By now, you probably already know how much I love pie. In fact, March 14 is one of my favorite days of the year; every year, my friends and I bake a glorious selection of pies and have a feast that’s exclusively comprised of sugary, buttery, dessert. Yeah, we know how to party.
For this year’s annual celebration, I wanted to make a pecan pie. Only, I wanted to make one that was a little less sweet than most recipes are, and I wanted to include chocolate and bourbon. Easy as pie, right? (Pun completely intended!) Except, it wasn’t. The first recipe I tried didn’t bake through, and wasn’t chocolate-y enough; the second recipe was searingly sweet. Once I dealt with the filling (melted the chocolate, added cocoa, upped the salt) there was the pie crust to deal with: no matter what I did, it kept shrinking. I froze it before baking, poked holes in the crust, used cold ingredients, topped it with pie weights…and still, my pie crusts shrank so much they were unusable. 4 pies in, I was almost ready to give up. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. But it’s pie! It’s always meant to be. (Also, I couldn’t accept defeat at the hands of a pie-crust. Nope.) So I made it my cause to learn how to properly par-bake a pie crust, angrily perusing the web and watching tutorials that didn’t help. Until finally, I came upon a tip that changed everything: use a metal pie plate. Apparently, aluminium pie plates heat and cool quickly, making them ideal for par-baked crusts, while glass pie plates, being slippery, usually produce shrunken and misshapen crusts. So I rolled out another pie crust, and sent it into the oven with a quick prayer. 30 minutes later, I took a beautiful, golden-brown crust out of the oven. It worked! At long last, I produced a pie that I’m proud of, one with a sturdy, flaky crust, and a perfectly fudgey center. It’s officially one of my favorite new desserts (the bourbon adds such incredible depth and aroma!) and proves that sometimes, a little determination and hard work are truly worth the effort.
Pi Day approaches, my friends. Make haste and make pie!
Yield: one 9″ pie
Why I love this recipe: roasting the pecans gives them a distinctly smoky flavor, and maple syrup adds a sweetness that’s more flavorful than standard corn syrup. The chocolate is melted to ensure that it’s evenly dispersed, and cocoa adds a nice, bitter yet fudgey touch, that, with bourbon, gives this pie nuanced flavor and elevates it to a new level. The pie-crust is par-baked (using a fool-proof method) which further guarantees a flaky, sturdy base.
For the pie crust:
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/2 stick frozen, unsalted butter
- 1/2 stick cold, unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 ounces water
For the pecan filling:
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 3/4 cups maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups pecan halves
- 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Use your fingers to cut in the stick of cold butter until it is the size of peas. Then cut in the frozen butter, leaving it in bigger, visible pieces.
- Add the apple cider vinegar to the water and make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix the water into the flour until just combined.
- If the dough seems dry, add more water a couple of teaspoons at a time. Press the dough together, form into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough in the freezer for an hour.
- Heat oven to 375. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to ¼ inch thick. Transfer it to a METAL pie plate, and trim the edge so there is only 1/2 inch of overhang all around. Fold overhand underneath and crimp.
- Poke the base of the crust a few times with a fork. Crinkle some parchment paper (this makes it malleable) and line the crust with it. Fill parchment paper with beans, lentils or pie weights, and bake until the crust is golden and crisp, 25-30 minutes.
- Remove the parchment and pie weights and continue baking until the crust is fully baked, 5 minutes more. Cool completely.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Spread pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast nuts, shaking pan occasionally, until fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth; cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together cooled chocolate-butter mixture, maple syrup, eggs, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, bourbon and salt. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust. Arrange pecans over filling.
- Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the filling is just set when the pan is jiggled, 35-45 minutes. Remove pie from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before serving.