Chef Leticia Schwartz is the author of The Brazilian Kitchen, the cookbook that made Brazilian cooking accessible to the masses. She has appeared on The Today Show and teaches cooking classes in Fairfield County and NYC.
Welcome November! With the aftermath of hurricane Sandy and the elections behind us, I think we all want to move on to Thanksgiving, just around the corner, and the perfect occasion to be thankful for what we have. This is my favorite American Holiday and truly the biggest gourmet feast on the calendar year.
As a Brazilian living in the US, it took me a few years to understand the deep meaning of Thanksgiving— especially the repeated menu every year. On the other hand, the chef in me loves to see the whole country talking turkey and cooking this one giant meal.
One of my favorite desserts from the Thanksgiving picture is Pecan Pie. Over the last few years I have tried recipes from magazines, newspapers, cookbooks, and web sites. They are all good but in every recipe I wish something was different. There are just so many variables that impact the end result of a pecan pie.
Should I pre-roast the pecans before adding to the filling? Most recipes call for this step, but I noticed that the pecans have plenty of time to roast while baking, especially because they tend to rise to the surface, so pre-roasting, in my opinion, yields in a bitter nut.
Another step very common these days is the addition of chocolate pieces to the filling. Hey, I am a huge chocoholic, but I have decided that chocolate has no place in the pecan pie of my dreams. I think it changes the silky texture of the caramel, overwhelming the flavor, impeaching the caramel to shine on its own.
And what about the butter? In older versions of pecan pie, the butter is simply melted and cooled before incorporated to the filling, but in more recent ones, it calls for melting to a nutty point (beurre noisette). Let’s do that. It really adds great flavor without compromising the texture of the filling.
And what pan should I use? Many recipes call for a round fluted pan with removable bottom, but I realize that my pecan pie needs deep support system (like me!) so I am opting for a deep-dish pie pan. Should I make a little whipped cream on the side? It’s in fashion today to jazz up the whipped cream, like bourbon flavored, or spicy whipped cream. But let’s get real, the pecan pie already faces competition from other desserts, after all, there is always more than one treat at the table. Ok then, no side dish needs to get in this picture.
After trying different recipes and analyzing all these points year after year, I opted to create my own version of pecan pie and I simply love the result! I hope you will try it in your Thanksgiving table—and love it too. It’s the perfect combination of silky caramel and crunchy pecans mixed with a sweet crusty dough.
If you prefer to prepare the recipe a few days ahead of time, you can, just make sure to keep it wrapped in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature the day of Thanksgiving, and warm it up for 15-20 minutes in a 300˚F oven. Let it rest at room temperature before serving.
Without much further ado, here is the recipe:
Leticia’s Pecan Pie
For the Crust:
1 1/3 cups (205g) all-purpose flour, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (28g) sugar
1 stick (115g or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, lightly chilled, cut into small cubes
3-4 tablespoons water
For the Filling:
6 large eggs
¾ cup (135g) sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (320g) light corn syrup
½ cup (140g) maple syrup
½ cup (140g) dark corn syrup
4 tablespoons (63g) unsalted butter, melted slightly nutty and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (230g) pecan halves, coarsely chopped
Equipment: a 9-inch fluted deep-dish pie
1. Prepare the Dough: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, sugar, and butter until it looks like a coarse meal. With the machine running, gradually add the water until the dough just starts to combine. Depending on humidity you might not need all the water. The dough should look evenly moistened.
2. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead lightly, enough to incorporate and feel smooth, about 4-5 turns. Flatten the dough into a disk, cover in plastic wrap, and chill to rest for at least 1 hour. (Dough can be made 2 days ahead of time and kept in refrigerator, or frozen up to 4 months.)
3. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 1/8-inch thick circle large enough to fit the dish. Transfer to the pie dish, pressing onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan, leaving a ½-inch up-overhang. Fold the dough under itself, and crimp the edges in a decorative way. Chill the pie dough in the fridge until filling is ready.
The dough is nice and smooth, very easy to work with
4. Prepare the Filling: Place a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 350˚F.
5. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Add the sugar, salt, corn syrup, maple, and dark syrup, and whisk until homogeneous. Mix in the melted butter and vanilla. Mix in the pecans and fold with a spatula.
6. Remove the pie dish from the fridge, and pour filling inside the crust.
7. Bake the Pie: Place pie dish on a baking sheet, and bake the pie in the oven until the crust is lightly golden and the filling is puffed and set in the center, about 1 hour.
8. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least 2 hours. Cut the pie into wedges and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.