Food for Thought: Boozy Pecan Pie

This recipe is my traditional Thanksgiving dessert, but it would make an equally good finish to any meal of note during the holiday season.

When you cook it, you think of roaring fires and big glasses of aged liquor and regrets about notches on your belt.  And the house smells of sugar, butter, and bourbon for hours.  And you tell yourself it’s not so bad because at least it’s got nuts in it, and nuts are good for you, aren’t they?

Another plus to this pecan pie is that it takes a rather long time, but good chunks of that long time are “waiting time” — or, as I like to call them here on Comedy or Tragedy, “writing time”.

Boozy Pecan Pie

serves 4-6 (with seconds)

For the pie shell:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 stick, plus 4 Tbs unsalted butter, cold & cut into small cubes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup ice cold water

Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the cubed butter and rub together with your fingertips until the dough becomes moist and takes on the consistency of small, soft peas.  Add the water a little bit at a time, mixing with a fork.  The dough will be very sticky.  Mold and kneed it together into a ball, working it until the butter and flour are well incorporated.  Press the dough into a disk and wrap it in saran wrap.  Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.

While you’re waiting for the dough to firm up in the fridge, pull out your laptop and get writing.  Do a sprint and see how many words you can net in 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, take the dough out of the fridge.  If it is still too soft, put it back in for another 15 minutes or so.  When it’s firm, using a rolling pin, roll it out on a floured surface (tip: because this dough is very heavy in butter, and therefore rather sticky, I like to roll it out on a layer of plastic wrap, for easy transport into the pie pan).  Roll the dough to a thickness of no more than 1/8 of an inch.  Place the rolled crust into a pie pan and crimp the edges (leave a high edge, as the crust will shrink as you bake it).  Put the entire pie shell in the freezer for another 30 minutes.

…and there you go – another 30 minute writing sprint.  Go!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the pie shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for 25 minutes, then remove parchment and weights and bake an additional 12 minutes until the crust is lightly browned.  While the crust is baking, begin preparing the filling:

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups of lightly toasted pecans (to toast the pecans: place them in a baking pan in a 350 oven for about 12 minutes)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar (loosely packed)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 Tbs whole milk
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 1/2 a fresh vanilla bean – seeds scraped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs of good quality bourbon (I’ve also used Scotch Whiskey in a pinch)
  • 4 large eggs

In a saucepan, mix all the butter, all the sugars, the corn syrup, the milk, the flour, the vanilla bean (and scraped seeds) and the salt together over medium heat.  Keep stirring until the mixture just comes to a boil.  Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.  Carefully add the bourbon (mixture may bubble – stir carefully).  As the sugar mixture is cooling, beat the eggs in a heat proof bowl.  Carefully (gradually) add the hot sugar mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly.  Fish out the vanilla bean and discard it.

Once the pie crust is out of the oven, layer the toasted pecans on the bottom of the shell.  Then pour the filling over the nuts.  You may have excess filling.  Bake the pie at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until the filling is just set.

While the pie is baking, return to your laptop and write, write, write.  If the insanely good smells filling the house aren’t inspiration enough, I don’t know what is.

Once the pie is done, let it cool on a rack.  Leave the pie covered with foil at room temperature until serving (can be made 1 day ahead of time).  Whip up some fresh cream (maybe with a bit of sugar and a splash of bourbon) for serving.  Oh, and prepare a new notch on your belt buckle.

Bon appetit, and happy writing!