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!

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Pecan Pie Recipe

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.
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
7.5 ounces (1 cup packed) light 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)
7.5 ounces (2 cups) pecans

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Making Green Tomato Pie

Green tomato pie isn’t something you see very often in pie cases, but it’s a farm kitchen staple in many parts of the US. It’s a handy thing to have in your repertoire when either a.) your patch gets too prolific, or b.) cool weather and/or an early frost puts the hammer down on tomato ripening. All you need is 4-5 medium green tomatoes, or about 1 3/4 pounds, sliced about 1/4 inch thick.

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Pie is Not Scary

We all lament the passing of The Great Age of Pie. We remember our grandmothers and the way they seemed to turn out pies almost effortlessly, and wonder a.) whether our grandma’s were technical geniuses, or b.) when exactly it happened that something as easy as pie got to be so darn hard. The fact […]

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Making Lemon Meringue Pie

This is what you call a classic American lemon meringue pie: a light, frothy-sweet baked egg foam above, a tart and creamy curd filling below, all heaped up on a delicate crumb (or traditional) pie crust. Not much not to like here in my opinion. Indeed lemon meringue consistently ranks about fifth on the list of the America’s favorite pies. It would probably rank higher if more people made this pie at home, but its reputation for fussiness scares a lot of home bakers away.

That reputation is deserved to some extent. Under-baked meringue toppings often cause weeping, and are quite common as the very center of the pie is hard to fully heat without breaking the lemon custard (which causes another kind of weeping). Large pools of syrup are commonly found in pie plates, either upon cutting or the next day after any leftovers have had a chance to sit. The process below is designed to avoid that problem, and it works very well. However it is something of a dance, so I strongly encourage you to have all of your ingredients and component parts prepared and laid out on the counter before you begin. There’ll be much less confusion that way.

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Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe

Lemon meringue pie is a basically a citrus curd pie save for the fact that the “curd” is made with a mixture of water and juice (instead of all juice), and it’s thickened with cornstarch. The water provides added volume (and frankly also keeps the flavor of the filling from becoming overwhelming) and the cornstarch provides thickening as well as insurance against curdling in the oven. This recipe — which steals tricks from both Rose Levy Beranbaum and Cook’s Illustrated — combines a deep pie with a break-resistant American-style meringue.

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Making Pork Pies

I have to admit, these Melton Mowbray-style pork pies aren’t something you just throw together, but for the serious pork pie enthusiast they are well worth the time and effort. To make them the old-fashioned way you’ll need an old-fashioned piece of equipment called a pie dolly plus some rendered leaf lard, for without good quality lard the side walls of the pie won’t stand up in the oven. Oh yes friends, these pies are baked free-standing, didn’t you know? Forms are for sissies. At least they are in Melton Mowbray.

That said you absolutely can adapt this recipe to more conventional ingredients and equipment. A standard hot water pie crust or even an American-style pie crust can be used along with a muffin tin or other form. They’ll come together in an afternoon. Personally, once I read about this technique I couldn’t resist trying it, even if it took three days. The result was the pork pie of the gods.

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English Pork Pie Recipe

A classic pork pie has three components: crust, filling and “jelly” or a gelatin-thickened stock which is poured in through a hole in the top crust while the pie is still warm from the oven. Why the jelly? Because these pies bake for a good 90 minutes. In that time the fresh pork is going to lose some if its moisture. The jelly is a way of putting back some of that moisture, as well as adding extra flavor. Notice my recipe calls for powdered gelatin. If you prefer you can make the stock the traditional way by adding two fresh pork trotters (feet) to the stock. Me, I’d just as soon let the good folks at Knox smell up their kitchen with feet, that’s what I pay them for.

For the Stock

2 pounds pork bones
1 bay leaf
about 20 black peppercorns
1 carrot, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery rib, diced
small bunch fresh parsley
several sprigs fresh thyme
powdered gelatin (one envelope [2 1/4 teaspoons] per 2 cups of stock)

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Sweet Potato Pie Recipe

Sweet potato pie is one of the glories of Southern cooking. The best ones really taste like sweet potato instead of pumpkin, which happens a result of pumpkin pie spice (ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, etc.). A little nutmeg and some brown sugar are really all you need to bring out the best in the spuds. You’ll need:

1 recipe pie crust for a single-crust pie
about 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes cut into chunks
1 cup sugar
2 ounces (1/2 stick) very soft butter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

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