This chocolate brownie pie, known in some parts as tar heel pie, seems to have been created expressly for folks who crave chocolate brownies so impossibly fudgy they’re simply too gooey to consume out of hand. Hence this pie, intended to be daintily attacked with a fork. No complaints here.–Renee Schettler
WHY IS IT CALLED A TAR HEEL PIE?
Good question. North Carolina, which claims ownership of the Tar Heel pie, is known as the Tar Heel State. Legend has it that the name came from North Carolina’s tar and pitch production because of its immense pine forests. At one time, it was used with a negative connotation for a lowly tradesperson but, since the Civil War, it’s been recalled as an expression of state pride. The rich brownie filling is reminiscent of the state’s namesake resource. Brownie filling makes a better pie, for sure.
Tar Heel Pie | Brownie Pie
For the crust
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/4-inch (6 mm) pieces and chilled
- 6 tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch (6 mm) pieces and chilled
- 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
For the brownie pie filling
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
For the crust
- Dump the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and process until combined, about 5 seconds. Toss in the shortening, scattering it evenly over the flour mixture, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 10 seconds. Toss in the butter, again scattering it evenly, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Dump into a bowl.
- Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water over the flour mixture. Reach for a rubber spatula and stir until the dough sticks together when you press it. If the dough doesn’t come together, add the remaining 1 tablespoon water. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, form it into a 4-inch disk, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour. (You can refrigerate the dough for up to 2 days or freeze it for up to 1 month. If frozen, let the dough thaw completely on the counter before rolling it.)
- Remove the dough from the fridge and let it warm up and soften slightly, about 10 minutes. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. Loosely roll the dough around your rolling pin so the pin supports the dough, hold the dough over a 9-inch pie plate, and gently unroll the dough onto the plate, letting the excess dough hang over the edge. Ease the dough in place in the pie plate by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while pressing it against the bottom and sides of the pie plate with your other hand.
- Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the pie plate. Tuck the overhang under itself so that the folded edge is flush with the edge of the pie plate. Crimp the dough evenly around the edge of the pie plate using your fingers. Wrap the dough-lined pie plate loosely in plastic and freeze until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position and heat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Line the chilled pastry in the pie plate with two 12-inch squares of parchment paper or a double layer of aluminum foil, covering the edges to prevent burning. Fill the pie plate with pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice. Bake until lightly golden around thee edges, 18 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the weights and parchment or foil, rotate the pie plate, and continue to bake until the center begins to look opaque and slightly drier, 3 to 6 minutes. Let cool completely, at least 1 hour.
For the brownie pie filling
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (160°C).
- Microwave 2/3 cup chocolate chips and the butter in a bowl, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until melted, 60 to 90 seconds total. Whisk in the oil and cocoa until smooth.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt until smooth and thick. Whisk the chocolate mixture into the sugar mixture just until incorporated. Stir in the flour and remaining 1/3 cup chocolate chips until just combined.
- Spread the pecans over the pastry in the pie plate, then pour the chocolate fudge batter over the top, using a spatula to smooth the surface. Bake the pie until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with thin coating of batter attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the pie cool on wire rack until barely warm, about 1 1/2 hours. Slice and serve. (The pie is best warm from the oven but it can be reheated, uncovered, in a 300°F (150°C) oven until warm throughout, 10 to 15 minutes.)
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Although this pie took quite a long time to complete, it was absolutely worth the wait. It was easy to make with little hands-on time and lots of “rests” to make the crust lovely and flaky. Combined with the barely gooey fudge and crunchy pecans, this was phenomenal.
I used only 3 tablespoons of ice water, and the dough was quite moist (more so than I’m used to with a crust). However, after resting in the fridge, it was a soft but not wet consistency and rolled out without any issues. Baking the crust took 18 minutes with the pie weights, plus an additional 5 minutes once they were removed. I baked the filled pie for a good 32 minutes, and the toothpick inserted did have just a thin film of batter on it as indicated in the recipe.
Easy to make, wonderful to eat. Will be doing this one again!
This is one super fudgy pie. I used a store-bought crust (the one with the fat doughboy) and picked up the directions from baking the crust.
The other ingredients mixed together nicely, and I poured the mixture over the toasted nuts. Baking time was about 32 minutes. This pie fits the opening description perfectly. It’s super rich and fudgy, and you’ll only need a very small slice. Serving this with the suggested ice cream would be perfect! This would also be great in tiny tart shells since a very small slice is the perfect amount of rich, fudgy goodness. Next time I make this, I’ll make mini muffin tin versions with a small piece of pie crust.
Mmm! That was the first word out of my mouth after I tasted a bite of this pie. It smelled delicious, so I knew it would taste good. Plus, it’s easy to make.
The crust was buttery and crumbly, and I never suspected it would turn out so well because the dough was so sticky. (While preparing the dough, I only used 3 tablespoons of ice water and baked it for the entire 25 minutes.) The filling came together so easily that I can absolutely see making this pie again and again. In fact, I’m thinking of making it for my co-workers and neighbors, and it’s highly likely this will become my potluck dish. I love how the crust tasted, but on busier days, I’ll most likely use a store-bought crust. The only thing that would make this pie more delicious is caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.
This pie is delicious. My husband, who doesn’t love chocolate desserts, ate 2 (small) pieces. It’s deeply chocolatey but not overly sweet. I served it with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
The only problem I had was with the crust. It was easy to make but difficult to roll out. Although I chilled the pie dough in the fridge overnight, it softened up very fast while I was rolling it out. I rolled it out on a floured Silpat mat and floured my rolling pin, but it still stuck to the mat and the pin. It also shrunk a little in the pie pan (even using pie weights.) However, it turned out flaky and buttery and was a perfect complement to the filling. The pecans added even more texture and crunch. The pie dough takes the most time. I would make it the night before, and roll out the dough and prebake it in the morning. Once that’s done, it only takes a few minutes to make the filling.
Though I wouldn’t call this the best pie I’ve ever had, nor the best brownie ever, I can certainly see the appeal of this combination of 2 super-American desserts in 1. We actually found the pie most addicting eaten fridge-cold with the chocolate filling was fudgy, the crust flaky, and the chocolate chunks solid. Warm, the gooey filling tasted almost too rich and sweet. Either way, a scoop of vanilla ice cream was just right alongside. I found the directions descriptive and the cooking time just right.