Pie Week: Bourbon Pecan Pie

Welcome to day two of Pie Week here at SPOON. Today, we’re shifting from savory to sweet with this timeless favorite from the book How to Build a Better Pie.

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Bourbon Pecan Pie
Excerpted from How to Build a Better Pie by Millicent Souris

Tamara Reynolds runs a supper club in Astoria, Queens. She has written a book about the lost art of throwing a dinner party and is regularly sought for her opinion on food, wine, and service. In other words, she’s got it covered. Luckily she is a dear friend. This is her recipe, and here are her thoughts:

“I make this pie every Thanksgiving for my friend Grant, who was raised on a farm in Arkansas. He swears to God that it is the ghost of his late mother’s pecan pie; I don’t know about that, but I do know that I have never seen such joy over a piece of pie. It is always a pleasure to make it for him.”

Many variations of nuts, sugar, and eggs can inhabit a pie crust and be tantalizing. To one person it may
seem of little consequence—just pick a pie and run with it—but to someone else, it’s the minutiae that
illuminate our taste memories. This is the food at its best, when it transports us. This all seems like bunk,
until you see it happen, or have it happen to you.

Single Pie Crust (recipe follows), chilled

1⁄2 cup (112 g) unsalted melted butter
1 1⁄2 cups (165 g) coarsely chopped pecans, the fresher the better, toasted
3 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1⁄2 cup (60 g) packed light brown sugar
1⁄2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup (170 g) light corn syrup
1⁄2 cup (170 g) dark corn syrup
1⁄4 cup (85 g) molasses (blackstrap)
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) bourbon—but not more!!
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla
1⁄2 teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt

Prebake tools
aluminum foil
baking beans

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C, gas mark 7).

Bottom Crust
Roll out your chilled pie crust to 1⁄8-inch (3 mm) thick. It should be about 13 inches (33 cm) in diameter. Place in your pie pan. Trim the edges so there is no more than 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) of overhang. Lift and crimp the overhang along the rim of the pie pan. Prick the bottom and the sides of the crust with a regular fork to prevent bubbles. Try to not pierce through the crust. If you can, chill your crust in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. If not, chill it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. It is important for the crust to be very cold and the fat to re-form and firm up.

Pull your pie plate out of the refrigerator and place your foil in it. It should sit flush with the plate, come up
along the rim, and fold down to cover the edges. This foil protects the crust from overbrowning, but you do
not want the foil pressed securely to the edges. Place your baking beans in the bottom and level them out.
Put the crust in the oven.

Bake the crust for 15 minutes at 425°F (220°C, gas mark 7). Then pull out the crust, lower your oven to
350°F (180°C, gas mark 4), and carefully lift the aluminum foil by the edges off your crust with the beans in
it. Put your crust back in the oven for 10 minutes. Pull and let cool a bit.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C, gas mark 5).

Melt your butter and let cool. Arrange your nuts on the bottom of the par-baked crust. Whisk together the
eggs until homogenized and add the white and brown sugars, then the corn syrups, molasses, bourbon,
vanilla, melted butter, and salt. Pour the mixture over the nuts and carefully transfer to the oven. The pecans
will float.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the pie is set. A little wiggle in the middle is all right; the pie will continue
cooking at it sits. Let cool at least 1 hour.

Yield: 1 pie (8 servings)

Single Pie Crust
1 cup (125 g) and 3 tablespoons (24 g) all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 (6 g) teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon (4 g) granulated sugar
1 stick (1⁄2 cup) (112 g) cold unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) strained ice water, plus 2 tablespoons (28 ml)

Choose a good-size bowl, one in which both of your hands can fit in and work. You will be mixing the
crust with your hands.

Pour all dry ingredients into the bowl and mix together in the bowl with your hands.

Cut the cold butter into 1⁄4-inch (6 mm) pieces. It is very important that your butter be cold; its ability
to maintain its shape is what lends flakiness to the crust. You can freeze it, but I find refrigerated butter
to be quite sufficient.

Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients. Incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients by pinching each piece. Do not break up the butter beyond this; it should keep its shape. You are really just introducing them to each other.

As you work, cup your hands and lift all the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl to the top.
Do this a few times so you aren’t stuck with dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl. (The butter
should not get warm or create tiny little butter pebbles. The goal is for the fat to have presence in
the crust. It has a lot of work to do; leave it some backbone.)

Strain the ice water so ice doesn’t end up in the crust. (Ice water is used for the same reason cold butter is:
to keep the fat separate through the process.) You can also pour the ice water through a slotted spoon
held over the bowl.

Slowly pour the water into the bowl. Start with 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) of water, and pour it around the outside of the bowl. Never sloppily dump wet ingredients into dry ingredients, especially for a crust. The water should
be evenly distributed. Push the crust around with the fork, moving from the outside of the bowl. Add the
second 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) of water and repeat.

When mixing the ingredients, make sure you are incorporating all ingredients on the bottom of the
bowl. You’ve added 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) of water. It is almost there, but you probably need to add at least
2 tablespoons (30 ml) more water. After adding the extra water, push the crust more with your fork.

Shaping the Crust
Your crust is ready to be shaped when a few things occur:

You can squeeze it together and it won’t fall apart, and the center is not just a crumbly, dusty mess. And, please, you are squeezing it, not kneading it. It’s not bread or pasta dough, it’s pie crust. Quit touching it!

The crust becomes slightly golden and a little cooler to touch. This is the perfect moment when
the mixture becomes crust, where the equilibrium between the dry ingredients and butter has been

Flatten your dough into a disk. (For this recipe, the disk should be about 5 inches [12.7 cm] in diameter.) Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out.

How Goldilocks would have taught you to make pie crust

Too dry
Too wet
Just right!

Whether you want to try your hand at Apple Pie or Chicken Fat and Pea Pie, How to Build a Better Pie will provide everything you need to know. Learn the skills, practice the techniques, master the recipes, and build yourself a better pie.

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Inside, author Millicent Souris shows you:

—Solid foundations: how to make and roll out the crust, including a basic crust and alternative crusts such as crumble, shortbread, and cheddar cheese

—The practical equipment basics and essential pie-making tips that you really need

—The methods behind a lattice and a full top crust, and how to tell which one to use

—Fruit pies, from Rhubarb Pie to Cherry Pie to Apricot Tomatillo Pie, and beyond

—Staple pies, including Walnut Maple Pie, Corn Buttermilk Pie, and Chocolate Olive Oil Pie

—Savory pies, such as Oyster Pie, Lamb Pie, and Chicken Pot Pie

—How to go small: hand pies, turnovers, and galettes