Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bourbon Pecan Pie


This is the pecan pie I made for my husband's birthday. First time ever making pecan pie, and I will never try it any other way. I used the famous Cook's Illustrated vodka crust, which is even more wonderful than I remember (I first used it in this blueberry pie). Just the perfect crisp-tender texture with enough salt to counteract the problem I usually have with pie crust: blandness.

The filling is adapted from both Cookie Madness and The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. Two authoritative sources if there ever were. The filling contains 2 tablespoons of bourbon. I didn't think this was much of anything, but you can taste, and it is good. I also made sure to include a higher than usual amount of sea salt. No one will call this pie "overly sweet" or "cloying," the two criticisms most often throw at this dessert. It is adult. It is addictive.

Of course, I just said I'd never change, but tell me about your ultimate pecan pie. What key ingredients make the difference for you? I LOVE comparing recipes!

Bourbon Pecan Pie
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, Cookie Madness and The Gift of Southern Cooking.
With a hit of bourbon and delicious sea salt, this pie is far from too-sweet and cloying. You can taste the bourbon, which is a good thing. I called for fleur de sel because a dessert this special (and high-calorie) deserves the absolute best. Use any salt you like enough to taste on its own.


Vodka Pie Crust:


1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 ¼ oz)
¼ plus 1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4” slices
¼ cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces
2 tbsp cold vodka
1 to 2 tbsp cold water


Process ¾ cup of the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until cobined, about 2 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until dough starts to come together in uneven clumps (should look like cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but all flour should be coated), about 10 seconds. Scrape down bowl. Add remaining flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pules. Transfer to a medium bowl.


Sprinkle vodka and 1 tbsp of the water over flour mixture. With a rubber spatula, mix with a folding motion, pressing down on dough until dough comes together and feels slightly tacky. If dough seems dry, add as much of the remaining water as needed to achieve desired consistency (I used a scant 1 ½ tbsp). Flatten into a 4” disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 45 minutes or up to 2 days.


On a generously floured (up to ¼ cup) work surface, roll dough into a 12” circle, about 1/8” thick. Roll loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate. Press dough into the bottom and side of plate to fit. Trim overhanging dough to about 1/2” beyond lip of plate. Fold overhand under itself so edge is flush with plate. Flute the dough with your fingers (don't worry if it's not perfect!). Refrigerate while you make the filling.


Pecan Pie Filling:


1 ½ cups chopped raw pecans
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
Scant ¼ tsp fleur de sel or sea salt, plus ¼ tsp
3 large eggs
¾ cup plus 3 tbsp light Karo syrup
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tbsp bourbon (I used Jim Beam)
2 tbsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350F. Heat a large skillet on medium high heat. Add pecans and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add butter and scant ¼ tsp of the salt and “stir-fry” pecans until butter melts and barely starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.


Crack eggs into a large bowl and whisk to break up. Add Karo syrup, brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla and remaining ¼ tsp fleur de sel and whisk until combined. Stir in pecan/butter mixture and pour into chilled, unbaked crust. Bake in the center of the oven until top is golden brown and puffed, but still slightly jiggly in the center, 45 to 54 minutes (mine took 52 minutes). Cool completely on a rack at room temperature, about 4 hours. Pie is perfect on the day it is baked and very, very good after being refrigerated overnight; serve at room temperature.


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