Low-Profile Pecan Pie

I have long adored pecan pie but bemoaned its cloying sweetness. My solution was to make it in a tart pan, which offers a more equitable balance of crust to filling. I also increased the amount of nuts in proportion to filling, which results in more of the pecan flavor and less of the sugar. Lyle’s English refiner’s syrup instead of the usual corn syrup adds both a more beautiful, richer golden color and a less sugary, more lilting flavor.

Softly whipped cream, barely sweetened but perfumed with bourbon, is a fabulous complement. Serve it on the side, though some will insist on having it right on top!

Preheat the oven to: 350°F.
Baking time: 35 to 40 minutes
Setting time: 1½ hours
INGREDIENTS MEASURE WEIGHT
volume ounces grams
Perfect Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust 1 recipe
pecan halves cups 6 ounces 170 grams
4 large egg yolks 2 full fluid ounces 2.5 ounces 74 grams
Lyle’s refiner’s syrup or dark corn syrup liquid cup
light brown sugar ½ cup (firmly packed) 3.75 ounces 108 grams
unsalted butter, melted 4 tablespoons 2 ounces 57 grams
heavy cream, cold ¼ liquid cup
salt a pinch
pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
Chocolate Lace Topping
bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped of a 3-ounce bar 1 ounce 28 grams
heavy cream, cold 2 tablespoons
bourbon ½ teaspoon
Bourbon Whipped Cream (optional)
heavy cream 1 liquid cup
sugar ½ teaspoon
bourbon 1 tablespoon
pure vanilla extract ¼ teaspoon
KEEPS: 3 days at room temperature.

Method

At least 15 minutes before baking, position an oven rack at the lowest level, place an oven stone or cookie sheet on it and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Using a pastry cloth and rolling pin sleeve rubbed with flour, or two sheets of plastic wrap (preferably Saran brand) or wax paper sprinkled lightly with flour, roll the dough into a 13-inch or slightly larger circle about inch thick. Cut out a 13-inch circle. Dust the pastry lightly with flour and lift it by rolling it loosely around the rolling pin. Unroll it over the tart pan and arrange it in the pan without stretching the pastry. Use scissors to trim the overhang to about 1 inch. Fold down the excess to reinforce the sides, pleating the sides where necessary, and cut away the excess. Press the pastry against the fluted sides of the pan.

Arrange the pecan halves rounded sides up, in the bottom of the pie crust. Cover the pastry with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

In a mtdium-size bowl, combine the egg yolks, syrup, brown sugar, butter, cream, salt and vanilla. Stir to combine them well and dissolve any lumps of sugar. Pour the filling slowly over the nuts. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet to catch any butter that may leak from the pastry and place on the baking stone.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and golden and the pastry has begun to brown lightly. The filling will shimmy very slightly when moved. Allow the pie to cool completely on a rack before removing from the pan, about 1½ hours.

Chocolate Lace Topping

In a small microwave-proof bowl, or the top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water, place the chopped chocolate. (Do not allow the water to touch the bottom of the upper container.) Heat the chocolate, stirring often until melted, and remove it from the heat. If using a micro- wave, stir every 15 seconds.

Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Stir in the bourbon. Pour the mixture into a reclosable quart-size freezer bag and close it securely. Use it immediately, before it cools. Cut off a small corner from the bag. Drizzle swirls of chocolate over the top of the cooled pie. (You will not need all of the topping. Any leftover is delicious on ice cream.)

Whipped Cream Topping (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, place all the topping ingredients, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. (Chill the mixer beater alongside the bowl.)

Beat only until soft peaks form or the cream mounds softly when dropped from a spoon. Serve alongside the pie.

NOTE: For a more beautiful appearance, precooking the pastry shell and the filling separately and then straining the filling before cooking them together results in a clear shiny filling. For this method: At least 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Line the pastry shell with foil and fill with pennies, aluminum pie weights or beans, making sure they are pushed up well against the sides. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the foil and weights and prick the shell with a fork. Continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

Have ready a strainer suspended over a small bowl near the range.

(The butter should be softened but does not have to be melted.) In a medium-size noncorrodible saucepan, combine the egg yolks, syrup, brown sugar, softened butter, cream and salt. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon without letting the mixture boil, until it thickens enough to coat the spoon heavily, or until it measures 180°F. on an accurate candy thermometer,* 7 to 10 minutes. Strain at once into the small bowl and stir in the vanilla.

*The Cordon Rose thermometer is available through Dean & DeLuca (800-227-7714).

Arrange the pecan halves, top sides up, in the bottom of the baked pie crust. Pour the filling over the nuts.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pie is puffed and golden. tip: For 2 rectangular pies that will serve 24 for Thanksgiving or other holiday dinners when delicious, easy-to-serve desserts are always appreciated, use two 13-inch by 4-inch rectangular flan forms with bases and multiply the recipe by 1½ times, using a total of 8 ounces of pecans. I like to use smaller pecans so that I can line them up in short parallel rows, which makes for easiest cutting (2 rows per serving). (I worked out the exact volume of the flan forms using the mathematical formula πr2 [“pi” r squared]. It was the first time I had used it since high school and it seemed fitting to be using it at last for a pie!)

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