Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Best Pecan Pie

There's a pecan pie in my oven. I can only hope that it'll come out like one of Grandma's.

I apologize for letting this blog sit idle for so long, but things have been busy lately and cooking has mostly consisted of easy things from sources like Everyday Food or things I've already cooked here. Hopefully, that'll change soon. I'm sorry that I couldn't offer this recipe in time for Thanksgiving, but I really didn't need two, and I didn't want to let one sit for days before Thursday's feast. Christmas, perhaps?

In any case, this is a recipe that Grandma was definitely known for, despite the fact that I believe she got the recipe from someone else. The idea of not having her pecan pie for Thanksgiving or Christmas was heresy. I even convinced her to make one for me to take back to school with me during my freshman year in college, and if you'd blinked, you'd have missed it, it went so quickly. If the bean salad is her best recipe, this one is a very, very close second (and I'd understand anyone who would switch the two!).

The difference between this pie and other pecan pies is that the nuts are chopped, not whole. One cup of chopped nuts means a whole lot more nuts in the pie than the other way round, so if you like your pecans sitting whole and neat on the top of the pie and none in the gooey filling, this pie is not for you (and in this case, you have my undying sympathies). It also means that the top forms a wonderful chewy/crunchy crust that's almost like candy. It's fantastic, but then I'm a bit biased.

It wasn't until my mother and I attempted to bake this pie for the first time that we discovered that it has certain pitfalls. We mixed up enough filling for two pies and figured we'd split it between two pie plates. This was, it turned out, a very bad idea--how do you tell how much is half the filling? This error was exacerbated by the fact that we did not use a deep dish pie plate. The Pyrex deep dish plate is now a critical kitchen item in our family primarily because you cannot safely make this pie without it. As we discovered, the mixture gets hot enough to bubble up, and to our horror, we had the sweetest-smelling oven mess we could have imagined that day when, as my mother tells it, "they erupted like Mount Vesuvius." The deep dish plate prevents this problem, though a cookie sheet under the pie is a good preventive measure (we used one that day. It wasn't big enough to help much).

I've never been much good at fluting a pie crust, and with this plate, there's not much extra with which to do that, so tonight I didn't bother. I also skipped that step just to be sure that the inside of the plate was covered, because this pie's other drawback is that it's a devil to get out of the plate if any of the filling manages to get between the crust and the pie plate. That said, I'm not sure we've ever had one that hasn't, even when Grandma was making them. Somewhere in that dish you're going to find a spot where you feel like you need to use a chisel. If I worked for America's Test Kitchen, I'd find a way to prevent that problem, but I don't, so there's not much I can offer in the way of help except to say that the pie tastes just as good even if it's slightly messy.

Grandma used to make her own, but in later years even she decided Pillsbury did just as good a job. The night before Thanksgiving, I sure as heck am not whipping up a crust!

So, without further ado, the recipe:

Grandma's Pecan Pie

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup white karo
2 eggs well beaten
1/8 lb (1/2 cup, or half a stick)butter
pinch salt
1 cup chopped pecans
1 Pillsbury pie crust

Cream butter and sugar add well beaten eggs beat then add karo beat and add nuts.

Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes.

Grandma's recipe card calls for three times and temperatures, but in consultation with my mother, who's been the chief baker of this pie in recent years, the above time/temp works just fine. Gma also shook the pie before declaring it done--if it cracked, it was finished, and if not, it needed more time. These days, we stick a knife in it and if it comes out clean, we call it done.

We've made this recipe with Splenda, and it can be done, but the aftertaste is insane and the color is far, far too light since the Splenda doesn't crust up and bake properly. I don't recommend it. It's once or twice a year--treat yourself!


Paula said...

Love this pie recipe, and the whole idea of your blog ... it has made me think of my Grandma and what a wonderful cook she was. Those dishes become woven into a family's best memories - so terrific that you are honoring and celebrating these recipes and the delicious contributions they make. Your blog makes my heart smile - thank you!

terrie said...

Looks yummy! I have to give this a try after i get back to school!

Nancy said...

Hi, Terrie! It is REALLY good. If you try it, let me know what happens (and be sure to keep an eye on it and bake it with a cookie sheet underneath in case it bubbles over!). :)

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