.

One more note: You'll have some crust leftover from making the leaves.  I re-roll this with my rolling pin into a rectangle, spread a little softened butter on it, and sprinkle it with cinnamon and demerara sugar.  Then I roll it up, jell-roll style.  I cut the roll into 1-inch pieces, brush each with egg, sprinkle a little more sugar on top, and pop them into the oven on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 20 minutes.  They're great straight out of the oven or for breakfast the next day.  

Monday, October 1, 2012


Month of my dreams.  This is the time I climb inside my own head, write down what I discover in the corners, behind doors I'd nearly forgotten.  The month of black tea, blankets, thick books with well-thumbed edges.  The time for foragers, leaf gatherers, finders of treasure on the forest floor.  I could throw you a party, fellow searchers; strew the table with dried flowers; bake us spice cakes and dark berry tarts to stain our lips and fingertips.  

Let the winds blow.  Let the branches rattle and the frosts begin.  Open the old doors.  Let October in.