Pies are a staple of the festive dinner table. For this Christmas, if you’re new to making pies from scratch, might I suggest giving a pecan pie a go.
I’ve written extensively on how to make your own pie crust, but if you don’t feel up to the job, then just buy a pre-made pie shell. Then all you have to do is simply mix up the filling, pour it into the shell and bake. That’s it!
I have to admit this was my first attempt at a pecan pie. Pecans are usually pretty expensive where I live. Plus conventional pecan pie recipes use an alarming amount of corn syrup. For these reasons, I avoided making pecan pies.
That is, until I stumbled across this amazingly simple pecan pie-filling recipe from allrecipes.com that avoided using bottled syrups of any sort. I’ve tweaked it, of course, especially in the directions. I find that by heating the butter and sugar in the beginning, you get a richer and denser filling that tastes a little bit like caramel.
110g unsalted butter
150g brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell (pre-made or from scratch)
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F). Set the rack to its lowest position.
Step 2: In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat with the brown and caster sugars. Stir until the sugars have dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.
Step 3: Add in the eggs, flour, milk, and vanilla extract. Stir well to combine.
Step 4: Pick out four unblemished pecans of similar size and set those aside. Throw the rest of the pecans into a resealable plastic bag. With a rolling pin or ladle, smash the nuts into a textured rubble. Alternatively, you can just chop the nuts.
Step 5: Add the nuts to the liquid mixture and stir in. Pour the filling into your pie shell. Brush the exposed crust with a little milk to encourage browning.
Step 6: Place the pie on a tray to catch any leaks and bake for 10 minutes. Then, remove the pie and carefully arrange the decorative whole pecans in the middle. The filling should have solidified just enough so that the pecans can rest on top. Return the pie to the oven and turn down the temperature to 175°C (350°F). Bake for a further 35 minutes. Cool for at least 2 hours before serving, and refrigerate overnight if you want neat slices.
Admittedly, this pie does suffer from a “soggy bottom” as British baking guru Mary Berry would say. For wet fillings, you’d normally bake the crust “blind” (i.e., without the filling) so that the bottom has a chance to get nice and crispy before you introduce anything liquid over top. You can certainly do this if you want crispy pastry all round. But this pecan pie filling isn’t as runny as say a custard, so I didn’t think it was that necessary to go through the additional steps of preparing a pie shell for blind-baking. (That’s a subject for another post/recipe.)
Serve this pecan pie with a dollop of whipping cream. Or if you want to sound posh, add some icing sugar and vanilla extract to your whipping cream, then tell your dinner guests that your pecan pie comes topped with a Chantilly cream. You can also warm a slice of pecan pie in the microwave and serve it with vanilla ice cream à la mode.