22 December 2009

TWD: My Favorite Pecan Pie

I thought for a long time about passing on this TWD assignment.

1) I am not a pie enthusiast.  Though I think my tastes may be shifting a bit in my not-yet-middle-age (or maybe because I am learning to make them myself instead of trying them when out, so they are just plain better), I have not ever been a fan of fruit desserts and fruit pie is like OMG THE MOST BORING DESSERT EVER.  It's like punishment dessert.  Puddingy pies are OK, but I always liked them with graham cracker crusts and FOR PETE'S SAKE NO MERINGUE.  Bleah.

I love tarts though.  Yeah, I dunno either.

2) I have never understood pecan pie.  I mean, I loves me some pecans (pronounced "pa-CAHNS", thank you) but pecan pie is just like pecans in congealed syrup, right?  It's one of those things that I would really like a detailed history of.  Surely it was some kitchen experiment gone wrong?  I mean, who thought that was cool?

3) I don't know how to make a pie.  I can bake cookies, cakes, tarts, breads, tarts of all descriptions with the greatest of ease  but pie?  yeah. no.  Making pie crust terrifies me, mostly because I don't have a good sense of what a good pie crust should be like, or how to bake it just so so it will all be evenly cooked and browned instead of raw at the bottom and burned on the edges.  Dorie's recipe doesn't even tell you how thin a rolled-out crust should be (*mean mug*).  Also, all the recipes I have from cookbooks I trust--including Dorie's-- cheerfully insist you use a food processor to mix the dough. Um, I don't have a processor, so I gotta go by hand, and I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure people have been making pie crust for ages without the Cuisinart, though I don't doubt that it makes the work easier and more foolproof.

I also don't really have a good gauge for the consistency of the filling and how to cook it.  I can look at a cake batter and tell if the cake will be high or flat, fluffy or dense, whether it will need careful watching or I can just let it go a while.  I can look at a cake in the oven and go, "ehh..that's gonna need 'bout 5.293 more minutes"  and be correct.  Pie?  #kanyeshrug

But since I dug in my heels about the Cafe Volcano Cookies last week, and I am here alone for Christmas week with a TON of work to do and freaking out about various and sundry other things, I am baking a pecan pie.  This effort is helped along by a friend serving a pecan pie for Thanksgiving that also had chunks of chocolate baked in, and I made myself try it with this upcoming recipe in mind, and I liked it.  Amazing.

I was gonna punk out and buy a pie crust, as I usually do, but the purpose of this exercise is to try new stuff and learn, right?  So lesson one:  the 9-inch single-crust Dorie pie dough is just a bit too much for a tiny 2-cup cheapy chopper machine to blend.  So I ended up rubbing in the shortening and frozen butter with my hands, much like with the biscuits.  My dough had HUGE chunks of butter in it--it looked like white chunk cookie dough instead of pie crust--but the directions said big lumps were OK, plus I kept seeing in my head all this advice about needing to have lumps of butter to get a "good" crust.


So I let it ride, even after I realized I only used 8 T of butter, not 10.  Oops.

After an hour and a half of fridge time I rolled it out.  I tried to flute it but the butter pats made it impossible, so I did the old-fashioned, unimaginative fork deco.  Wrapped it in buttered foil and dumped in a buncha black beans and baked for a few.

It looked promising!  I did have to do a little patching when I took off the foil, but no ginourmous holes were left from the butter melting, and I could swear I was starting to see actual flakes in the pan.


Once it was cool, I whipped up the filling in the KA.  Fast and easy, nothing fussy about it at all.  It didn't seem like a lot of batter, but I had to be very careful at the end to get it all in.

I baked the crust a little more after the preceding photo.  Here's the filled pie.  

And into the oven it went for its first bake.

 looks good so far...

Then I turned the oven down for the second bake, and roughly added my homemade pie shield.

This is when things got dodgy.  My pie plate is glass, so I had been doing everything 25 degrees lower than the recipe called for.  For some reason adjusting to 325 was a feat my oven refused to perform, but even at 350 I had to leave the pie in for about 15 minutes longer to get to the point specified in the recipe.  I was so afraid the crust would be burned to a crisp.

It wasn't, though it was plenty brown. The pie looked pretty good, if a bit rough around the edges.  Must work on edges.

I had a piece when it was still warm and again today with it cold.  I liked it better cold;  you can taste it more that way.  The filling is surprisingly not super sweet, despite the fact that is is basically corn syrup, brown sugar, and chocolate.  It definitely has a "puddingy" consistency that took a little getting used to.  But overall, this is a definite winner--the best TWD recipe I've tried in a few weeks.  Woo hoo.  And the crust is very buttery and flaky, so I think I did pretty well with it, chunks and all.  Yay!  Now to figure out how to dispose of all this pie in the next couple of days...

Thanks to Beth for this week's selection!


Valerina said...

Your crust looks perfectly buttery and flaky, Sometimes I think rubbing the butter in by hand is better. Well done! :)

spike. said...

I'm with you on the pecan pronunciation! Glad you liked the pie

Tia said...

i can just imagine how great your crust must've been. yum-!!!

miss kate said...

Thanks, y'all! I think it came out pretty well, myself!


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