My dad Max’s all-time favorite dessert is pecan pie (the other is the Lazy Daisy Cake in the photo background). Both my parents grew up in Carlsbad, New Mexico with pecan trees in their yards. So pecans featured prominently in all our nutty desserts. Those nuts were so important to me, that even after one of my grandma Johnye died, I couldn’t throw away or use the last of the pecans she gave me. I kept them for years and almost needed an intervention to throw out those freezer-burnt nuts. Now my sister lives in northern Louisiana pecan country, so I’m happy to get fabulous nuts from her.
All this blather and the real point of the story is that we’ve had a recipe website for more than 10 years and have never posted a pecan pie recipe, a recipe so dear to my family. Why? We never really had a family recipe, just used the one on the Karo corn syrup bottle with a tweak or two.
Remember, I’m an old home ec major who has worked on many food brands so the test kitchen-tested recipes on food labels are just fine with me. Don’t know where to turn? Start by looking at the package, find a recipe by Betty Crocker. Use the Libby pumpkin pie as a start. Cook cranberries just like Ocean Spray tells you. King Arthur is killing it with their baking website. Of course, I love Martha White as well. The folks that make products actually do have a pretty good idea on how to use them. Sure you can tweak any recipe and make it your own, but start simple to see what really counts.
I’m all for food bloggers and chef-driven cookbooks, but deep down I trust recipes developed by home cooking professionals in test kitchens. Be wary of recipes that contain hard-to-find, oddball, and extra ingredients that don’t really add to the final product or suit your life. Lots of pizzazz, little substance. I guess it takes time to have the confidence to figure that out. Start simple. It’s the best advice I can give.
That pie crust in the photo is a variation of the classic Crisco recipe. Instead of 3/4 cup of Crisco, I use 1 stick of butter and 1/4 cup of Crisco. Works like a dream.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 1/3 cup ice water
- Generous 1 1/2 half cups pecan pieces or halves
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup melted and cooled butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
To make the pastry:
Combine the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, two knives or your fingertips until well-distributed and in small pieces throughout the flour. Cut in the shortening until well blended. Add the ice water and stir together with a fork. The dough should want to gather in a ball, but not be wet. Add a drop or two more water as needed. Divide into two even disks. Wrap in plastic or foil and chill 30 minutes or even a day. This is enough for two single-crust pies. To roll the pastry, place the disc on a floured surface or pastry cloth (get one, makes life so much easier). Roll out into a circle about 12-inches in diameter. Place in a 9-inch pie pan and crimp the edges or trim to the size of the pan and decorate by pressing the edges with the tines of a fork.
Place the pecans in the prepared pie shell.
Combine all the wet ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend well. Pour the filling mixture over the nuts. Add a few more nuts, as you like. Bake at 350 F. about 1 hour. The pie is ready when the filling is set and springs back when you lightly touch the center with your finger. Cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature.