It’s been a delicious month of pie. I had a goal of making a homemade pie each week through November and December, and so far, I’m right on schedule. We started off November with apple pie, then there was Pumpkin Bourbon Crumble Pie, and then the Maple Tart. And for Thanksgiving Day, I made this easy and classic Pecan Pie. My recipe has a flaky all-butter crust, and brown butter in the sweet gooey filling. It’s salty and sweet, crunchy, gooey and buttery, and without a doubt, it’s the best pecan pie I’ve ever had. It’s an absolute favorite of my family at the holidays!
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Classic Pecan Pie Filling
I can’t imagine Thanksgiving without a homemade pecan pie on the dessert table. Some people feel that way about pumpkin pie, but for me it’s pecan. That gooey and crunchy pecan filling in a buttery crust is simply impossible to resist.
What’s in a classic pecan pie? Most recipes contain corn syrup, butter, eggs, pecans, salt and vanilla. So let’s talk about how the ingredients work together to create that delicious filling.
You’ll find recipes that call for light corn syrup or dark corn syrup. I’ve tried both, and I prefer using light corn syrup. I feel like dark corn syrup is just a bit too heavy and deep, overpowering all the other wonderful flavors going on. The corn syrup helps the filling set into the gooey consistency that we all love so much. You might be wondering if you can make a pecan pie without corn syrup? Yes, you can, but you’ll need to replace it with something that has similar properties, such as maple syrup, agave syrup or honey. A maple pecan pie would be fantastic.
Dark Brown Sugar.
Now, I use less corn syrup than many popular recipes, so I make up for that with some dark brown sugar. I like to use a combination of light corn syrup and dark brown sugar for the perfect balance of sweetness and flavor.
Butter is an essential ingredient to pecan pie. It adds flavor and richness, and makes everything more wonderful. My recipe uses browned butter, which has the most incredible flavor. Browning butter only takes a few minutes longer than just melting it, and the nuttiness of the browned butter perfectly complements and enhances the brown sugar and pecans. Even before baking, the filling tastes absolutely amazing. If you don’t want to make browned butter, then you can certainly skip this step and just use the melted butter.
The eggs add richness and structure, helping to bind the filling together.
Coarse Kosher salt balances the sugar, giving the pie the best salty sweet flavor.
Vanilla extract adds wonderful flavor to pecan pie. Some people add spices as well, such as cinnamon, but I think it’s better without spices, with just the flavor of the pecans complemented by all the other wonderful things going on.
Just one tablespoon of flour helps to thicken the filling a little, which is necessary since I’ve lowered the amount of corn syrup.
Our star ingredient! In addition to a generous amount of chopped pecans in the filling, I love to decorate the top of the pie with pecan halves before baking the pie. Sometimes, it’s just a simple concentric circle of pecans. Since this one is for the holidays, I arranged them like a Christmas tree. Simple but so stunning.
Best Tip: Pre-Bake Your Crust
For years, I’ve made pecans pies without pre-baking the crust. But at the same time, I was also baking my pies at the standard temperature of 350 F, and the result was a too-dark top layer on the pie, and a filling that didn’t always set. To ensure my filling thickened without burning the top of the pie, I began baking my pecan pies at a slightly lower temperature (325 F) for a little bit longer. This ensured that my filling was always perfectly set without over-browning the pie.
As a result of baking at a lower temperature, the crust wasn’t cooking through quite as well as I would have liked, so I felt like the crust could be improved with a pre-bake. It’s a step that ensures your crust is golden brown, flaky and completely cooked before adding a gooey or custardy filling that can prevent your crust from really cooking through.
Pre-baking the crust takes a few extra minutes, but it really pays off, making such a difference in the texture of the crust. There’s nothing like a beautifully flaky golden brown pastry underneath a perfectly gooey filling.
I baked our pie the night before Thanksgiving, and it was so hard to wait to eat it until the next day. But it was worth the wait. An old-fashioned pecan pie with a flaky crust, that perfectly sweet, buttery filling that’s full of crunchy pecans, all topped off with a scoop of homemade ice cream is my idea of the perfect Thanksgiving dessert.
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- ½ recipe All Butter Pie Dough (see note)
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¾ cup light corn syrup
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp coarse Kosher salt
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cups pecans, roughly chopped
- 29 pecan halves
- Prepare 1/2 of the All Butter Pie Dough Recipe.
- Roll out the dough to between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a deep-dish pie pan, fold the edges under and crimp the edges. Use a fork to lightly prick the bottom of the crust all over (this is called docking the crust, and will help prevent it from puffing up too much during the pre-bake). Freeze the crust in the pan for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush the crust all over with egg white (you’ll have an white leftover since you’ll only use an egg yolk in the dough recipe). Lay a piece of parchment paper over the crust and fill with dried beans or pie weights.
- Bake the crust at 400 for 20 minutes. Carefully, remove the paper and the weights, and bake, uncovered, for an additional 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325.
- Meanwhile, while the crust is baking, you can prepare the filling.
- In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Continue to cook the butter, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter is fragrant and nutty brown solids have formed at the bottom of the pan. Pour the butter, scraping up the brown solids, into a large mixing bowl.
- Whisk in the brown sugar and corn syrup until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, salt and flour until well combined. Mix in the chopped pecans.
- Set the pre-baked crust on a baking sheet. Mix up the filling again and pour into the crust. Arrange the pecan halves on top of the filling (overlapping them slightly so that they all fit vertically) to resemble a Christmas tree.
- Very carefully, so as not to slosh the filling, return the pie to the oven. Bake at 325 for 50-55 minutes; when done, the filling should still jiggle ever so slightly, and will finish cooking and setting up as it cools. You can cover the edge of the crust with a pie shield or strips of foil partway through baking, if it is getting too brown.
- Cool the pie completely on a wire rack before cutting. This pie stays fresh-tasting for days and days after baking.