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Author Notes: While you were sleeping, I was making pecan pie. Seventy, to be exact. That's how many orders we tallied up for Thanksgiving at the bakery where I work: Scratch, in Durham, North Carolina. If you don't live nearby, we are a small, seasonal eatery, full of flaky pies and fluffy biscuits, and led by the James Beard-nominated chef, Phoebe Lawless. Before I met Phoebe, I couldn't make a pie to save my life. Now it's my favorite thing to do. Which is lucky on nights like last Wednesday. Long after midnight, the bakery was blasting music and brightly lit. Our clothes and shoes and skin were floury. Our eyes were tired. There was a lot of pizza. We made 100 apple pies, to warm up, and then moved on to my favorite recipe for the holiday -- gathered ruffle-crimped pastry shells, filled them with toasty pecans, poured brown buttery, brown sugary custard on top, and loaded as many as possible into the ovens. Unlike most pecan pie recipes, this one uses no corn syrup. It is chockfull of nuts, boldly buttery, shyly salty. Crispy on top and gooey in the center. It does brown butter good. Assuming you don't want to make 70 pies, I've here scaled down the recipe. This version yields enough filling for one pie and enough pastry for four pies. At home, in true Phoebe spirit, I always opt to make extra dough. It's no more work and the rounds freeze beautifully. Just thaw overnight in the fridge and roll-out the next day. I also like to make extra brown butter and keep it around; it comes in handy all too often. To do so, melt a couple sticks in a pan. After the foam subsides, watch closely and swirly every so often. The air will start to smell like hazelnuts. As soon as you see the color sway from amber to caramel, cut the heat. —Emma Laperruque
Makes one 9-inch pie
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 10 ounces very cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 cup ice water
- Pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor.
- Add the butter and continue to pulse until the mixture resembles peas and peppercorns. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Using your hands or a fork, add the water a bit at a time (start with 1/4 cup, then 2-tablespoon increments) and toss until the dough holds together when squeezed. (Don't expect a cohesive dough to form! That's over-worked. Pie dough is supposed to be a little shaggy.)
- Dump the dough onto a clean work surface. Gather together and divide into four equal portions. Form each into a disc and wrap tightly in plastic film. Stick one disc in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours. Put the others in the freezer for later use (they'll keep for up to 2 months).
- To roll-out the dough, remove your disc from the fridge, and let temp-up for 10 or so minutes. Generously flour a clean work surface and a rolling pin. Now, from the center of the disc, roll straight forward, then backward. Turn the dough 15 or so degrees. Repeat. (Think, or even say aloud: forward-back, turn, forward-back, turn.) Once dough circle is 10 or so inches in diameter (an easy way to check this is with your pie pan), transfer to your pie pan. Fold the edges under and crimp (however you do this is fine!). Freeze for at least 1 hour.
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, rubbed between your palms to break up any clumps
- 1 1/3 ounces brown butter, melted or at room temperature
- Heaping 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 cups toasted pecan pieces
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Whisk together the eggs and sugars in a large bowl until completely smooth. Mix in the brown butter, then the salt and flour. Taste and make sure that salty-sweet factor is right where you want it.
- Pour the pecans into the frozen pie shell. Pour the goo evenly over top.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating after 20 and checking occasionally after that. You want the crust golden-brown and the filling puffed-up and slightly jiggly in the center.
- Cool completely before slicing and serving.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Recipe with Brown Butter