14 November 2010

This is The Pie


Every year at Thanksgiving, pie-duty inevitably falls to me.  And my family is very specific about which pies I am to make.  Apple pie--our family's favorite.  And pecan pie--it's such a sweet indulgence, and we're all about treating ourselves since it's Thanksgiving.  And pumpkin--well, because it's tradition, right?  Recently we've started having a berry pie show up at the table too.  But, I think everyone in my family knows that the pumpkin pie is the ugly duckling of the lot.  We have it there for show, and everybody takes a little taste, but what we really want is the apple or the pecan or the berry.

Well, all that is going to change this year.  It's high time that if I'm going to invest so much energy in making a pumpkin pie on top of all the other ones, it had better be swoon-inducing too.  And with this new recipe I've developed, I know the pumpkin pie will finally take a competitive place among its cousins.

My strategy?  A crisp crust (fully blind-baked before adding the filling), a silky-smooth pumpkin filling with the nuanced addition of candied yams, and a topping of sweet and crunchy pecans resting on top.  And the nice news for me, Miss Pie-Baker?  This Thanksgiving, I won't have to make a separate pecan pie--this single recipe lets the best of both types shine!

I think you'll absolutely love this pie...I know I'm already looking forward to it being a recurring part of Thanksgivings to come! 


Pumpkin and Caramelized Pecan Pie
Makes 2 (9-inch) pies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. fine-grained salt
2 Tbs. sugar
1 1/4 cups cold (salted) butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 Tbs. ice-cold vodka (do not substitute! alcohol evaporates during baking)
4 Tbs. ice-cold water

Pumpkin Filling
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 cup drained candied yams (or sweet potatoes)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. fine-grained salt

Pecan Topping
1 1/2 Tbs. salted butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups pecan pieces

For the crust, place flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 2 seconds to mix.  Add the butter and gently pulse on/off until butter is blended to the size of peas.  Sprinkle the mixture with vodka and water, then continue to gently pulse just until dough starts to hold together in large clumps.

Divide dough into two portions and wrap in plastic wrap, flattening into 6-inch discs.  Chill for at least 45 minutes and up to two days.  For each disc, roll dough out between two layers of plastic wrap into 12-inch circles.   Peel away the top layer of plastic, then center a pie plate over the center of the dough and carefully invert the pie dough together with the pie plate.  Gently rearrange the dough to fit into the corners of the plate, and then chill for 15 minutes, keeping the plastic wrap still on top.

Remove plastic wrap and fold all ragged crust edges under to make it flush with the pie plate.  Using thumb and fore-finger, pinch crust to form a fluted edge.  Chill again for 15 minutes.

Line both of the pie crusts with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights, dry beans, or pennies.  Bake in a pre-heated 400 F oven for 15 minutes, then remove foil and weights and continue baking for 5-15 more minutes, until crust is golden brown.  Remove crust from oven and reduce oven temperature to 300 F.  Note: It is important at this point to fill the crusts while they are still warm from the blind-baking step and to proceed with the final baking step, as the residual heat of the crusts will help set the pumpkin filling.

For the filling
While the pie crusts are chilling and baking, prepare first the pecan topping and then the pumpkin filling.

For the pecan topping, melt the butter in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl.  Remove from microwave and whisk in the sugar and corn syrup, then the eggs, vanilla, and salt.  Fold in the pecan pieces to coat each piece thoroughly with the sugar mixture.  Set aside.

For the pumpkin filling, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Combine the pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a small pot and bring to a sputtering simmer over medium heat.  Cook for about 15 minutes more, stirring constantly and mashing yams to form a smooth mixture.

Remove pumpkin mixture from heat.  Add pumpkin to egg mixture in 4 separate additions, whisking to fully incorporate pumpkin between each addition.

Strain pumpkin mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl, using the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula to press solids through.  Divide pumpkin mixture between the two warm pie crusts, then top with pecan filling, being sure to evenly divide the pecans over each pie.

Cover edges of crust with aluminum foil (to prevent your perfectly-baked crust from getting burnt!), and place pies in oven (now at 300 F).  Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, until filling puffs up.  Remove pies from oven and let cool slowly to room temperature for at least 3 hours.


Stephanie said...

Love this recipe! Makes life a little easier as I only have to make one pie for Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing.

Susan said...

Wow! What a mixture of flavors and ... vodka? Just curious .... what does the vodka do for the crust? I've never heard of this crust technique! I love the carmelized pecans atop this pie! Very cool ...

erica said...

Hi Susan,

Good question--I now realize I should have added some explanation about the vodka in my original post, so I'm glad to have this opportunity to elaborate!

In this pie crust recipe, vodka replaces some of the water because the alcohol helps inhibit the formation of gluten during dough formation, yet still provides the necessary liquid to help the flour stick together. (Developing gluten in dough is great when you're wanting a loaf of chewy bread, but develop gluten in your pie crust and you won't get the nice crispy, crunchy outcome that makes pie crust so alluring!)

Since vodka is relatively flavorless and has a high alcohol content, it is a good choice among alcohols for pie crust. And, the alcohol evaporates right out of the crust during baking, so no worries about ingesting any of it along with your piece of pie!

The Church Cook said...

Whoa! What a pie! Beautiful as always, Erica!

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