I've always enjoyed mixing it up when it comes to holiday baking, throwing a pumpkin cheesecake or frozen mousse into the Thanksgiving mix to keep things fresh and interesting. And yet, in spite of my adventurous nature, there is one standard dessert that must be on the table for the final course; a classic, unadulterated pecan pie. It's a non-negotiable that may as well have been included in my wedding vows, "In sickness, or in health, I will bake thee a pecan pie on Thanksgiving".
But in the sea of holiday stress and fuss, a pecan pie is akin to a baking vacation.
Fair enough, there is a pie crust to contend with, but I'm confident that as a Serious Eater, you're a pro at that by now. Each year, when I pull down the right notebook of recipes, I'm always happily reminded of how deceptively simple this pie is to make.
You start by making a shaped and chilled bottom pie crust. You have the option of partially blind baking it first, if you prefer it to be well-done (as I do). You may also choose to reserve a cup of the whole pecans to lightly place on the top of the filling just before the pie goes into the oven. During baking, remember to place patches of aluminum foil over the top of the filling or the crust if you're concerned that either are looking a little too dark.
Recipes for pecan pie vary based on textural preferences. Those with more eggs will set up with a firmer caramel filling; those with less will be more runny. Some recipes call for lots of nuts, resulting in a pie that's chock-full from top to bottom, while those with less create a double-layered effect, with nuts rising to the top of the filling. Some enjoy the addition of molasses, or choose to add a healthy dose of vanilla, bourbon, honey, or maple. There are tons of recipes out there to suit every taste, but if you're looking for a great classic recipe, feel free to borrow mine.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.