This pie has been in the planning stages for a very long time.
Since Christmas, to be exact. Farrell and I were in Baghdad, sitting on my air bed in the metal shipping container that I lived in during those eight months. Boxes from our parents had arrived several days before Christmas, but Farrell kept me from opening them until Christmas day.
Well, I survived not opening Christmas presents until Christmas day, somehow. We were greeted with reminders that somewhere, thousands of miles away, our family was thinking about us. It was exciting to realize how well our parents know our interests.
I was bombarded with food-related gifts, of course. Among the haul was a bag of whole pecans, in their shells, waiting to be treasured and transformed into a pecan pie…
…eventually, in four months.
This is really important if you’ve ever considered shelling your own pecans: Put the pecans in a large, sturdy Tupperware. Boil some water and pour it over the pecans. Cover and let them soak for about 6 hours. Drain and let the pecans dry completely. If you don’t have some sort of contraption made specifically for shelling nuts, a hammer will work just fine. Trust me.
Shelling those pecans was a three-day process for me. The first day, I experimented with various tools: pliers, hammers, blunt objects, etc. Realizing the intricate inner-workings of a pecan (it’s like those things were specifically designed to not be taken apart in pretty, intact halves), I had to gather some courage to continue (the process is not kind to manicures) and do some research. I gave the pecans an entire day to dry before going at them with the hammer again.
Tough work, but well worth the wait. Much like waiting to open Christmas presents…in Iraq.
– Pecan pie – adapted from Bon Appetit, via Bella Eats
One 9-inch pie crust, unbaked (I used half of Smitten Kitchen’s all-butter pie crust, recipe follows)
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tbsp bourbon
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups pecan pieces
– Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat sugar, eggs, butter, bourbon, vanilla and cinnamon together in a bowl. Stir in pecans (set aside some intact halves to decorate the top, if you would like). Pour filling into your prepared, unbaked pie crust. Arrange additional pecans on top, if desired.
– Bake pie for about 40 minutes, until filling is puffed and set in center. Check to make sure that the crust doesn’t brown too quickly; cover with foil if it does. Let cool completely before serving.
Notes: The original recipe called for only 1 tbsp of bourbon, but originally intending to bring this pie to a dinner party of booze-loving twentysomethings, I doubled it. The bourbon flavor was very forward and gave the pie a bit of a sharp bite. Depending on how you feel about bourbon, you may want to decrease the amount.
– Pie crust – by Smitten Kitchen
(this makes twice as much pie dough as needed for the pecan pie. you can either halve this recipe or save the other half in your freezer for pie-on-demand)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, very cold, cubed
1 cup ice water
– Whisk flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter, forks, or a food processor, cut in the cold butter cubes into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles course meal. Visible butter = flaky crust
– Add the water to the mixture a tablespoon or two at a time and mix until the dough comes together. Be sure not to add too much water or over mix the dough. Knead several times to form a more cohesive dough, divide into two equal-sized parts, wrap in plastic and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out to use. Extra can be kept tightly wrapped in the freezer.