Introduction: Pecan Pie

About: I am just a guy, you know?

When Christmas rolls around on, my mother's family gathers at the farmstead home of my Grandfather.  It was here that I first roasted a turkey (brined), that I learned to start a fireplace blaze, that I shot a gun for the first time, that I would lock my little sister in an outhouse, and that I first tasted Pecan Pie.

My Grandmother made Pecan Pie for Christmas.  If a special occasion came around, she would make it then as well.  Pecan Pie was my Grandmother's opus - that and the time she dead-eyed a snake with a .22 from the back porch.  She passed a couple of years ago.  Her pie, remembered fondly by everyone in the family.  But no matter what, no matter who made the pie - it was Grandma's recipe.  It was never "Grandma's" pie.

A couple +one years ago I met my wife (again, long story).  It was the second of two Christmases Grandma spent in the nursing home - and there had been no pie that year.  The first year with my wife (before she was my wife), she offered to make the pies.  Pecan Pies.  She didn't think anything of it at the time - why would she?  She didn't know the importance the pie played in the Holiday - the sheer power it had in my family.  Hints poked out, though, as family would end phone conversations with "I hear you're making the pies this year."

My wife came through, though.  My Grandmother's Pecan Pie will always have a special place for me - but my wife's... oh, my wife's Pecan Pie.  This is the new pie, the pie everyone asks for.  It has a long history in her family and now that we are together it is our pie.  We don't hold much with secrets, and I don't hold much with solemnity.  Like my other Instructables, this will be a light-hearted affair.  But I wanted to take the time to say that this pie is something my wife has given me to keep my Grandmother's memory alive.  That's a wonderful gift, you know?

Step 1: Let's Begin - Ingredients

There is a reason Pecan Pie was a holiday affair in my family:  We are a frugal people.  We eat well, we have adventures, but we eat well in season and adventure when we can.  Pecans are expensive - especially good pecans.  Bad pecans are no bueno, let me tell you.  A bad crust, as well, will drag this pie down.  This is a thin slice pie.  It is rich.  It is delicious.  It is fairly easy to make.  But it can cost a bit.  That's why it's a holiday pie.

Let me tell you:  I tend to ramble.  I have dedicated Step Ten to the recipe proper - so skip to that if you think you don't need my guidance to awesomeness.

The Crust.
This crust needs to be flaky.  It needs to be tender.  Do not fool around here.  If you have an amazing crust recipe on your own - you can use that.  The crust I use is pretty darn good, though.  I adapted this one .  Right here at Instructables, so shout-out to the brilliant Scoochmaroo .  This crust calls for:

300grams All-Purpose Flour , unbleached (I use grams because smaller units =greater accuracy!)
Use quality flour - I use Gold Medal.  King Arthur is good, too.  El Cheapo flour may work in gravies, but not in pie crust
1 teaspoon salt (kosher)
You can use table salt, as that is what the original calls for.  The pie is very gooey and sugary - the salt in the crust will help counterpoint that, but don't go overboard.  Kosher crystals are uneven, so a teaspoon will be less salt.  You can easily add a little more if you need to.
2 Tablespoons sugar - White sugar - I wonder what brown sugar might do to this crust, though - it might moisten the dough, which could hurt or help.
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) Unsalted Butter (cold , cut up) For goodness' sake, use real quality butter.
1/2 cup Shortening (or lard) - Cold , cut up.
1/4 cup clear rum (icy cold)
The original calls for vodka - but rum has a slightly sweet flavor that marries well with the salt of the crust and the filling.  You won't need top shelf, but don't get the bottom either. Off flavors will not aid your crust .
1/8 cup cold filtered water - Always use cold, filtered water for pie crust.  You may not even need this much water - but a few bad minerals will hinder your efforts. .

Along with this, you will need a food processor, a rolling pin, some parchment paper, and some plastic wrap.  You can make the crust ahead, easily, as you will learn in Step 3.

The Filling
This is where things get real.  You may do silly things with the crust, but the filling is the star here.  If you've made a poor crust, the filling won't save it, but it sure will try.  Don't fool around - get some quality stuff here.

1 cup Butterscotch chips - I am trying to find a way to make my own, but quality butterscotch chips are really what you need.  Don't get silly butterscotch "flavor" chips - try to find real butterscotch chips, the highest quality you can .
1 1/2 cups raw pecan halves - Pecans can be almost nine bucks a pound, but it's worth it.  I use halves, none of this silly chopping up.
1/8 cup brandy - we usually use VS for this - again, don't buy the cheapest, but you won't need the most expensive either.  I regrettably am no brandy expert. .
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons melted butter (unsalted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
- real extract, please !
1/8tsp salt (kosher)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbls flour

A few notes:  You can use either light or dark sugar.  I used light.  If you are using light, for goodness sake use dark corn syrup.  If you use light syrup (which you can) use dark sugar.  If you use both dark syrup and sugar, you will be bestowed with both a rich, unbelievably tasty pie, and instant cavities.

Also, use real vanilla extract.  You can make it at home.  It's not altogether that expensive as often as its used.  There is a pretty substantial difference between the real and the imitation.  A lot of places sell a generic version that's still not "cheap," but is cheaper than a name brand.

You may be tempted to toast the pecans, but use plain, raw pecans here.  They will roast when the pie is baked.  If they are salted, it will completely wreck the pie.  Plain.  Raw.  That's it.

Homemade Whipped Cream:
Put a cup of whipping cream in a bowl and whip it up with 3 Tablespoons of sugar.  If you have a stand mixer, there is 0 reason you shouldn't make this any time you need whipped cream.

The Utensils
Food Processor - for the crust.
A Pie Pan - we use a deep glass pie pan for this, and you should, too.  A deep pie pan is the best investment, along with a little mini server/spatula.  You needn't get a brand new pan, or course, but I highly recommend it.  A Metal pan needs to be very high quality, though.  I've had this pie from metal pans and you can taste the tin/aluminum, whatever.  Totally gross.
Hand Mixer - My grandma always used a hand mixer - you probably do not have one. I think it was for the same reason some folks like hand-crank ice cream makers - you can "feel" when things are done.  A regular mixer, or a spoon works just as well.  You're combining here, not whipping or creaming.

Step 2: Incrustable

I'm not going to fool around with crust instructions - I assume we are all aware of crust fabrication.  I recommend Scoochmaroo's Crust .  As I noted, I weigh my flour and I use Rum instead of Vodka - the clear Rum.  You may think the alcohol will all burn out, but we are smart and know that's a falsehood.

I also stress the ease of a food processor.  Sift the dry with it, cut the fat into it.  When things get nice and crumbly, move it to a chilled bowl and mix in the alcohol, and drip in the water.  It will get tacky, so as soon as you see that it binds together, it is mixed and ready to be chilled further.  You won't need much water, and you may not even need all the rum.  I start with the rum and move toward water.  For other doughs, you might mix equal vodka/water, but the rum really tastes good in this crust.

I divide it using my kitchen scale, wrap it in plastic, and let it chill at least one hour.

The key to flaky crust, you see, is cold fat.  I go so far as to freeze my food processor's blade and bowl.  When I've rolled the dough out and got it in the pie plate, it stays in the fridge until I pour in my filling.  Keep that crust cold, keep that fat cold, and you shall be rewarded.  You can crimp the edge all fancy style, too.

I've outlined the process in pictures here.  You only need half of this, leaving you the other half for buttermilk pie or some other delightful treat.

Step 3: Boozy Pecans

This step is quite easy - put the brandy over the pecans and let it sit for a while.  This is one step so I can tell you not to overdo the brandy.  A 1/8 cup is plenty for this.  Toss it a little to distribute, and set it aside.  Too much brandy can bitterize the nuts, so resist the urge.

Of course, it's always a good idea to test the brandy for...I don't know, freshness or whatever.  Have a quick swigaroo.

NOW:  Turn the oven to 400 Degrees Fahrenheit.  

Step 4: Melt the Chips

I used a stove-top double boiler method for melting my chips, but Abelwoman uses the microwave.  The chips should be melted, though.  A butterscotch chip syrup, if you will, but resist the urge to use butterscotch syrup - or some such variation.  We use the chips, we melt the chips, the chips work for us.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noted these are the butterscotch flavored chips I badmouthed earlier - but we are on a budget in this house.  It isn't Christmas time, you know.

Step 5: Mixify

Now's the time to bust out the mixer - mix the eggs, flour, vanilla, corn syrup, brown sugar, and salt.  The order is unimportant, and you don't want things too frothy.  You'll have a lovely syrupy mix, with the eggs fully incorporated and the sugar wet with syrup.  This is somewhat butterscotchy on its own - but butter?  Where?

This is when you mix in the melted chips.  The sharpest tacks amongst you will wonder if you ought to temper the mix since there are eggs in there, but you do not.  The chips should be liquid, but Just-now liquid - they will mix in easily and warm things up a bit, but your eggs shan't curdle.

Next, strain your pecans and mix them with the melted butter.  Get the nuts good and greased.  The whole shebang is lovingly folded into the syrupy goo.

Congrats!  Don't drop the bowl or you'll find yourself in a pretty sticky situation.

Step 6: Pour and Rattle

This is pretty simple, but easily messy.  It's the type of job that calls for a batter bowl - but I have none.  You will pour the mix into the chilly, chilly pie crust you just-this-very-second pulled from the fridge (and it's been in there a loooong time).  Use a spatula, for goodness sake.  Scrape each bit of sticky, sweet, cavity-pulling goodness from the bowl.

You will have a pie crust full of pecans floating in liquid sugar.  This is a good time to carefully (especially with a glass plate) knock out any large air bubbles.  This involves a few light thumps on the counter.  Hold the plate about a centimeter above the counter and drop it a couple of times.  This also helps fully distribute the filling/pecans.

Step 7: Sheild and Bake

If you have a neat pie crust shield, throw that bad boy on.  We use foil 'round here, but Grandma had a shield.  She also had a little round metal pan that's sole job was to sit on the rack under the pie to catch drippings.   We use a cookie sheet, but what's important to know is that the pie can spill over - don't let that hit the floor of the oven.  This is all sugar and it will smell and be bitter and you will be unhappy when you should be ecstatic because you will soon have pie!


15 minutes at 400 F.
15 minutes at 350 F.
Pull the shield.
15 minutes at 350 F.

The pie is done if it is very bubbly and rounded slightly in the middle.  You can keep it in for a few more minutes to get your crust browner.

Step 8: The Hardest Step

The Hardest Step?  You must wait for this to cool.  It will take a very long time.  Place it on a cooling rack - and I will now tell you that we have really neat circular racks perfect for pie cooling - and stare longingly for hours.  How long?  I can't truly say.  It will be different for all of you.

I would let it cool for several hours on the counter.  At this point, with a sharp serrated knife (electric honestly works amazingly well) cut through your pecans and crust and prepare to serve up a delight.

Step 9: Delicious!

Regrettably, I didn't wait long enough to eat the pie.  It was still warm - and that's really okay.  Waiting is best if you really need to get clear, firmer slices out of the pie.  This is easy with a good blade and a pie server, but any residual warmth will give you a sloppy slice.  I suggest trying it on it's own, but some whipped cream would not be a bad choice.

And you've got the most delightful little pie!

Some Notes:
You may be tempted to give yourself a big honking slice, but I suggest you start small.  Think 12 slices, not 8.  Maybe sixteen.  You can always have a second small slice - but if you take too large a slice, it will get too rich for you.  Oh so rich.  Oh so good.

I can't find it around here, but I would love to see someone try this with a little finishing salt stuck around the crust or lightly sprinkled under the crust.  It's butterscotchy and caramelly, and I think some quality candy salt would make it sing.  But i can't find the right salt where I live, which makes me kind of sad.  I would love to try it.

Mini-Pies would be a good idea to test our salty variations - but this is the main pie I've made for you for right now.

Step 10: Recipe Proper

This makes it nice and round - Here is the recipe alone with some resources at the bottom.

Pie Crust, Adapted from Scoochmaroo
300grams All-Purpose Flour, unbleached 
1 teaspoon salt (kosher) 
2 Tablespoons sugar
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) Unsalted Butter (cold , cut up)
1/2 cup Shortening (or lard) - Cold , cut up.
1/4 cup clear rum (icy cold)
1/8 cup cold, filtered water

Using a food processor, sift your dry ingredients.  Add your cold fats a few cubes at a time, pulsing for several seconds each time.  When all fat is added, process until you have what looks like tiny pebbles - about fifteen seconds.

Place in a chilled ceramic or glass bowl and lightly fold in the rum.  When dissolved, add water a few drops at a time until you have a mixture that just sticks together (it may be tacky).

Use a kitchen scale to divide dough into two and wrap each half in plastic wrap.  You will have close to 700g of dough, 350g for each wrap.  Chill for at least one hour.  Freeze for longer.

On the day of baking, select one disc and set between wax or parchment paper.  Roll from the center outward until you have a large circle of dough.  Peel off the top layer of wax paper and set an inverted glass or ceramic pie plate on the circle.  Flip quickly, and peel off the wax paper.  Tidy up the edges and crimp.  Place crust in fridge until read to pour filling.

1 cup Butterscotch Chips (Measure chips-not melted)
1.5 cups pecan halves
1/8 cup brandy
3 eggs
1.25 cups dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 TB flour

Oven at 400degrees
Add Brandy to the pecans, toss and set aside.  Melt butterscotch chips over the stove or in the microwave and set aside.
Combine sugar, eggs, vanilla , corn syrup, salt, and flour.  When fully combined (you can no longer discern separate ingredients) add the butterscotch. Dump excess brandy and toss the nuts with melted butter.  Fold into filling.

Take your pie crust from the fridge and pour in your filling.  Put a guard or foil over the edges to prevent burning.

Bake 15minutes then reduce heat to 350. Bake 15 minutes.Remove foil bake another 15minutes.  Let cool for several hours and serve small slices.  

1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
3 TB sugar

Whip cream in stand mixer with whisk attachment, slowly adding sugar until medium peaks form.  Delightful!

Step 11: Resources

I have already linked profusely to the pie crust I've used, but here are a few more helpful areas:

Make Vanilla Extract  - Not the most crucial aspect of this recipe, but it's still nice to have quality.

Simple Butter  There's a couple butter 'ibles, but I picked this one because if you mess up your whipped cream, this has got your back.  - A neat article on growing pecans in the Northern Climes.

Sadly, most of your ingredients here are going to be from the store.  And that's okay.  This is a one-a-year pie, really.  But don't feel bad if you want to eat it more.  It's very tasty.

Serious Eats Pi Day Pie Contest

Participated in the
Serious Eats Pi Day Pie Contest