Making Pecan Pie

Thanks to some terrific reader input I made the best pecan pie of my life yesterday. It’s the little tweaks to the recipe that really make the difference. The devastating effects of this pie were on display this morning when Mrs. Pastry’s badly shaken colleague brought the empty plate to her office. I only gave him the finished pie (minus the above piece) last evening. Evidently he set it down in front of his in-laws and something of a frenzy ensued. I don’t have full details because he was speaking rapidly and in Spanish, but it was something to the effect of: there was pie…on the ceiling…on the walls…on the windows…my God…it was horrible!

So…prepare this pie at your own risk. Begin by assembling your ingredients. First, toast the nuts. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and spread them out on a sheet pan. About 7 minutes of toasting for pieces like these is perfect. I’d go closer to 9 for whole pecan halves.

While those cool make the filling. Swizzle the eggs in a bowl.

Stir in the corn syrup…

…and the vanilla. Stir with a fork, don’t whisk them, since you don’t want to create a foam which will give you an overly thick crust on the finished pie when the rubble rise to the top.

Next melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat.

Add the brown sugar…

…and stir briefly until the sugar melts. Don’t get this mixture really hot, you only want enough heat to warm it to the point that everything melts together.

Turn the burner down to low and add the egg mixture…

…followed by the vinegar.

Stir it all together gently.

Slowly heat the filling it to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring more or less constantly.

Add the toasted nuts. They’ll cool the filling, so give the pan another shot of gentle heat while the crust finishes it pre-bake.

Take the crust out of the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 275. Pour the warm filling into the pre-baked shell.

Apply a pie shield and put the pie in the oven.

Bake it about 50 minutes until it no longer sloshes when you jostle the pie plate, but jiggles. Check it after 35 minutes to see how it’s coming. If the crust is too blonde at that point you can remove the pie shield so it has a chance to color.

Let it cool about 4 hours until it’s completely set. Serve!

Any syrup in there? Nope! When you want to prevent a custard from breaking, low heat does it every time.

You can do a crimped crust too if you like!

28 thoughts on “Making Pecan Pie”

  1. … splendid Joe! ’twas worth the wait to see this yummy looking pie. now I just have to muster the courage to bake this… and wait for 4 hours ??!! …. before it sets! 😀

    1. Hey Susan!

      It’s not a hard thing I promise! But yeah, it takes 4 hours to completely cool and set up. I actually cut this one at the 3 hour mark because I was losing light. It was very nice at that point though it could have been firmer. If you don’t mind it a little runny you can cut it at the 2 hour mark. Anything under and I would expect quite runny indeed, but for some that might be a bonus! Cheers,

      – Joe

  2. That looks so perfect, Joe, good job!

    I know so many people, myself included, have trouble getting the pie to set.

    I’ve often wondered, if Pecan Pie is a custard, whether cooking the pie in a water bath (with a pre-baked crust, of course) would actually work the same way it does on cheesecake batter? I’ve thought about trying it numerous times, but always lose my nerve (fearing that it wouldn’t work or that water would somehow find its way into the filling and ruin the pie).

    As for your recipe, do you think I could get away with cooking it at 300°? (Sometimes, my oven runs a little hot no matter what I do)

    1. Hey Andrew!

      You could indeed get away with 300, just start checking earlier. As for the water bath I fear the steam would turn the outer crust to mush, but I make it a point to encourage experiments! Let me know if you try it!

      – Joe

  3. Awesome looking pie! How long & at what temp do you pre-bake the pie shell? Thanks for all you do!

    1. Hey Judy!

      Times are in that post on par-baking, but basically I baked the pie with the weights and greased foil for 10 minutes at 375, then took the fold and weights out and baked it for another 7 minutes at the same temperature.

      And thanks very much for the kudos!

      Cheers,

      – Joe

      1. I never get over how pale your pre-baked crusts look. Are your crusts completely frozen right before they go into the oven?

        1. Hey Andrew!

          No they aren’t, and in fact I usually don’t refrigerate them after rolling, I just rest them for an hour or two at room temperature. Of course there’s nothing wrong with refrigeration either. The trick, if there is any, is just to be militant about pre-baking times. I do my best not to brown them at all. Then the pie shield protects them for the bake. Have you calibrated your oven lately? I wonder if it might be running hot.

          – Joe

          1. Well, it’s a really old oven, but I always use a thermometer between the racks.

            I rest it overnight in the fridge to minimize shrinking. I’ll try a 2-hour rest next time I make one and see what happens.

            I usually pre-bake at 350°, weighted, for 14 minutes and then another 14 minutes, unweighted. Then, I seal it with lightly beaten egg white.

            Does that sound too long to you?

            Most times, I’m never sure if the crust is cooked all the way through. It always looks “wet” on the bottom after the weights are removed, so I usually bake it until I see some color on the sides or bottom.

            Do you think I should try a shorter bake time?

          2. Hey Andrew!

            Yes that’s too long. Try a 375 oven for ten minutes with weights, then bake another 7-10 without the weights. Paint on the egg white at that point if you want. The crust will look a little greasy still, but the point isn’t to fully bake it…unless of course you’re planning to do a no-bake pie, in which case do the longer bake you described. With conventional pies the crust will continue to bake after the filling goes in, though of course more from the bottom and sides.

            That should work for you! Cheers,

            – Joe

  4. This looks great! I make a pecan pie, and although it tastes wonderful, I can never get it to fully set. I know I’m either over- or under- baking it….. Got any ideas ( or tips)????? Thanks!

    1. Hey Kim!

      A lot of readers have said much the same thing. I’m going to address that in a post a little later on. Thanks!

      – Joe

  5. Joe, that filling is everything I’ve wanted my filling to look like but it never has. I knew it could be done and I knew you would do it, if anyone could.
    I am on it tomorrow. But before I start…
    I guess I didn’t read the recipe as well as I thought at first. How did you measure the corn syrup? My liquid measuring cup says 8 ounces equals 1 cup. Does it weigh 8oz when you use 3/4 cup or what? I am going to make this pie after seeing how beautiful your filling turned out, but need some clarification on this corn syrup measurement. Did you actually use the 3/4 cup of syrup so you could add bourbon without thinning the filling too much? I guess I want to know if you weighed your ingredients or used volume measures and what other tweaks did you do?
    Joe, I’ve had too many disappointments with curdled looking filling to deviate from the way you actually made yours. (I NEED to make a beautiful smooth filling at least once in my life.) Help me, Joe, help me!

    1. Hi Susan!

      Thanks very much! Brown sugar has a lot to do with the rich color, and the low oven is what’s mostly responsible for the texture. Can’t wait to hear how yours goes!

      As for the corn syrup, you can either weigh yours or just measure out 3/4 cup. A fluid ounce of corn syrup is heavier than a fluid ounce of water, so 3/4 cup actually does weigh 8 ounces.

      As for the bourbon, the custard won’t be affected by 2 tablespoons more liquid, so have no fear if you decide to go that direction.

      Looking forward to hearing from you — I have a strong feeling you’re going to make a great pie today! Cheers,

      – Joe

    1. Hey Patricia!

      I considered that and actually I know Mrs. Pastry would love it. Since corn syrup is less sweet than refiner’s syrup I went in that direction since I wanted to tone the sweet factor down a little. I’ll give that a try next time though for sure.

      Cheers,

      – Joe

  6. That’s a truly beautiful slice. I made pecan pie once, everyone liked it but I thought it was way too sweet.

    So, tell us about the vinegar. Did it cut the sweetness? Did it taste at all “vinegary”? Would bourbon do the same thing, or less so?

    1. Hey Chana!

      By adding nuts and using corn syrup and brown sugar I really tried to reduce the sweetness quotient. I think I succeeded.

      As for the vinegar I think it did cut a little of the richness (not sweetness), acid always does that. However its main value is to fill out the flavor profile. The little bit of tang adds more notes and makes a bite an overall more satisfying experience!

      – Joe

  7. Does preheating (warming) the filling reduce the overall bake time or is there something else happening that results in a better set of the filling? If its is the former why does longer bake time not provide the same result? Have never seen pecan pie with filling as shown in you picture of the slice. Fantastic!

    1. Hi again Stewart! And thanks!

      The pre-warming does cut down that baking time, and that’s a good thing in terms of the filling at the outer edges of the pie, which tends to over-bake. It’s those darn slope-sided pie plates of ours, they’re hazardous for custards. The longer those narrow edges are exposed to heat the more susceptible the filling there is to curdling, which not only causes graininess in that region of the pie, it causes cracking on the surface as the over-done outer sections pull away from the less-done inner sections. This is why it’s better to pre-heat and bake in a low oven. Does that make sense?

      Cheers,

      – Joe

  8. My pie just came out of the oven, and I’m hoping for the best. One problem I had was my eggs started cooking when I added them to the warm butter/sugar mixture. Any tips to avoid this?

    1. Hey Bethany!

      A little cooked egg should be too much of a problem. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it wasn’t much more than that and the custard still sets up. But yes, at that phase you only want to heat the butter and sugar mixture until both of them melt, not until they get really hot and boil. That’s the only tip I can think of. Best of luck and let me know what happens!

      – Joe

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