This pecan pie recipe incorporates lots of reader wisdom: extra nuts to keep it from getting too sweet, a toasting step for extra flavor, and a little vinegar for interest. I should add that lemon zest and bourbon also make terrific enhancements. This formula represents my best attempt to stay within the bounds of a classic pie while still incorporating what corporate types might call “best practices”. But do as you see fit!
1 recipe standard or perfect pie crust.
9 ounces (2 cups) pecan pieces
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
7.5 ounces (1 cup packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature
8 ounces (3/4 cup) light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
0.65 ounce (2 teaspoons) white or cider vinegar (1-2 tablespoons of Kentucky bourbon or a heaping teaspoon of fresh lemon zest are promising alternatives)
Begin by toasting the pecans. Preheat your oven to 375 and spread the nuts out on a sheet pan or cooking sheet. Toast them for 5-8 minutes, stirring them around every so often to promote even toasting and to check that they aren’t burning. When they’re lightly toasted remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely.
While the crust is baking prepare the filling. Lightly whisk the eggs in a small bowl with a fork, then stir in the corn syrup and vanilla. Put the butter into a medium saucepan and melt it over low heat. Stir in the brown sugar and salt, then the egg mixture and finally the vinegar. Gently heat the mixture until it’s warm, about 130 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll want to stir it more or less constantly to keep the heat even and prevent any egg from cooking. An instant-read digital thermometer is handy here. Remove the pan from the heat when the filling is warm enough, then stir in the pecans.
Ideally you’ll have finished making the filling just as the crust is reaching doneness. However since we don’t live in an ideal world you’ll have to improvise a little, returning the pan to low heat in the couple of minutes before the crust comes out just to make sure the filling is up to temperature.
When the crust is finished turn the heat down immediately to 275. Pour the filling into the hot shell, apply a pie shield to keep the crust from over-baking, put the dish on a sheet pan and the sheet pan on a middle rack in the oven. Bake the pie about 50 minutes, checking after 40 and jostling it a little to see how the gelling is coming. When the pie is done the center should jiggle in the center like JELL-O, not slosh like mud. When it’s done remove it from the oven and cool it on a rack for several hours to make sure it sets.