A Slice of Perfect Pecan Pie
Here is the photo of a slice of Perfect Pecan Pie, as promised.
The above photo shows it with one of the extra toasted pecans I talked about in the initial post.
This photo shows it with one of the little pie crust cookies I made, in this case, a turkey. I had no idea it was going to look like a chicken on a nest when I perched it in the cloud of whipped cream, but oh well!
For the record, this is homemade whipped cream, the only kind that will properly do this pie justice. Messing around with Cool Whip or canned whipped cream would be inappropriate with a pie of this caliber.
It is worth pointing out that the texture of this pie is a crucial element to its overall success. It is slightly soft but not runny. It is not so firm as to come across as gelatinous which is critical. The filling is opaque and not cloudy as some other pies may appear. The top is crunchy and perfectly balances/counteracts with the softer interior.
It is a real winner across all fronts: appearance, texture, and taste. I hope you will give it a try sometime.
Thank you for visiting this blog!
Perfect Pecan Pie
As promised last week, here is the best Pecan Pie recipe I've ever made.
First of all, you need to toast the pecans. I like the Kirkland (Costco) Pecan halves because a 2 lb. bag is only $12.99 and they are nice solid pieces.
Take the 2 cups of pecans needed for the recipe and spread them on a baking sheet. I added another cup because I always end up eating some and it's nice to have a few extra for decorations, so I'd say I've got 3 cups here. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake them for about 12 minutes. Avoid the temptation to leave the kitchen and do something else. I've burned my fair share of pecans because I got distracted elsewhere. Nuts burn fast and there is no bringing them back once they've gone too far. By the 10 minute mark, it's good to be paying close attention to what's going on and give them a stir. Generally speaking, once you can smell the nuts, they are done.
Here are the nuts after they are roasted.
These roasted for exactly 12 minutes and they look good. Only one or two look a bit dark.
The nut circled below is too dark. You want to throw out any that are this color.
I turn on the exhaust fan to get the smell out of the house quick because of my child with nut allergies. Some years I have put them in the patio if it's not too cold or I try to do it when he isn't in the house.
Next, you want to chop them up. I chop mine rather gingerly to avoid having nut fragments flying all over the place on account of my child with allergies. Also, I think the larger pieces are more toothsome than if they were chopped too small.
The next thing I do is prepare the pie crust. Use any recipe you like, here is the one I used today:
Flaky Pie Crust
Bon Appétit | 2000
by Elinor Klivans
Makes one 9-inch crust
A terrific all-purpose pie crust from Elinor Klivans. Use it during the holiday season and all year long.
preparationMix flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening. Using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Process just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill until dough is firm enough to roll out, about 30 minutes.
Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface to 12-inch round. Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Fold overhang under. Crimp edges decoratively. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Here is the pie crust after it is rolled out.
I also like to use festive cookie cutters to cut out little shapes for decoration later. I actually made an extra pie crust to do this. I sprinkle cinnamon sugar on them and bake them for 10 or 15 minutes on a separate cookie sheet. This comes from my Grandma, who used to do exactly that with the pie crust scraps. The kids loved them.
This pie crust needs to be blind baked, so bake it in the oven and use whatever you prefer to keep the crust flat: beans, pie weights, another pie pan, etc.
Bake it for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. I am using aluminum foil to keep it flat. I also used a fork to poke holes in through the foil to avoid air bubbles forming.
Take off the foil and brush an egg yolk wash in the crust. This should consist of one egg yolk with a tiny bit of water, about 1/8 teaspoon. Bake it for one more minute.
I am never happy with how my pie crusts look, but here it is for the record.
Now I am going to decorate the edges with some of those cookie pie crust leaves I made earlier.
Finally, it is time to make the pie filling.
Here is the recipe:
Perfect Pecan Pie
If you want warm pie, cool the pie thoroughly, then cut and warm it in a 250-degree oven for about 20 minutes.
1 9-inch baked pie shell
6 T. unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 T. vanilla extract
2 C. pecans (8 ounces), toasted and chopped into small pieces
1. Adjust oven rack to center position, and heat oven to 275 degrees. Place pie shell in oven if not already warm.
2. Melt butter in medium heatproof bowl set in skillet of water maintained at just below simmer. Remove bowl from skillet; mix in sugar and salt with wooden spoon until butter is absorbed. Beat in eggs, then corn syrup and vanilla. Return bowl to hot water; stir until mixture is shiny and warm to the touch, about 130 degrees. Remove from heat; stir in pecans.
3. Pour mixture into warm shell; bake until center feels set yet soft, like gelatin, when gently pressed, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer pie to rack; let cool completely, at least 4 hours. Serve pie at room temperature or warm, with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Cook's Illustrated, November/December 1995
Here is the recipe, step-by-step, with photos.
First of all, mise en place. Assembling the ingredients now will help with baking later.
Melt butter in medium heatproof bowl set in skillet of water maintained at just below simmer.
Remove bowl from skillet; mix in sugar and salt with wooden spoon until butter is absorbed.
Beat in eggs, then corn syrup and vanilla.
Return bowl to hot water; stir until mixture is shiny and warm to the touch, about 130 degrees.
Remove from heat; stir in pecans.
Pour mixture into warm shell; bake until center feels set yet soft, like gelatin, when gently pressed, 50 to 60 minutes.
I had to bake this pie a bit longer for some reason. I don't remember doing it in year's past, but go with the appearance and make sure the filling isn't sloshing around when the time is up. If it is, bake a little longer.
Here is the finished pie. I will take a picture of it tomorrow after I cut a piece and post it for you.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all and thank you for stopping by!
Gummy Bear Pool Party Cake
It's birthday time over here and that means it is also cake making time. I am one of those people who prefer to make cakes at home. One reason for that is I have a kid with peanut and nut allergies, and that is the only way I can be certain about ingredients and control any cross-contamination issues. Secondly, I've never cared for the "crisco" types of frostings that come out of a lot of bakeries. You know the kind where it sticks to the roof of your mouth and it has a greasy feeling like it will be around for awhile. The frostings I make at home have butter, and cream cheese, and vanilla and powdered sugar so they taste better and when you swallow them that's the end of the story, except for the calorie counting part of it.
I thought someone out there would enjoy watching this Gummy Bear Pool Party Cake being made. I actually made this same cake last year. My daughter and her birthday-mate/BFF asked for it after looking at pictures of last year's cake, but I was secretly hoping I could mix it up a little. I decided I would make a Gummy Bear Ocean Beachfront Party Cake and surprise them. It was going to have a sailboat with gummy bears in it, and gummy bears on beach chairs and gummy sharks and umbrellas. There were going to be waves and the sail was going to announce the birthday girls' names and birth date.
I made the cakes in advance and I will admit that while I detest most bakery and store-bought frostings, I have made plenty of made-from-scratch cakes and in my opinion, the box cake mixes from the stores are just as good if not better than home cake mixes. Not true for frosting, but very true for cake mixes. For this party, I decided to make two boxes of cake mix, to be sure I have enough cake. So I made two 9x12 pans of chocolate cake, then sliced them both in half (horizontally) and frosted each layer, so that when they were put back together, the order went like this: cake, frosting, cake, frosting, cake, frosting, cake.
I decided to color the frosting with food coloring to make it more fun. It's not flavored, just colored. Then put the whole thing back together, cover it with wrap, and pop it in the fridge the night before. That way, the only thing I have to do on the day of the party is decorate the outside of the cake. If it was an early party, it could be done the night before, but this party was in the late afternoon so I knew I would have time in the morning.
Before this goes any further, it is important to get the cake on the plate that it is going to be served on. It is best to avoid moving the cake once the final decorating begins. In this case, I am using a sturdy piece of cardboard that I got at the baking store. They also sell nice sheets of foil, but I'm just going to use regular aluminum foil for this cake.
I'm going to cover it with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil, so I can use it again by disposing of the foil and wrap after the party.
Tape the wrap/foil down in back so the cake and foil don't move when they get transported.
I'm going to use the bottom from a "perfect brownie" pan to move the cake. The bottom from a spring form pan would also work for this task. Using a transfer board will help to ensure that the cake doesn't crack or break when it gets moved.
The next thing to do is put strips of parchment or wax paper along each edge of the bottom of the cake. This will help with keeping the base around the cake clean. It will save a lot of clean-up time at the end. Remember, these have to be pulled out when everything is finished, so don't put them too far under the edge. Put them just far enough in so that they won't slide out when the cake is being worked on.
I had to slice off the top of the cake to make it level. A more professional baker would have produced a level cake, but I'm not there yet, so just take a serrated knife and slice off the top so the cake is flat.
The next thing I'm going to make is sand for the beach. I decided at the store that these vanilla sandwich cookies look about the color of sand. So I scraped out all the middles and ground them in the food processor.
I think that definitely looks like sand!
This is when my daughter walked in the kitchen. I thought I should at least mention that there was going to be a surprise element about the cake to see how it was going to go over. She had a total meltdown. Mission aborted. Back to the pool party cake. At least I know how to make sand for cake if I need it again. Good thing I asked. Kids these days!
Moving on to the frosting. I made a big batch of it so I'm sure to have enough. It's a stiff frosting so it will hold up well for decorating or piping.
The first thing to do is get on the crumb coat. It is important to "glue" down all those crumbs so they aren't getting in the finished decorations. A real pro's crumb coat wouldn't show any crumbs, but mine does. I'm not worried about it because they will be covered up with the next layer of frosting.
Here's an important tip: Separate out some frosting for the crumb coat in a different bowl and keep the knife out of the "master" bowl of frosting. Otherwise crumbs will get in the main bowl and then it will basically be a disaster. Don't double-dip the knife. If more frosting is needed for the crumb coat, use a spoon to get it out of the master bowl. Once the crumb coat is done, get rid of the bowl and spoon that was used to do it. Use a new knife for the next layer of frosting.
If different colors of frosting will be needed, take an amount of frosting that looks right and put it in a separate bowl. Color it with food coloring and stir it up. If more is needed, add appropriately and color again. I decided to make the sides green and the edge of the pool white, so I'm going to get that coat on first.
If an error is made like this one, simply use a toothpick to pick out the green frosting and then clean it up with white frosting.
While the frosting is still "wet", it is important to apply anything that needs to stick to it. I decided to use some different candy to decorate the sides, in this case, Spree, Gummy Bears, and Dots.
Next it was time to lay down the pool.
Oops, I must have gotten carried away and forgot to photograph it. Well, here it is and I also piped an edge around the pool to give it a more finished appearance. I could have done a better job but there was a lot going on in the background at that point.
The gummy bears are floating in peach gummy rings, and the pool mats/surfboards are made out of Airheads and some kind of sour gummy tape. I used a clean scissors to cut whatever shapes I needed. The diving board is a wafer cookie held up by tooth picks. Gummy bears were "glued" in place using a tiny dab of frosting.
A few more decorations and some gummy bears sunning around the sides of the pool brings this cake close to completion. The octopus was for the beach cake but I thought the kids would think it was fun if there was an octopus in the pool. Guess which piece of candy all the kids wanted from the cake? The octopus. The "slide" was made out of some very flexible sour gummy tape. I used a toothpick at first, but it was too short so I broke off a wooden skewer and used it to hold up the slide.
Now it's time to get those parchment/wax paper strips out. Go slow and easy. Repair frosting if needed. I've tried to save myself the step of the parchment paper and I always regret it. It will be more work to clean-up and repair if they aren't used in the first place. The prevention rule applies here.
There's just one more thing. I have some cocktail umbrellas that I'm going to put around the pool, but I want to wait until I get to the party. Very lightly drape the cake with saran wrap to protect it while it is transported to the party.
Amazingly, this cake held up well and not a single piece of candy fell off the cake during the 30 minute highway commute. I was so relieved. Still, it is best to come prepared and bring extra frosting, a knife, and toothpicks to take care of anything that might happen on the way. Here is the cake before the candles were blown out.
Oh yes, there is one more thing. The other birthday girl requested gummy bears to be getting married. The best way I could accommodate her was to have them on their own wedding cake. I made some tiny cakes using a little batter from the other cakes, but baking them in small ramekins. The bride and groom were bigger gummy bears I found at the market. The groom is colored with black Sharpie and the bride's gown was made out of Kleenex and her veil was super-glued to her head (her waist band (dental floss) got a little hiked up, although it looks like she is being held hostage, it was supposed to be around her waist...I tried to lower it but I couldn't get it down with my fingers once we were on location. I should have used a toothpick!). I stuck toothpicks in the bottom of them and then poked them in the cake when we got there. The bears themselves weren't edible in the end, but the cake was and these girls are at the age where they loved the idea of a wedding cake!
I hope you enjoyed this post and that you will visit again. Thank you for stopping by!
Weekends in December
Originally published Dec. 9, 2012
I really love weekends in December. For me, and I think a lot of other people too, they are filled with shopping, decorating and holiday baking. I’m not sure if guys feel the same way. Now that I think about it, probably not so much. Not to be stereotypical…I’m sure there are some guys who do all of that and more. Speaking to the ones who do not, perhaps they at least get to enjoy the fruits of those labors, sneaking a caramel or cookie here and there and generally feeling the warmth emanating from the glow of holiday candles or lights, cards coming in the mail, the anticipation of opening presents, and the joy of giving a special gift.
Here are a few images I’ve made over the years. I hope you too are enjoying this time of year whether you are actively or passively participating in it!
I am a photographer who lives in Minnesota. I blog about Minnesota, photography, music, food and miscellaneous topics.