COOKING ADVENTURE # 29: Pecan Pie
Some of you will find this hilarious. Somewhere between my Flourless Lemon Cake and my Chicken Tikka Marsala, I managed to completely mess up my numbers on my Cooking Adventures. I was at 16 and then miraculously ended up down at 13 again in the next post. I’ve gone back and edited the numbers so that they are correct. I’m on my 29th Cooking Adventure and it feels kind of crazy. You know why? Because after all of that cooking and baking, I still can’t make a pie. Just one freaking pie. I don’t care what kind it is, I have the damn-dest time making one. And pecan pie, which I considered to be pretty easy based on the recipe from the Joy of Cooking, was supposed to be my redeeming attempt. With a bit of elbow grease and the assistance of a freezer, it was… kind of.
The ingredients of this particular recipe were rather simple and easy. I only had to buy eggs, ready-to-bake pie crust and a bag of pecans (which cost about $8!) The first step also seemed rather simple. I was to take the pie crust, roll it out and lay it down in a 9 inch pie plate. I patted down the crust with a fork so that it would be stuck to the plate on the bottom and sides. Then, I attempted to scallop the edges with my fingers to give it a more traditional “pie” appearance. I realized about half way through my scalloping that I’d laid the crust in unevenly. There was more pie crust on one side than the other. I waved it off, seeing as how the crust still came up to and over the lip just fine. I slid the plate into the oven at 450 for 12 minutes.
When the timer went off, I eagerly opened the oven and as I pulled the plate out I was greeted with a horrible discovery. Bulbous bubbles had formed on the bottom of the pie crust from air trapped underneath. This, in turn, caused the one end of the pie crust that was lower than the other to shrink so that it was now down below the lip of the plate. I took a fork to it and patted at the blisters in the pie crust until I had settled them down a bit. After the pie crust had cooled, I put it in the fridge and waited until the next day to attempt the filling.
When I had more time on my hands the next day, I assembled the first ingredients for the filling which were 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/3 cup butter. I melted the butter in the microwave first and then as it cooled, prepared my brown sugar. As it so happens, I had exactly 3/4 cup left in my last brown sugar package which I eagerly measured out… and managed to spill all over my counter top while doing so. After I’d wrangled the brown sugar into the bowl, I took a spoon and mixed the two together. This took a bit more time than I’d thought. If I’d just used my electric beater like the directions had said to, I might have been done sooner.
Next, I added three eggs to the mixture, one at a time. I didn’t get carried away or become bored. I did as I was told this time, making sure to mix each one into the batter thoroughly before adding the next. This, of course, added more liquid to the mixture so it became easier and easier to stir which each egg. After those were all in, I turned to the next ingredient: corn syrup.
I had a bottle of the stuff which I’d used once on a previous cooking adventure and haven’t touched since. I glanced at the amount to use and nearly had a heart attack. One cup of this stuff. WOW! That’s a lot of sugar. But then again, this is pecan pie we’re talking about. As the clear liquid oozed out of the bottle into the measuring cup, I forced myself to not think of how unhealthy this dessert was going to be. I then dumped the syrup into the mixture and hurriedly added the next ingredients: 1 tsp vanilla and 1/4 tsp salt. I didn’t actually measure either of these, which resulted in me adding too much of each. I’m kind of a vanilla freak so I love a lot of that flavor. The salt however… well, I can taste it in places now that the pie is done.
The last and, of course, most important ingredient is the pecans. I had bought a bag of whole pecans. The directions wanted them chopped or crushed up. I figured what better way to do it than with my hands. Although it probably would have been better to crush them with a knife, I did a pretty good job grinding them up with my fingers and added them to the bronze colored mixture. And, just because I could, I also added a few butterscotch chips for an added bit of flavor.
Next came the big step of dumping the batter into the pie shell. I removed the shell from the fridge and carefully poured the mixture into it’s bubbly embrace. It came just up to the tippy top of the short side and thankfully didn’t spill over. Cranking the oven up to 375, I cautiously slid the pie plate into the oven to cook for 30 minutes. I was thinking I might even have time to sample some of it before I had to get to work. So when a half an hour rolled around, I pranced over to the oven, donned my red and blue oven mitts and pulled the pie plate from the oven. Something disturbing happened when I did so. It jiggled.
Pecan pies don’t jiggle, I told myself as I placed it on the stove top to cool. I couldn’t understand what I could have done wrong, seeing as how I’d followed the directions so perfectly. I allowed it to cool thinking it might set up. The only problem is that it’s hard for a pie to cool when it’s practically 90 degrees in your apartment. I eventually placed the pie in the refrigerator, believing that this would solve the problem and that when I returned home that evening, I’d have solved the issue.
When I got home from work, I pulled the pie out and poked the center with a knife. The knife punctured the pecan crust and thick caramel-colored goo rose to the surface. I cringed. It hadn’t set up AT ALL! Frantically, I resorted to Googling pecan pie consistency. And as it turns out, it is quite common for some recipes to come up with very messy pecan pies that don’t set properly. The one out of the Joy of Cooking just happens to be one of many. But… I had a back up plan which I was sure would work. The freezer.
I stuffed the pie plate in the freezer and woke the next morning to find a heavenly sight. The pecan pie was a solid entity! I sliced myself a piece (what better breakfast than pecan pie?) and quickly took a bite. Heavenly. Sweet and with the right amount of added sugar from the butterscotch pieces, it was a delightful treat after so much work. I’ll definitely be making this again but I’ll be following some advice that I found on one of the many cooking/baking forums for this recipe. The trick is to not use all of the liquid bronze mixture. Place the pecans in the pie shell and then spoon in the batter until it just covers the pecans. A few people say that’s really worked for them… I’m willing to try it and see what happens!
Next week on Cooking Adventures, we’ll be leaping into Bulgarian traditional fare with a recipe for Kavarma! Stay tuned!