Decadently sweet, rich, and nutty
Making the perfect pecan pie is down how you prepare and layer the nuts.
Pecan pie…a truly American dessert that is almost universally enjoyed. I’m unsure as to why it’s not more common in the UK but it probably has to do with pecans being a relatively uncommon ingredient.
One thing is for sure though – this recipe has been a winner every time I’ve made it for my British and Manx friends. It’s sweet, rich, and nutty, and the fresh dollop of cream on top is literally ‘the icing on the cake’.
Recipe for Pecan Pie
For those new to making Pecan Pie, this decadent dish is a classic example of Southern American cooking. It’s been around since at least the 19th century and is now a staple dessert served up after Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.
For the Pastry
1/3 cup (70g) Butter, chilled
1 cup (130g) Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
3 Tbsp Cold water
For the Filling
1 cup, packed Brown Sugar
2/3 cup Golden Syrup*
2 Tbsp dark Rum
1/4 cup Butter
3 large Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1/4 tsp Salt
2 cup Pecans
* In the US, use Light Corn Syrup
1. Make the Pastry
The pastry you’re about to make is buttery but unsweetened. I feel that there’s more than enough sweetness in the filling so any additional sugar in the pastry is over-kill. Place your butter in a bowl with the flour and salt and cut it with a pastry knife (or by crisscrossing two knifes) until you have particles the size of large crumbs.
If you’ve not done this before and are wondering what this step is all about, it’s basically cutting the butter into smaller and smaller pieces, which are then coated with the flour. You don’t want to use your fingers for this part since you want the butter to remain relatively cool.
2. Roll the dough
Sprinkle the cold water over the crumbs and blend it in to form a damp ball of pastry dough – it should easily clean the sides of the bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place it on a floured surface.
Press it down with your hand and flip the dough over, so that both sides are coated in flour. Now roll it out to be two inches (5cm) wider than the width of your pie dish.
3. Line the dish
Place the rolled out dough over your dish and gently form it into shape. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to roll the pastry up onto the rolling pin and then unroll it over the dish.
With the Le Creuset tart dish I’m using in these photos I’ve just kept it simple and trimmed the edge of the pastry to 1/4 inch from the dishes lip. The pastry will shrink in the baking process so I wouldn’t recommend trimming it any closer than this.
If you’re using another type of dish then the pie edge decoration is up to you. Set your pastry-lined dish aside and move on to creating the filling.
4. Toast the Pecans
This is the step that is most often missing from other recipes you might have come across. Toast those Pecans! Toasting them before they’re added to the pie creates such a gorgeous nutty flavour that I think can make the difference between a good pie and a pie to-die-for!
To toast them you just place the nuts in a pan on medium to med-high heat and leave them until you can smell a rich nuttiness and notice slight browning on the side touching the pan. Flip them once to toast the other sides, then pour the nuts into a bowl and set aside. Note: if you leave them in a hot pan they’ll continue to toast and may burn.
5. Rum & Sugar
Pour the rum into the same hot pan you used to toast the nuts and allow the alcohol to evaporate off. The pan will be pretty hot at this point so it can be dramatic and will take only a few seconds.
Now add your sugar, golden syrup, and butter to the pan and reduce the heat to medium to med-high. While constantly stirring, bring the mixture to a boil and leave it there for a minute.
Take the pan off the heat and allow the sugary mixture to cool for around twenty minutes or until it’s lukewarm. As it’s cooling, preheat your oven to 160°C Fan Assisted/ 180°C/ 350°F
6. Add eggs to the filling
Beat your eggs until they’re creamy and then pour them into your lukewarm sugar-syrup mixture with the vanilla and salt. If the mixture is too hot then the eggs could curdle so make sure it’s cooled enough before you follow this step. Mix well then pour it into your pie pastry.
7. Decorate the top with Pecans
Now the fun bit! Arrange your pecans on the top of the filling however you’d like. The important part of this step is that the pecans are on top and not mixed into the main filling.
It’s not just for aesthetic reasons, though that is of course important. Layering your pecans over the top of the pie will ensure that they’ll continue roasting during the baking process, adding even more flavour.
8. Bake that pie
Place the pie in the oven, bake for 50 minutes, cool and serve. Pecan pie can be had on its own but I love it with a delicious dollop of fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream.