Here’s a Pecan dessert that’s a little confused. It’s got a pie crust and a pie filling, but it’s baked in a tart pan, so does that make it a pie-like tart? Or a tart-shaped pie? In the interest of fairness, I’ve christened it the Pecan Pie Tart, but I would love to hear your suggestions!
Regardless of the terminology, this recipe from Dorie Greenspan yields anything but your ordinary pecan pie. A host of supporting ingredients – espresso, cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla – join the torpedo-shaped nuts to produce a filling of well-balanced, yet complex flavors. In my mind pecan pies are among the most quintessentially American dishes, alongside apple pie, cornbread, deep-fried chicken, buffalo wings and coleslaw. Blame it on the media or the menus at the Planet Hollywoods and Hard Rock Cafés around the world, but despite the mix of ethnicities and cuisines in this country, it’s always interesting for me to see how Americans have a soft spot for a freshly baked apple pie or perfectly fried chicken pieces, in the same way I’d gush over my favorite Singaporean hawker dishes.
While I love pecan pies, I often find them too cloyingly sweet, making it a real ordeal to work through a full slice alongside a scoop of vanilla. Judging by how quickly (and easily) my first slice vanished, this pecan pie tart has found its place in my repertoire of quick dinner party desserts. I only changed the amount of corn syrup called for – I have an icky-yucky-boo aversion to this ingredient – and will perhaps substitute it with agave nectar the next time. And I’ll go get myself a proper pie dish.
Pecan Pie (adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours)
Makes one 9-inch pie
This is Dorie’s Good For Everything Pie Dough, which can also be made in a food processor, in which case you’d pulse just enough to mix the butter into the flour. She also calls for 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening, which I didn’t have and substituted with the equivalent amount of butter instead. I highly recommend making this dough at the coolest time of the day (or in the middle of winter!) and to keep the butter and water chilled for as long as possible before using it.
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspooon salt
6 ounces/ 12 tablespoons/ 173 grams unsalted butter, very cold or frozen, cut into cubes
¼ to ½ cup ice water
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt, then add the butter cubes. Working quickly, toss all the cubes in the flour, using the tips of your fingers to break up the butter as much as possible. When you get a texture that resembles ground coarsemeal, with cubes of different sizes, make a well in the center and pour in the water a few tablespoons at a time. Gather the flour and butter into a soft dough, adding water where required to get a dough that will stay together when pinched. If your dough is too wet, sprinkle a bit of flour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour to overnight before using.
When you’re ready to prepare the crust, butter a 9-inch pie dish.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, keeping it constantly floured and flipping the dough frequently. Fit the dough over the dish and cut the excess dough to a ¼ to ½-inch overhang with a scissors. Fold the dough under itself so that it hangs over the edge and decorate by fluting or pinching the crust, or pressing with the tines of a fork.
Place the prepared baking pan in the fridge and heat the oven to 400F/ 200C. Butter the shiny side of a piece of foil and fit it, buttered side down, against the crust and fill with pie weights. Bake on a baking sheet for about 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 5 to 8 minutes until the crust turns a light brown. Cool to room temperature before adding the filling.
The proportions below are for baking in a pie dish; if you’re planning to bake it in a tart pan like I did, you can scale the proportions down by a quarter.
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons/ 45 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
7 ounces/ 200 grams pecan halves or pieces
3 ounces/ 85 grams bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 425F/ 220C.
In a large bowl, whisk the corn syrup and brown sugar until smooth, then add the melted butter, whisking as you do so. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each egg into the mixture before adding the next.
Whisk everything until you get a smooth foamy mixture, then add the espresso powder, vanilla, cinnamon and salt and beat everything in. Rap the bowl against the counter a few times to remove any bubbles from the batter, then stir in the pecans and chocolate. Pour the filling into the crust.
Place the baking pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicon mat. Bake the pie for 15 minutes. In the meantime, get your crust shield ready, or prepare one by cutting a 9-inch circle out of an 11-inch square of aluminium foil. When the 15 minutes are over, lower the heat to 325F/ 170C, place the foil shield over the crust and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pie has puffed, is brown and doesn’t jiggle when tapped.
Remove the foil shield, leave to cool to temperature before cutting and serving.