OMG. Much to my dismay, it seems that there were, as of last Thursday morning, NO decent pecan pie recipes on teh interwebz. Not a one, and on THANKSGIVING. And what, I ask you, are said interwebz for, if not to provide basic recipes for such classics as pecan pie? Bah! Everything I found–when looking to check my number-of-eggs guesstimation–were over-sweet, crapped up, under-nutted and just plain sad. Boo on you, Internet, for letting me down. Oh, before we go any further, it’s “pee-KAHWN” ok? At least, that’s what the Smith College variety that arrived every year courtesy of Grandma Neecie were called and that is good enough for me.
In any event, though, had I not been so irritated by this significant lack of decent pecan pie guidance, I would probably not have bothered to write down what I ended up doing and that would also have been sad.
Pecan pie is always going to be sweet, and I’m fine with that. The pecans themselves are quite sweet, but they have much more nuance than the average sugar-coma pie would indicate, with rich, bitter, and smoky undertones that are much more pronounced when the nuts are eaten out of hand. I wanted to pull each of these flavors into play with my pie. A gloopy-sweet wodge hiding beneath a skimpy veil of nuts is simply NOT going to be acceptable.
In addition to upping the amount of nuts, I’ve also specified two slightly fancy sweeteners here in place of the usual regular sugar and light corn syrup–turbinado sugar and golden syrup. Both are a little less refined than their clear counterparts and thus have a bit more flavor. (The golden syrup is also derived from cane and not corn, though I’m still not totally convinced that it matters hugely when one gets right down to it…) In addition, two other additions–one fairly common, the other not so much. First, bourbon. It’s sweet and complex and Southern, just like pecans. A no brainer. Do NOT, however, be tempted to add more to the filling. It will never, ever, ever set, no matter how long you over-bake it. Trust me. Instead, sprinkle some additional bourbon over the top of the pie when it comes out of the oven. It will trickle into all those hot little crevices and that is just dandy.
The other mystery ingredient is instant espresso powder. Often use to enhance the flavor of chocolate desserts, I use it similarly here–to tease out the those smoky, bitter notes in the pecans themselves. The coffee doesn’t register as such in the finished dessert, but I’m convinced that there’s a nutty depth there that would be lacking otherwise.
1 9″ pie crust
1/4 c unsalted butter
1 c turbinado sugar (or white sugar)
1 c golden syrup (or light corn syrup)
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 heaping tsp instant espresso powder
1 tbs bourbon
2 1/2 c pecan pieces*
(optional: 2 addtl tbs bourbon)
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a small saucepan, combine the over medium heat and stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large bowl, combine vanilla, instant espresso powder, and bourbon. Whisk to dissolve the coffee completely. (You may need to use your fingers to crush any recalcitrant coffee granules.) Add eggs and whisk till evenly beaten. While continuing to whisk briskly, gradually pour in the sugar mixture. Scrape remaining sugar mixture into bowl and stir in nut pieces. Pour into pastry-lined pie dish.
Bake for 50-55 min. The pie is done when the filling has risen about an inch (it will flatten back out when cool) and the exposed crust is nicely golden brown. Cool completely before slicing and serving with a dollop of bourbon-spiked whipped cream.
Notes & Variations
As far as I know, the most common brand of golden syrup to be found in the U.S. is Lyle’s. I can find it fairly reliably in big supermarkets or in specialty stores with a bent for products from England. Also, the wikipedia entry is worth a read, if only for the story behind they Lyle’s logo. As Mr. T noted, it’s very… Victorian.
Also, after a mighty struggle with my inner snob, I elected here to go with pecan pieces instead of whole pecans… I used to make pies with the whole ones, but whole pecans made the pie harder to cut in addition to being more expensive. So, be thrifty and go to pieces!