A lesson in Pecan Pie

The stressful part about trying new recipes is that you’re never quite sure how they’re going to turn out. Sometimes you end up pleasantly surprised, other times you end up sitting on the kitchen floor, flabbergasted and wondering where you went wrong. This recipe falls into the latter category.

This is the first pecan pie I have ever made, and I was reeeaaally excited to give it a go. I scoured the internet, comparing different recipes for what seemed like ages before settling on this Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie from Epicurious. Since this was my first attempt at a pecan pie,  I stuck close to the original recipe without attempting any real modifications (I even bought unsalted butter for a change).

cutting butter into flour with pastry blender

I had always assumed pecan pie would be a complicated thing to make, but it turned out to be faster and easier to assemble than I originally thought. The most time consuming part was making the pastry since you have to leave it to chill for at least an hour before rolling it out. This is where I think I started to go wrong. It was getting late and I was feeling impatient, so I only chilled the dough for about half an hour. As a result, it was cool but not firm when I went to roll it out.

dough for pecan pie crust

The recipe also said to add three tablespoons of water to the flour mixture to start, and then ONLY add a little more if the dough wasn’t holding together. It seemed really dry to me, so I did add a little more. In retrospect it probably didn’t need it. The trick here was to squish the dry dough between your fingers to see if it held together. I sort of skipped that part and just added more water because it looked very dry (oops). The crust ended up being quite hard and not very flaky.

pie dough in pie plate

pie crust with patterned edge

At least the filling was quick and easy to put together. You basically just melt some butter in a small saucepan and then stir in the rest of your ingredients. Boom! Done! On to the pecans!

whisking filling for pecan pie

The recipe said to put all the pecans in the pie crust and then pour the liquid over top. However, my inner OCD baker wanted to be fancy and make a pattern with the pecans. So I took half of them (about one cup), gave them a rough chop, and placed them in the pie shell.

pecans in pie dough

Next, I poured the wet mix on top of the chopped pecans. At this point it seemed like a lot of wet mix for the amount of pecans in there, but I continued on with my plan.

pouring filling into pecan pie crust

I took the remaining pecans and carefully placed them on top in my fancy pattern. This part worked really well, but I still don’t think it was enough pecans. Next time I could chop a full two cups to use in the bottom, and then use extras on top for the pattern.

pecan pie with fork patterned crust edge

Something else I realized when making this recipe is that I only have deep dish pie plates. I used a fork to create a sort of striped design on the edge of the pie crust at first, but once the filling was in the dish, I noticed the pie crust was way too high for the level of filling. I ended up folding the crust down and crimping the edge instead so there wasn’t such a tall crust.

pecan pie with crimped edge ready for oven

The pie is supposed to bake for 50-60 minutes in the oven. I checked it at 40 minutes (because I always check things extra early) and then kept setting a timer for 5 minute increments and going back for another look. I ended up leaving the pie in the oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes because it didn’t seem like it was setting. After doing some reading, I learned that the way to know that pecan pie is done is that the edges should be firm but the centre will still be jiggly. Not full on wobbly…just slightly jiggly. Knowing this now, I realized I probably over-baked my poor pie.

Pecan Pie

I definitely learned a few things while making this recipe. As I mentioned before, the crust was a bit hard so it was a little tough to cut through. The filling itself was sweeter than I would care for, but overall the flavour was really nice. The recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest, which I liked, but the flavour comes through quite strong. Next time I would reduce it a little bit. I also added a pinch of cloves (that I would do again). In future I would increase the amount of pecans as well.

slice of pecan pie

All in all this was far from the greatest pecan pie I have ever eaten, but I don’t think it was too bad for a first attempt. If anyone out there has a pecan pie recipe that they’ve tried and loved, please send it my way!

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