Pecan Pie is a uniquely American dessert and apparently a holiday menu without it is a sin, especially in the Southern States where the pie is a staple. Some claim that French immigrants to New Orleans created the pecan pie after the Native Americans introduced them to pecans. Who knows? One thing is for certain, the pecan trees are native to the South and fresh pecans as well as pecan pies, pecan pralines and various other pecan delights are widely popular in the region. As you might guess, I made a solid effort to try all these sweet handmade southern treats as we were passing through Louisiana on our road trip from Toronto to New Orleans this March. However, the most memorable experience to me in terms of classic southern desserts would be the slice of that freshly-baked nutty pie perfection I ate on the front porch of Oak Alley Plantation Restaurant after exploring the historic site that lined the banks of the Mississippi River. It also turned out that of all plantations that dot the landscape along Louisiana's famous River Road, one that stands out for its relationships to pecans is non other, but Oak Alley. One of the slaves at the plantation, the gifted, first name-only gardener from New Orleans, Antoine, was the first person to successfully create the first pecan variety with thin shell that could be cracked bare handed. Antoine's improved pecan was named 'centennial' as a honor for winning the Best Pecan Award at the Philadelphia Exposition in 1876.
We came back home with tins full of Louisiana's favorite nut and books full of wonderful collections of great southern recipes. And I thought that Easter weekend would be the perfect time to bake this simple and delicious pie, this symbol of the Southern heritage, the one that is really loaded with nuts, has a little hint of Praline pecan liqueur and creates such an earthy taste in your mouth which as the author wrote "makes you close your eyes and wish you might live forever in the witness of that rich moment."
For the Crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup ice cold water
6 tbsp. (about 90 ml) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 cups chopped pecans (plus extras pecan halves to line the top)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 or 2 tbsp. Pralin Pecan Liqueur or bourbon (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
To make the pie dough, combine in a large bowl flour, sugar, and salt. Rub in the butter using your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water and stir with a spatula to mix to a firm dough. Use your hands to knead the dough together and pack it into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
On a floured surface flatten dough ball with rolling pin. Roll out into a circle that is one inch larger than the pie dish. Place pie shell into dish, fold overhang edge of pie crust and crimp decoratively. Prick the bottom with a fork and refrigerate until solid.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the pie dish on a cooking sheet and line with a sheet of oiled foil. Fill with pie weights or beans. Baked in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Carefully remove foil and beans and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let cool a little before filling.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
To make pie filling, place butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan and stir gently until melted. Remove from the heat and and stir in pecans, cider vinegar, vanilla, liqueur. Set the mixture aside to cool a little , about 5 minutes and then whisk in one egg at a time until combined. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 35-40 minutes. If needed, during the last 10 minutes of baking, cover the pie with foil to prevent the top from getting too hard. The pie is done when the crust browns and the centre is slightly firm to touch but still has some jiggle to it.
Let cool before slicing and serve.
(Recipe adapted from "At My Grandmother's Table Heartwarming Stories and Cherished Recipe from the South", a book by Faye Porter.)
Do you like pecan pie?
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