Pass the Pie, Please!

Pecan Pie. A staple of any Southern holiday table and if you’re not using Karo, you’re doing it wrong. All manner of recipes and incarnations have passed across my table; but though I am partial to toasted pecans, this pie never quite “rang my bell.” I think it was the particularly syrupy, loose nature of the pie itself. In any case it was never my first pick. I can recall a few times where I would pick out the pieces of pecan on my plate and carelessly leave the rest.

This year, when asked what we could bring to Christmas dinner at my in-laws, a pecan pie was requested. I have a smart little collection of both classic and trusted cookbooks, so I knew somewhere in one lay a prize recipe. I grazed through several “traditional” looking ones, but I wanted something with more complexity of flavor. In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with traditional recipes. For decades, Betty Crocker, Better Homes & Gardens, and Good Housekeeping single-handedly have made seemingly exotic dishes accessible to the every-day cook. Whether you’re a stay-at-home-whatever or a career person, you can always count on those kitchen standards to help you make a great meal.

My Essential New York Times Cookbook is where I landed. This cookbook is touted as “classic recipes for a new century.” It takes the traditional and elevates it a bit, while still being approachable. The ingredients for their recipe for Bourbon Pecan Pie struck me as mostly being of the standard, but the method gave me pause. The roasted pecans and the use of dark brown sugar along with the dark corn syrup sounded heavenly. For those not wishing to cook with booze, you can be creative like me and swap the booze for molasses! I had some in the pantry from making molasses cookies and made the decision on the fly. I’ve read similarly that pure maple syrup will impart a similar smokey flavor without spending a lot of money on a bottle of bourbon just to use 2 tablespoons. (I get it. I’m right there with you. It cooks out, but it’s still a bit of a waste.) Another option is also to use fruit juice.

With a new nibling born and Christmas-week festivities in general, I was short on time this past week. I didn’t get to make my own crust and a fancy design never happened atop the pie. It happens. I didn’t take it too hard. I still put something together that was not only pleasing to the eye, but the palate as well. I have to remind myself sometimes that that’s what truly matters. The time, energy, and love invested is a seed sown for a return harvest.

The pie was so loaded with delicious whole toasted pecans, that it didn’t have a chance to be “runny” or “syrupy” as in pecan pies of old. The body surrounding the pecans was velvety and almost custard-like, but not quite the creaminess you get from a crème brûlée. I may have cooked it a minute or two too long, but the crust never burned and it still tasted great, so I counted that a win.

Note: For those looking for a good pie dish recommendation, I have a few beautiful dishes; but I just found a smoking deal on Amazon for the perfect pie plates. 2 for under $10! That’s like a BOGO! These Pyrex Glass Pie Plates are indispensable in my house! I use them for more than just pies. Their size and low (but substantial) lips are perfect for dipping and dredging, just to give one example. They’re also very durable. There’s a reason Pyrex has been around for as long as it has. I have given so many away as gifts, I may snatch up another set to put away for such an occasion that arises.

This year, I enjoyed two slices of my own pie. I finished the whole slice, crust and all!

What is your favorite holiday dessert?

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