If you read these recipes, you’ll find I have little snobbishness about the origins of your pastry. If it’s in the reduced aisle, I cannot resist. And so what: shop-bought shortcrust can be very good indeed. Shortcrust, pastry made without sugar, is an essential for pecan pie. This is a hyper-sweet American import that, for the most part, I don’t choose to partake in. The filling is often just a mixture of various syrups and sugars with some token, if prettily arranged, nuts on top.
This recipe’s a bit more refined. It’s far, far less rich than those you’ll find in the southern states, and even just a bit cakey. Its filling is more like a sweet pecan frangipane than a grainy, jaw-binding toffee. That’s not to say I’m neglecting the main flavor component of pecan pie: I’ve got both brown sugar and golden syrup, with a good slug of treacle for a little complexity. The pastry is there for balance: a naturally sugar free, fat-filled wonder. You can make it yourself if you like; plenty of my columns have good recipes for you to follow. It would be wrong to say I did.
First, preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Grease a metal, loose-bottomed tart tin with plenty of butter. Alternatively, you could make lots of little ones.
Start by preparing your pastry – there’s no need for any blind baking here. Flour a work surface and on it place your block of pastry. Flour the top, flour your rolling pin and roll the pastry until it is the thickness of a £1 coin – that thin. Keep turning it to stop it sticking and keep it round.
Roll the pastry around your rolling pin and unfurl it over your greased tin. Tuck the pastry into the corners and grooves. Cut around the edge, leaving a good 1cm hanging over the edge all the way around – this will be trimmed after baking. Prick the base of your pastry case with a fork.
Make the filling – in a pan, place your sugar, syrup and treacle. Over a medium heat, gently melt these together, stirring occasionally. Whilst this is heating, roughly chop 200g of your pecans.
When the sugar has all melted, remove the pan from the heat and add your butter, vanilla and chopped pecans. Stir these together until combined. Finally, add your eggs, stirring in quickly so as not to scramble them.
This mixture can be poured into your uncooked pastry case. Then, arrange your pecan halves on top, working around from the outside in. Once you’ve filled the circle, place the pie in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until your pecans are just starting to turn an extra-dark brown.
Leave to cool for at least 15 minutes, then trim the edges of your pastry with a sharp knife for a clean edge. Remove from the tin, slice and serve, alone, with cream or with ice cream. Hot or cold, it’s awesome.
Obviously, this pie tastes exactly the same if you just dump your pecan halves on top, but it doesn’t look quite as spectacular as if you spend the time arranging them. Whichever you choose, keep a close eye on them in the latter stages of baking, as it’s easy to burn them without noticing. It’d be a pity to waste that effort for burnt nuts.