There are few desserts more divisive than pecan pie.
For some it’s the ultimate treat, while for others it’s just too damn sweet. I personally fall somewhere in between.
It even took Lisa Ludwinski, the owner of Detroit’s acclaimed bakery Sister Pie, some time to figure out this classic confection and wrap her mind around its abundance of sugary ingredients.
“Before I started making pie for a living, I don’t remember trying pecan pie. I thought the corn syrupy sweetness would be a turnoff,” she writes her in new book, naturally, also called Sister Pie, which just came out today and includes some of her favorite techniques, recipes and baking secrets. “There’s a simple fix to that, and I’m certainly not the first to figure it out: add booze! We use 80-proof, 7 ½-year-old Laird’s Apple Brandy with notes of cardamom, tobacco, and toffee. We replace the corn syrup altogether with Grade B maple syrup and a little honey.”
Her other great idea is actually adding crushed toasted pecans to the crust’s dough. “One stupidly simple way to make a dynamic pie dough is to replace 20 to 25 percent of the flour with toasted nuts or seeds.”
And since you’ll be buying a bottle of apple brandy for this recipe, try making a Jack Rose cocktail with some of the rest of the alcohol while you wait for your pie to bake!
- 2⁄3 cup Turbinado sugar
- 1⁄4 cup (half a stick) Unsalted butter, cubed
- 1⁄2 cup Grade B maple syrup
- 1⁄4 cup Honey
- 2 Tbsp Fine yellow cornmeal
- 3 Large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp Pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp Apple brandy
- 1⁄2 tsp Kosher salt
- One 9-inch crust made with Toasted Pecan Pie Dough, extra blind baked and cooled (See below)
- 1 tsp Turbinado sugar mixed with 1 tsp all-purpose flour
- 11⁄2 cups whole pecans, toasted
- 1 Large egg, beaten
- Unsweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 325°F.
- Make the filling: Place the turbinado sugar and cubed butter in a small, heatproof bowl. Combine the maple syrup and honey in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Continue boiling until the mixture reads 225°F on a candy thermometer. Pour the maple-honey mixture over the turbinado sugar and butter and stir until the butter has completely melted. Whisk in the cornmeal. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla, brandy, and salt.
- Slowly pour the cooled butter mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
- Place the blind-baked pecan crust on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with the turbinado sugar–flour mixture, then spread the toasted pecans evenly on top. Brush the crimped edge with the beaten egg. Carefully pour in the filling until it reaches the bottom of the crimps. Use a knife or fork to poke down any pecans that aren’t submerged in the filling.
- Transfer the baking sheet with the pie on it to the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until puffed around the edges and only slightly jiggly in the center when shaken.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for 4 to 6 hours. When the pie is at room temperature, slice it into 6 to 8 pieces. Serve with whipped cream.
- Store leftover pie, well wrapped in plastic wrap or under a pie dome, at room temperature for up to 2 days.
- 1 cup All-purpose flour
- 1⁄4 cup Ground toasted pecans
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp Granulated sugar
- 1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted European-style butter, straight from the fridge
- 1⁄4 cup Ice-cold water-vinegar mixture, or more if needed*
- In a large stainless steel bowl, combine the flour, pecans, salt, and sugar and stir to mix well. Place the stick of butter in the bowl and coat on all sides with flour. Using a bench scraper, cut the butter into half-inch cubes. Work quickly to separate the cubes with your hands until they are all lightly coated in flour. Grab that bench scraper once again and cut each cube in half. I always tell my pie dough students that it’s unnecessary to actually cut each cube perfectly in half, but it’s a good idea to break up the butter enough so that you can be super-efficient when it’s pastry blender time.
- It’s pastry blender time! Switch to the pastry blender and begin to cut in the butter with one hand while turning the bowl with the other. It’s important not to aim for the same spot at the bottom of the bowl with each stroke of the pastry blender, but to actually slice through butter every time to maximize efficiency. When the pastry blender clogs up, carefully clean it out with your fingers (watch out, it bites!) or a butter knife and use your hands to toss the ingredients a bit. Continue to blend and turn until the largest pieces are the size and shape of peas and the rest of it feels and looks freakishly similar to canned Parmesan cheese.
- At this point, add the water-vinegar mixture all at once, and switch back to the bench scraper. Scrape as much of the mixture as you can from one side of the bowl to the other, until you can’t see visible pools of liquid anymore. Now it’s hand time. Scoop up as much of the mixture as you can, and use the tips of your fingers (and a whole lot of pressure) to press it back down onto the rest of the ingredients. Rotate the bowl a quarter-turn and repeat. Scoop, press, and turn. With each fold, your intention is to be quickly forming the mixture into one cohesive mass. Remember to incorporate any dry, floury bits that have congregated at the bottom of the bowl, and once those are completely gone and the dough is formed, it’s time to stop.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a lightly floured counter, and gently pat it into a 2-inch-thick disc, working quickly to seal any broken edges before wrapping it tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight. When you go to roll out the crust, you want the disc to feel as hard and cold as the butter did when you removed it from the fridge to make the dough. This will make the roll-out way easier.
- You can keep the pie dough in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to 1 year. If frozen, remove the dough and place it in the refrigerator to thaw one full day before you intend to use it.
*Fill a 1-cup measuring cup with about half a cup of ice. Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and fill it up with water.
Reprinted with permission from Sister Pie, copyright © 2018. Photography by E. E. Berger. Published by Lorena Jones Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.