There is much to love about sweet, nutty pecan pie, but it’s easy for this simple dessert to turn out tooth-achingly sugary and void of pecan flavor, with a curdled filling in a leathery crust.
We wanted to create the ideal recipe for a not-too-sweet pie with a smooth filling and a properly baked bottom crust. We decided to start from the bottom up.
By partially baking the crust, we ensured that the filling wouldn’t compromise its texture during baking and serving; we also found that adding the filling while the crust was still warm helped a great deal. But before any of that, the dough needs to be well chilled. Place it in your pie plate and chill 30 minutes before even beginning the recipe.
Next, we melted the butter and stirred together the filling in a bowl set over almost-simmering water. This makeshift double-boiler setup helped us maintain gentle heat, which protected against curdling.
We used a moderate amount of brown sugar to keep the spotlight trained on the pecans’ toasty flavor.
Classic Pecan Pie
- 1 recipe Basic Single-Crust Pie Dough (recipe follows), fitted into a 9-inch pie plate and chilled 30 minutes
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup packed (7 ounces) dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (8 ounces) pecans, toasted and chopped fine
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line chilled pie shell with double layer of foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until pie dough looks dry and is light in color, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and remove weights and foil. (Note that crust must still be warm when filling is added.)
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees.
Melt butter in heatproof bowl set in skillet of water heated to just below a simmer. Remove bowl from skillet and add sugar and salt, stirring until butter is absorbed.
Whisk in eggs, then corn syrup and vanilla until smooth. Return bowl to hot water and stir until mixture is shiny, hot to touch and registers 130 degrees.
Remove from heat; stir in pecans. Pour into warm pie crust. Bake until filling looks set but yields when gently pressed with back of spoon, 50 to 60 minutes.
Let pie cool on wire rack until filling is firm, about 2 hours. Serve slightly warm (reheat in a 250-degree oven for about 15 minutes) or at room temperature.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 659 calories, 42 g total fat, 13 g saturated fat, 123 mg cholesterol, 338 mg sodium, 70 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 52 g sugar, 7 g protein.
Basic Single-Crust Pie Dough
Count on this pie dough for a reliably flaky, flavorful, crust. Achieving it came down to determining the right fat, the right proportion of fat to flour, and the right method for combining them. A proportion of 3 parts butter to 2 parts shortening proved optimal for both flavor and texture, and a high-fat ratio of 2 parts flour to 1 part fat produced a workable, tender dough.
- 1-1/4 cups (6-1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled
- 4-6 tablespoons ice water
Process flour, sugar and salt in food processor until combined. Scatter shortening over top and process until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over top and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.
Sprinkle 4 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Stir and press dough together, using stiff rubber spatula, until dough sticks together. If dough does not come together, stir in remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does.
Turn dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into 4-inch disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.
Before rolling dough out, let sit on counter to soften slightly, about 10 minutes.