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.