Don’t for­get the pecan pie

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FOOD - By The Culi­nary In­sti­tute of Amer­ica This ar­ti­cle was pro­vided to The As­so­ci­ated Press by The Culi­nary In­sti­tute of Amer­ica in Hyde Park, New York. This recipe also can be found in The Culi­nary In­sti­tute of Amer­ica’s cook­books, “Bak­ing at Home” and “Pies

Leaves are chang­ing, the weather is cool­ing, and the smell of fall lingers in the air. Pump­kins are ap­pear­ing on doorsteps and fam­i­lies are be­gin­ning to plan their Thanks­giv­ing menus. Pecan pie should al­ways be on the list.

Pecan pie can be dif­fi­cult to de­scribe. It’s not a fruit pie or a cream pie, and it’s not a tra­di­tional cus­tard. It falls into a loosely de­fined cat­e­gory most fa­mil­iar to our South­ern friends — the sugar pie. Sugar pies can be found in many styles and vari­a­tions, but at its roots, a sugar pie is a sin­gle-crust pie with a baked fill­ing of sugar, eggs and fla­vor­ings.

The sugar used can be gran­u­lated sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, honey or mo­lasses, de­pend­ing on what you want your stand­out fla­vors to be. Pecan pies are com­monly made with corn syrup, which lends a neu­tral fla­vor that helps the nut­ti­ness of the pecans shine through, but sub­sti­tut­ing maple syrup can give rich­ness and com­plex­ity with­out al­ter­ing the tex­ture.

Be­cause the fill­ing of sugar pies can be very soft, the pecans play an im­por­tant tex­tu­ral role. These nuts can be added whole, chopped or a com­bi­na­tion of both. They will soak up some of the fill­ing, which will make them ten­der enough to cut with a fork, but with enough bite to con­trast the soft, creamy fill­ing. And what are rich pecans and a sweet fill­ing with­out a flaky, but­tery pie crust? Our all-but­ter crust is par­tially baked be­fore fill­ing, which helps keep it crisp de­spite the wet in­te­rior. Ex­per­i­ment with dec­o­ra­tive bor­ders and crimp­ing to make your pie stand out on a crowded table.

Pecan pies are sim­ple to pre­pare (easy as pie!), but it can be tough to de­ter­mine when your pie is done. Sugar pie fill­ings won’t al­ways look per­fectly firm when they are still hot in the oven. You will no­tice that the edges of the fill­ing, just along the crust, will be a lit­tle bit puffy — like a souf­flé — even when the in­te­rior still ap­pears slightly wet and jig­gly. This is a good in­di­ca­tor that your pie is ready.

Pecan pie

Makes one sin­gle-crusted 9-inch pie Ac­tive time: 40 min­utes. In­ac­tive time: 1 1⁄2 hours to overnight. 1 recipe sin­gle-crust pie dough 1 1⁄2 cups toasted pecan halves 1⁄2 cup tightly packed light brown sugar 2 ta­ble­spoons all-pur­pose flour 3⁄4 cup light corn syrup 3 large eggs, lightly beaten 4 ta­ble­spoons (1?2 stick) un­salted but­ter, melted and cooled 2 tea­spoons vanilla ex­tract 1⁄4 tea­spoon salt

Pre­heat the oven to 400 F. Roll out the pie dough and use it to line a 9-inch pie. Par­tially blind bake the crust. Let cool to room tem­per­a­ture in the pan on a rack be­fore fill­ing. Keep the oven tem­per­a­ture at 400 F.

Spread the nuts in an even layer over the bot­tom of the par­tially baked pie shell. Stir the brown sugar and flour to­gether in a mix­ing bowl un­til well blended. Add the corn syrup, eggs, but­ter, vanilla ex­tract and salt and blend well. Pour the mix­ture over the nuts, dis­turb­ing the nuts as lit­tle as pos­si­ble.

Place the pie on a bak­ing sheet and bake un­til the cen­ter is softly set, 30-35 min­utes. Let the pie rest for at least 20 min­utes be­fore slic­ing. Serve warm or at room tem­per­a­ture.

All But­ter Pie Crust

An all-pur­pose but­tery and flaky pie pas­try made with all but­ter. The key to the flak­i­ness is three­fold — the size of the but­ter pieces; the proper mix­ing of the dough, which pre­vents the fat from com­pletely blend­ing into the flour; and keep­ing the but­ter cold through­out mix­ing. Makes two 11-inch rounds. 3 cups all-pur­pose flour 1 tea­spoon salt 1 tea­spoon gran­u­lated sugar 11 ta­ble­spoons un­salted but­ter, cold, cut into 3⁄4-inch cubes 1⁄2 cup wa­ter, ice cold, more as needed To make by hand: Com­bine the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and scat­ter the but­ter pieces over the dry in­gre­di­ents.

Using a pas­try blender, or, rub­bing the mix­ture be­tween your fin­gers, work quickly to cut or rub the but­ter into the dry in­gre­di­ents un­til it is in pieces the size of small hazel­nuts.

Sprin­kle half the ice-cold wa­ter over the but­ter mix­ture. Using your hands or a rub­ber spat­ula, lightly toss the dry mix­ture un­til the dough just be­gins to hold to­gether. Con­tinue to add wa­ter in small amounts un­til it be­comes a rough but pli­able dough. The dough should just hold to­gether when pressed to the side of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work sur­face and di­vide into two por­tions. Shape the dough into 5- to 6-inch di­am­e­ter flat, round disks and wrap them tightly in plas­tic wrap. Chill the dough in the re­frig­er­a­tor for at least 45 min­utes to two hours or prefer­ably overnight.

To make using a food pro­ces­sor:

Com­bine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of the food pro­ces­sor fit­ted with the steel cut­ting blade and process for a few sec­onds to com­bine.

Place the bowl in the freezer for 30 min­utes, or un­til the in­gre­di­ents and the bowl are well chilled. With the food pro­ces­sor off, add half of the cold but­ter and pulse 3-5 sec­onds, or un­til rough and peb­bly. Add the re­main­ing cold but­ter and pulse 4-5 sec­onds, or un­til the mix­ture ap­pears rough, with ir­reg­u­lar pieces of but­ter ap­prox­i­mately the size of small wal­nuts.

Sprin­kle ap­prox­i­mately half of the ice-cold wa­ter over the dry mix­ture with the food pro­ces­sor off. Pulse the pro­ces­sor for 3-5 sec­onds, or un­til just com­bined. Check the dough by press­ing it to the side of the bowl; if it does not hold to­gether, add a small amount of the wa­ter and check again. When the mix­ture is pressed to the side of the bowl and it presses to­gether and stays to­gether, re­move it from the bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured work sur­face.

Do not al­low the mix­ture to form a ball or mass of dough in the bowl; if you al­low this to oc­cur, you have over­mixed the dough and it will be tough.

Di­vide the dough into two por­tions and shape it into 5to 6-inch di­am­e­ter flat, round disks. Wrap the disks tightly in plas­tic wrap and chill in the re­frig­er­a­tor for at least 45 min­utes to two hours or prefer­ably overnight, or un­til firm.

To make using a stand mixer:

Com­bine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of the mixer and place in the freezer for 30 min­utes, or un­til the bowl and in­gre­di­ents are well chilled. Re­move the bowl from the freezer and place on the mixer. Using the pad­dle at­tach­ment, blend the dry in­gre­di­ents on low speed for 15 sec­onds, or un­til com­bined. With the mixer off, add the but­ter pieces to the mix­ing bowl and then com­bine on medium speed for 1-2 min­utes, or un­til the but­ter is in pieces no larger than small wal­nuts, but no smaller than peas.

Sprin­kle ap­prox­i­mately half of the ice-cold wa­ter over the dry mix­ture and blend on low speed for 30-60 sec­onds, or un­til just com­bined. Con­tinue to add the liq­uid in small amounts un­til the mix­ture tran­si­tions from a slightly pow­dery ap­pear­ance with chunks of but­ter, to a grav­elly rough dough. When the dough just holds to­gether when pressed to the side of the bowl, re­move from the bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured work sur­face. At this stage, do not add too much liq­uid or over­work the dough, as it will cause your crust to be­come tough.

Di­vide the dough into two por­tions and shape it into 5to 6-inch di­am­e­ter flat, round disks. Wrap the disks tightly in plas­tic wrap and chill in the re­frig­er­a­tor for at least 45 min­utes to two hours or prefer­ably overnight, or un­til firm.

Nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion per serv­ing: 703 calo­ries; 353 calo­ries from fat; 40 g fat (6 g sat­u­rated; 1 g trans fats); 138 mg choles­terol; 416 mg sodium; 80 g car­bo­hy­drate; 4 g fiber; 40 g sugar; 10 g pro­tein.

PHIL MANSFIELD—THE CULI­NARY IN­STI­TUTE OF AMER­ICA VIA AP

This Oct. 14 photo pro­vided by The Culi­nary In­sti­tute of Amer­ica shows pecan pie in Hyde Park. This dish is from a recipe by the CIA.

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