At the risk of alienating a few hundred Southern friends, family members, and culinary historians, I’m not about to proclaim what does and does not constitute genuine Southern pecan pie. Should the pecans be throughout the filling or just on top of the pie? Can both sugar and corn syrup be used as sweeteners? And what about substituting molasses or sorghum for the corn syrup? Must the batter be mixed only with a wooden spoon for the right texture, or does an electric mixer suffice? Like most Southerners, I firmly believe that pecan pie should be made only with fresh in-season pecans (not those half-rancid nuts sold in cans and cellophane packages), and I’m pretty adamant about my pecan pie not being cloyingly sweet, the way so many are. Furthermore, I always give guests the option of plopping dollops of whipped cream on their wedges, but I’m personally convinced that’s only gilding one very beautiful lily that needs no adornment.–James Villas
Southern Pecan Pie Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 2 H, 25 M
- Makes 6 servings
- For the crust
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, lard, butter, or margarine
- 4 to 5 tablespoons ice water, as needed
- For the pie
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
- 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 cups pecan halves
- Whipped cream, for garnish
- Make the crust
- 1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt, then cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or two knives, till the mixture resembles coarse meal. Mixing with a wooden spoon, gradually add enough of the water so that a ball of dough is formed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour (or up to 1 day).
- 2. Grease a 9-or-10-inch pie plate and set aside.
- 3. Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and with a lightly floured rolling pin roll it out from the center to a 1/8-inch thickness. Carefully fold the pastry in half, lay the fold across the center of the prepared pie plate, unfold it, and press it loosely into the bottom and sides of the plate. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork, trim and crimp the edges, and place on a heavy baking sheet.
- Make the pie
- 4. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- 5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer till frothy. Add the corn syrup, flour, vanilla, and salt, and beat till well blended. Stir in the butter and pecans and mix well.
- 6. Turn the mixture into the pie shell and bake till the filling is cooked but still soft in the center when the pie is gently shaken, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool the pie completely on a rack, chill slightly, and serve with dollops of whipped cream on top.
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Testers ChoiceTesters Choice
Apr 26, 2007
I love pecan pie, but I hate overly sweet things, a category in which most pecan pies fall. This one, I am happy to report, is not most pecan pies. The description by other testers of a “custardy” filling is accurate, and it’s the light, soft, fragrant custard that makes this pie really special. I do have disagreements about how the recipe was written, however: I needed far more than 4 tablespoons of ice water. I used 7 and the pie dough still barely held together—the pastry came out fine, but it was definitely not my favorite part of the pie. Next, it didn’t seem logical to prick the bottom of the crust when the recipe doesn’t call for it to be baked prior to filling. Third, I was suspicious of the instructions to “beat the eggs with an electric mixer till frothy.” The vague description was not very helpful, but I did as I was told. I did this knowing that this half-frothed base would probably result in a high-rising pie that would deflate as it cooled. As predicted, the pie came out with the filling rising about an inch and a half above the crust, only to sink just below the crust line when fully cooled. It didn’t make an impact on taste and texture that I noticed. Next time though, I’ll just beat the eggs thoroughly without frothing them. Lastly, the pie took about 65 minutes to bake and fully set, just over the recipe-specified time, but not by much. The center was set and the crust was nicely browned but nowhere near burning when I pulled it out.
Apr 26, 2007
This pie is extraordinarily simple and quick to prepare, and it has a perfect balance of flavors. It isn’t overly sweet, and the subtle vanilla custard goes beautifully with the pecan topping. Ideal for the holiday season. I’ll be adding it as a new Thanksgiving favorite.
Apr 26, 2007
This is my idea of a near-perfect pecan pie. I used shortening for the crust and, while it was flaky, it lacked some flavor I get with butter, so perhaps a mixture would work best. I didn’t have in-season pecans, but I think the pie turned out well, in spite of it. My ideal pecan pie has a texture less like a sticky gooey pie and more of a sweet custard structure. This one hits the mark so closely, I’m willing to give up looking for new recipes. I would prefer a touch more sugar, but everything else is spot-on. No whipped cream needed, no sharing needed, either.
Southern Pecan Pie Recipe © 2007 James Villas. Photo © 2007 Ellie Miller. All rights reserved.