Brandy Pecan Pie
Before I started making pie for a living, I don’t remember trying pecan pie. I thought the corn syrupy sweetness would be a turnoff. How can you taste the flavor with all that sugar? There’s a simple fix to that, and I’m certainly not the first to figure it out: Add booze! We use 80 proof, 7 1/2-year-old Laird’s Apple Brandy with notes of cardamom, tobacco, and toffee. We replace the corn syrup altogether with Grade B maple syrup and a little honey. The pie is extra nutty, thanks to a big pile of toasted whole pecans in the filling, plus we toast and grind pecans for an alternative crust. We keep coming back to it for a reason.
Cook time 50 minutes to 1 hour
Makes1 (9-inch) pie
Serves6 to 8
For the toasted pecan pie dough:
- 2 tablespoons
apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup
- 1/4 cup
ground toasted pecans
- 1 teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon
- 8 tablespoons
(1 stick) cold unsalted European-style butter
For the filling:
- 2/3 cup
- 4 tablespoons
(1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/2 cup
Grade B maple syrup
- 1/4 cup
- 2 tablespoons
fine yellow cornmeal
large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon
- 2 tablespoons
- 1/2 teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon
turbinado sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups
whole pecans, toasted
large egg, beaten
Unsweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)
For the pie dough:
Make a water-vinegar mixture: Fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup with about 1 inch of water and freeze until completely frozen. Add the apple cider vinegar and top with water to get to 1 cup. The ice-cold water-vinegar mixture should look just like apple juice.
In a large stainless steel bowl, combine the flour, pecans, salt, and sugar and stir to mix well. Place the stick of butter in the bowl and coat on all sides with flour. Using a bench scraper, cut the butter into half-inch cubes. Work quickly to separate the cubes with your hands until they are all lightly coated in flour. Grab that bench scraper once again and cut each cube in half. I always tell my pie dough students that it’s unnecessary to actually cut each cube perfectly in half, but it’s a good idea to break up the butter enough so that you can be super-efficient when it’s pastry blender time.
It’s pastry blender time! Switch to the pastry blender and begin to cut in the butter with one hand while turning the bowl with the other. It’s important not to aim for the same spot at the bottom of the bowl with each stroke of the pastry blender, but to actually slice through butter every time to maximize efficiency. When the pastry blender clogs up, carefully clean it out with your fingers (watch out, it bites!) or a butter knife and use your hands to toss the ingredients a bit. Continue to blend and turn until the largest pieces are the size and shape of peas and the rest of it feels and looks freakishly similar to canned Parmesan cheese.
At this point, add 1/4 cup of the water-vinegar mixture all at once, and switch back to the bench scraper. Scrape as much of the mixture as you can from one side of the bowl to the other, until you can’t see visible pools of liquid anymore. Now it’s hand time. Scoop up as much of the mixture as you can, and use the tips of your fingers (and a whole lot of pressure) to press it back down onto the rest of the ingredients. Rotate the bowl a quarter-turn and repeat. Scoop, press, and turn. With each fold, your intention is to be quickly forming the mixture into one cohesive mass. Remember to incorporate any dry, floury bits that have congregated at the bottom of the bowl, and once those are completely gone and the dough is formed, it’s time to stop.
Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a lightly floured counter, and gently pat it into a 2-inch-thick disc, working quickly to seal any broken edges before wrapping it tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight. When you go to roll out the crust, you want the disc to feel as hard and cold as the butter did when you removed it from the fridge to make the dough. This will make the roll-out way easier.
To roll out pie crust, lightly flour your work surface and place the unwrapped pie dough in the center. Using a rolling pin, begin by banging the dough from the left to the right, striking the dough about four times. Rotate the dough 180 degrees and bang across the dough from left to right once more.
Use one tapered end of the rolling pin to press and roll along the edge of the round one single time, enlarging the circle. After each press of the edge, rotate the disc 45 degrees clockwise. If you sense that the dough is sticking to the surface, lift it up and lightly flour the surface below it.
To begin the final step, place the rolling pin in the very center of the dough. Apply pressure to the pin while rolling it away from yourself (stand on your tiptoes to get maximum leverage if necessary), being careful to stop rolling about 1 inch away from the edge (to avoid over-rolling the areas you’ve already rolled). Rotate the disc 45 degrees and roll again. If it becomes difficult to rotate the dough, lift it up and lightly flour the surface beneath it. If the top surface of the dough starts to feel sticky, flip it over onto the floured counter and roll on the other side. Continue this roll and rotation process until you have a circle 12 to 13 inches in diameter. Gently run your rolling pin over the entirety of the dough to make sure the final size is an even thickness.
Invert your pie tin or dish onto the circle. Using a pastry cutter or knife, and the pie tin as a guide, cut a circle around the tin that is 2 1/2 to 3 inches larger than the edge of the tin. Gather up the dough scraps, wrap in plastic wrap, and store in the fridge to be added to other scraps and rerolled for another use. Remove the pie tin and turn it right side up on the work surface. Fold the dough circle in half. Place the folded dough in the pie tin so that it covers one-half of the pan. Unfold the other half, and gently press the dough to fit it snugly into the tin, making sure it is completely centered and pressed all the way into the bottom of the tin.
To create a crimped edge for a single-crust blind-baked pie, roll the dough overhang toward the center of the pie, creating a ring of dough, as though you were rolling a poster tightly. I like to imagine that my thumbs are twiddling a little dance together. One thumb rolls over while the other thumb presses the dough down onto the tin’s edge to seal. Right over left, right over left, or for lefties, left over right, left over right.
Use the thumb and index finger of one hand to form a “C,” and position that hand in the very center of the pie pan. Position your opposite thumb on the outside of the pan. Use the “C” fingers to push and press the rim of the dough up and away from the pan, simultaneously pressing the thumb of your other hand into the “C” to make a crimp. Continue until the entire ring of dough is crimped. If you’re right handed, you’ll move clockwise; if you’re left-handed, counterclockwise. At this point, put the crust in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. If you don’t plan to use the crust that same day, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the freezer for up to 1 year.
Preheat your oven to 450°F with the rack on the lowest level. Remove the pie crust from the freezer, tear off a square of aluminum foil that is slightly larger than the pie shell, and gently fit it into the frozen crust. Fill the crust with the dried beans or pie weights (they should come all the way up to the crimps) and place the pie pan on a baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 25 to 27 minutes. Check for doneness by peeling up a piece of foil—the crimps should be light golden brown. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. After 6 minutes, carefully remove the foil and beans. You did it! You are now ready to fill the pie.
For the pie:
Preheat your oven to 325°F.
Make the filling: Place 2/3 cup turbinado sugar and the cubed butter in a small, heatproof bowl. Combine the maple syrup and honey in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Continue boiling until the mixture reads 225°F on a candy thermometer. Pour the maple-honey mixture over the turbinado sugar and butter and stir until the butter has completely melted. Whisk in the cornmeal. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a separate bowl, whisk the 3 eggs with the vanilla, brandy, and salt. Slowly pour the cooled butter mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Place the blind-baked pecan crust on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with the turbinado sugar–flour mixture, then spread the toasted pecans evenly on top. Brush the crimped edge with the beaten egg. Carefully pour in the filling until it reaches the bottom of the crimps. Use a knife or fork to poke down any pecans that aren’t submerged in the filling.
Transfer the baking sheet with the pie on it to the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until puffed around the edges and only slightly jiggly in the center when shaken.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for 4 to 6 hours. When the pie is at room temperature, slice it into 6 to 8 pieces. Serve with whipped cream.
Make ahead: You can keep the pie dough in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to 1 year. If frozen, remove the dough and place it in the refrigerator to thaw one full day before you intend to use it.
Storage: Store leftover pie, well wrapped in plastic wrap or under a pie dome, at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Reprinted with permission from Sister Pie, copyright © 2018. Published by Lorena Jones Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.