Can pecan pie curdle?

Oh yes it definitely can, reader Tillie. Though pecan pie doesn’t give the appearance of a custard it definitely is one, and as such it abides by all the usual custard rules, number one being: don’t overcook me. For when you overcook a custard the long, string-like egg proteins which unfurl so beautifully in gentle heat begin to clench back up again. When that happens they wring the water out of the gel they’d just created, leaving behind curds and a large puddle of syrup. I think we’ve all had pecan pies like that, no? Clumpy and syrupy…in other words…blech.

Summarizing the unhappy tale of an overcooked custard in this way I’m more convinced than ever that to do this right I’ll need to bake my pecan pie like the other custard pies on the site, specifically pumpkin and world famous Kentucky horse race whose name rhymes with “Herbie” pie. That is, I’ll pour warm filling to a hot pre-baked shell to a.)pre-start the gelling of the filling and b.) protect the crust from becoming inundated and soggy. Then I’ll bake it nice and low until it’s just barely gelled, letting the residual heat finish off the baking.

I’ll incorporate Frankly’s hint to add more pecans than normal to cut the sweetness, as well as Martha’s suggestion to toast the nuts for heightened flavor. I’ll also add a little vinegar for kicks. As for the syrup I’m going to use corn syrup in an effort to further control sweetness, though cane syrup or refiner’s (Lyle’s Golden) will work just as well. So that’s the plan. Stand by for the formal recipe.

16 thoughts on “Can pecan pie curdle?”

  1. Waiting. Patiently. 🙂

    Joe, as you can probably tell from your web page stats, I recently discovered your blog and have become enamored with it. You are witty and most of all, you provide descriptions and explanations that make sense. You understand the science behind what’s going on and that appeals to me because it helps me make better, more informed decisions in the kitchen. Besides, as a native of Chicago (although transplanted to the left coast), I love your references.

    By the way, I absolutely covet your brick oven. My very old, trusty Jenn-air recently died and while searching for a replacement I’ve been cooking in a toaster oven. Hahaha! Ok, not funny, but one has to do what one must, right? And then I saw your brick oven and thought, “Eureka!”


    In the meantime, I will be making your pumpkin bread recipe here shortly. In fact, questions about my original recipe are what led me to your blog. I had noted a strange aftertaste the last time I made my pumpkin bread and thought perhaps it was related to the baking soda or baking powder that was called for. After reading your explanation and commentary about the two, I now understand what is going on, and have modified my recipe to reflect the quantities of those two ingredients in yours. Otherwise, our recipes were basically the same.

    Keep up the good work. And hey, what are you doing here at the computer? Get back in the kitchen! 😉

    1. Quick follow-up: My comment above about patiently waiting is in reference to the recipe for pecan pie that you’ve not yet posted but you said is forthcoming.

    2. What a delightful comment to land in my in-box! Thank you very much, Karen! And heck yeah get yourself a brick oven! You wouldn’t want to use it for pumpkin bread for for other breads and pizzas (not to mention other tasks like braising, stew making and lard rendering) it can’t be beat.

      And I appreciate the patience. Roma, she waz not beelt in a day, no?


      – Joe

      1. E’ vero, Joe, non era. (Translated: Eeza true-a, Joe, she-a a-wasn’t-a.) (Thank you for the opportunity to practice my Italian. It’s been a while.) With regards to your pecan pie recipe, I shall be the model of patience. 🙂

  2. We had a major fail at Thanksgiving, had two pecan pies refuse to set up. I made the first one and my husband was convinced that I had forgotten to add the eggs. He made the second one, and it turned out just like mine. Can corn syrup “go bad”? In my 50 plus years of cooking / baking, I have never had a pecan pie fail. They were also very grainy, as if the sugar did not dissolve.

    1. Hey Cactus!

      How odd. Did the recipe call for heating the filling before you put it in the shell? Send it to me if you can.


      – Joe

      1. Joe , it’s the recipe off the karo bottle. Same recipe I’ve used for years.

        Pecan Pie

        1 cup Karo all-purpose syrup
        (1/2 c light, 1/2 c dark) 1 cup sugar
        3 eggs, slightly beaten 2 tbs butter, melted
        1/8 tsp salt 1 cup pecans
        1 tsp vanilla

        Mix all ingredients together, adding pecans last. Pour into pastry shell. Bake in 400° oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° and bake an additional 30 – 35 minutes. When pie is done, outer edges of filling should be set, center should be slightly soft.

        1. Hey Cactus!

          Thanks for this, I’ll address this in a post today. Thanks,

          – Joe

    1. Well assaulting me with puns like that won’t get it here any faster!

      That one really took the wind out of me. I may need to lie down…

      – Joe

  3. Lemon zest, I’m telling you! It makes a very nice addition/foil to the sweetness.

  4. Hi Joe,
    I bought a digital thermometer prob366 from Finland. It was very good. Now the problem is that as I put the battery in, it starts beep continuously LCD shows all the options like temp, hr,min ring etc and no button works like it freez.
    May you help me.

    1. Hello Zavia!

      I wish I could tell you what is going on, but I don’t. Could the battery just be low? Mine has done that before when the battery was nearly dead.

      Good luck!

      – Joe

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