Homemade pecan pie is a must-have dessert for the holidays! Get ready for irresistible slices of sweet and gooey filling with crunchy nuts in a flaky pie crust. The recipe is easy, and you can even make some of the components ahead of time.
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Pecan pie is the ultimate decadent treat to serve during the holiday time. The buttery crust combined with a nutty texture and caramel-flavored filling satisfies any sweet tooth. The good news is this pie is simple to prepare. The dough can be made a few days in advance, making assembly easy on the day of your feast.
There’s a beautiful contrast of textures- crunchy chopped nuts suspended in a sweet and luscious filling. Eggs help set the bourbon-infused syrup, which nicely holds each slice together. For a stunning presentation, pecan halves completely cover the surface.
Pie dough selection
Similar to my classic apple pie, I use a traditional Pâte Brisée pie dough. It consists of flour, salt, butter, and water. For this recipe, I also add freshly grated orange zest. Just a small amount of the natural oils from the citrus add a pleasant aroma and complement the nuts’ taste.
Prepare the crust
Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, then break it into the flour until pea-size. When you roll out the dough and bake it, the crust will provide a sturdy base to support the filling yet still be crispy and tender on the edges. I use my stand mixer to process the dough. However, a dough/pastry cutter or your fingers work too. The dough can be shaped into a flattened dish, wrapped, and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.
Shape the pie crust
The dough needs at least 4 hours to rest in the refrigerator before rolling out. This amount of time ensures that the flour’s proteins have time to relax, preventing a chewy texture. Roll the dough into a slightly thinner than ¼-inch thick circle, then transfer to a 9-inch pie dish.
Trim the excess dough, but leave some overhang. The edges will be tucked under, crimped, and shaped into pretty fluted edges. Make sure to “dock” or poke the dough several times on the crust’s bottom and sides. Freeze the formed crust for 20 minutes. This will firm up the butter and make the crust flaky.
Blind bake the crust
The pecan filling is high in moisture from the corn syrup and eggs. To ensure the crust doesn’t get soggy, it’s crucial to pre-bake the shell. Blind bake with some pie weights set inside a piece of parchment paper. The weight helps keep the dough from puffing up too much as it bakes and steams as the water heats up and tries to escape.
The pre-bake process takes about 15 minutes, then brush some egg wash on the bottom and sides on the crust to create a protective film. You’ll bake again briefly to set the egg wash. This step creates a moisture barrier for the wet filling when combined.
Make a flavorful filling
The filling base consists of dark corn syrup to provide the characteristic caramel taste and deep brown color. Light corn syrup is flat in taste, and the results will lack the amber appearance. I also add a special ingredient. Dark rum enhances the flavor of the vanilla extract and syrup.
The rum adds a hint of aged oaky notes, which provides depth to the sweet taste. Don’t worry. The alcohol evaporates so that it won’t taste boozy. Melted butter in the filling also browns and delivers a lovely toasted flavor.
Preventing a runny filling
To thicken the corn syrup, I use flour and eggs. The starches in the flour will swell, then set as the pie cools down to room temperature. The yolks provide richness, keeping the center gooey. The albumin egg whites firm up into a strong protein matrix, holding the filling together while maintaining a soft consistency.
Bake the pie
The blind-bake step won’t entirely cook the pie crust, just partially. Add a generous amount of chopped pecans sprinkled evenly into the crust. Pour just enough filling to settle into the spaces between the nuts and just below the fluted edges. You want enough room to add the pecans on top and not have the sugar overflow while it’s bubbling and baking.
How to tell when the pie is done
Since you can’t see underneath the pecan topping into the pie, there are two ways to check. Gently shake the pie dish. The center shouldn’t wiggle. Alternatively, use an instant-read thermometer. Once the center reaches between 200 to 205ºF (93 to 96ºC), it’s ready.
Let it cool before serving
Make sure to cool the pie for at least 3 hours before serving, so the filling has time to firm up. Otherwise, it will be too warm and fluid. If not serving the same day, then cover and refrigerate the pie. It contains eggs, so it’s essential to keep it chilled to prevent spoilage. I do not recommend freezing as the texture will not be as good.
What to serve this with
Why do you poke holes in the crust?
When blind-baking a shell, the tiny holes allow space for the steam generated to be released. If it doesn’t escape, the dough will puff up. The steam escapes first, then the egg proteins harden, creating a protective layer before adding the wet filling. This process prevents a soggy crust.
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- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon orange zest
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, chilled
- ½ ice-cold water, chilled
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups dark corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon bourbon whiskey, optional
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten, divided
- 2 ¼ cups pecans halves, divided
- Keep the diced butter and ice water in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Using a stand mixer bowl, add the flour, salt, and orange zest. Mix using the paddle attachment on the lowest speed (stir) for about 10-seconds.
- Add chilled diced butter to the bowl. On the lowest speed, turn the mixer on and off quickly for a few seconds to coat the butter with the flour. This helps to prevent the flour from spilling over. Continue to mix on low speed until the flour and butter resemble wet sand with coarse crumbles and some pea-sized pieces remaining, about 75-seconds. Use fingers to break up any large pieces. Do not overmix. The dough should not bind together before the water is added. Alternatively, use a dough/pastry blender or your fingers to break the butter into the dough.
- Gradually add 1 tablespoon of ice-cold water to the bowl. After each addition, turn the mixer on for 1 to 2-seconds. Only add enough water until the dough looks lumpy and hydrated, but not wet or sticky. Where it just begins to clump together with small crumbles on the bottom of the bowl. All of the water may not be needed, about 5 to 6 tablespoons is typical. When the dough is pinched together, it should compress and hold, not be dry or crumbly. Do not over mix. The dough will be pressed together before resting.
- Press the dough into a 1” thick round disc and wrap in plastic wrap and place in a resealable bag. Store in the refrigerator to rest for at least 4-hours, overnight, or up to 2 days.
- Once removed from the refrigerator, allow the crust to sit at room temperature for about 5 to 10-minutes. This will make it easier to roll. If it’s still too hard, let it sit at room temperature until more pliable.
- Dust the counter and top of the dough with flour. When rolling out, make sure to rotate and dust with flour underneath and on the top. This will prevent the dough from sticking and make it easier to transfer to the pie dish. Roll the dough into about a 13 to 14-inch circle, slightly less than ¼-inch thick.
- Place the rolled out dough into a 9-inch pie dish and gently press against the sides and bottom. With a paring knife, trim the excess dough with a 1/2-inch overhang over the pie dish's edge. Tuck the extra dough underneath the bottom crust edges. Crimp by pinching the dough using the pointer and thumb fingers.
- Using a fork, carefully dock (poke) the crust’s bottom and sides about 1-inch apart. Place the crust in the freezer for 20 minutes. While the dough chills, make the filling.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the dark corn syrup, melted butter, bourbon, and vanilla extract. Measure out ⅔ cup of beaten eggs and whisk into the syrup mixture. Save the remaining whisked egg to brush the pie crust. Add the flour mixture, whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Coarsely chop 1 ½ cups (172g, 6 ounces) of pecan halves, set aside. Reserve the remaining pecan halves for the topping, about 40 to 50 pieces.
- Place the oven rack in the center position. Preheat to 375°F (190°C). Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil. Place the chilled crust on the sheet pan.
- Place a piece of parchment paper in the pie dish and add the pie weights to cover just the crust’s bottom and sides, do not overfill.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully lift the parchment paper with weights out of the pie dish and set aside. It will not be used again. The bottom may puff up slightly, but it will deflate once it sits during egg washing.
- Lightly brush the egg wash over the bottom and sides of the parbaked shell. If desired, brush the edges for a shiner, more golden crust. Bake for 6 to 7 minutes, and then remove from the oven. It will puff in the center. Use a spoon to tap the crust lightly, it will slowly deflate until flat.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (177ºC). Evenly place the chopped pecans in the bottom of the par baked pie shell. Slowly pour in the pecan filling mixture. Pour a little at a time to let the filling settle around the chopped pecans. Fill the pie to just under the pinched edges, there may be extra. Garnish the top with the pecan halves in a circular pattern.
- Bake until the crust is golden brown, the center is set, and the filling reaches between 200 to 205ºF (93 to 96ºC) about 60 to 70 minutes.
- Cool the pie completely, at least 3 hours before serving to set the filling. Serve pecan pie slices with whipped cream or ice cream.
- Storing: If making pie the day in advance but not eating until the next day, cool completely and cover with plastic wrap or foil and keep refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving. Wrap and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Reheat a whole pie: Remove pie from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature about 3 to 4 hours before serving. Alternatively, bake at 225ºF (107ºC) on a foil-lined sheet pan and loosely cover with foil, bake until warmed through, about 20 to 25-minutes.
- Reheat a slice: Place on a foil-lined sheet pan and reheat in 250ºF (121ºC) until warm and crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes.
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