Chef Virginia Willis says too many pecan pies are mostly goo without enough pecans, making them far too sweet. The secret to the success of this pie is that its pecan-to-goo ratio is just right.
As a child, Willis helped her mother make the pie by running the nuts through a hand-held grinder, which her mother still uses. It has a crank that forces the nuts through two opposing forklike blades and a glass jar to catch the nut pieces. The metal top that screws into the glass jar is bent and dinged, but the tool still cuts the nuts just right.
Make Ahead: The pie crust dough can be assembled and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance. The pie can be baked up to 2 days ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Yield: Makes two 9-inch pies
- For the crusts
- 2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, such as Crisco brand, cut into small pieces
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 6 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed
- For the filling
- 3 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 cups (two 6-ounce packages) pecan halves, coarsely chopped (see headnote)
For the crusts: Combine the flour, salt, shortening and butter in the bowl of a food processor; pulse for up to 10 seconds, until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time, pulsing to combine just until the dough comes together without being sticky or crumbly. Shape the dough into 2 flat disks and wrap separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
Have ready two 9-inch pie plates. Lightly flour a work surface.
Working with one disk of dough at a time (keeping the remaining disk chilled), place the dough in the center of the floured surface and roll close to, but not over, the edge of the dough farthest from you. Lift the dough and give it a quarter-turn; repeat the rolling and turning until the dough is 1/8-inch thick and about 2 inches wider than the diameter of the 9-inch pie plates.
Ease the pie dough into the pie plate; trim to a 1-inch overhang, then fold the overhang under itself along the rim of the plate. Use a fork or your fingers to crimp the edge as desired. Refrigerate for 30 minutes; repeat the process with the remaining disk of dough.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
For the filling: Combine the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl, stirring until mixed well. Add the pecans, stirring to incorporate. Divide the filling evenly between the 2 chilled pie shells.
Place the pies on a large baking sheet and bake, rotating once, for about 55 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pies to a wire rack to cool before serving or storing.
Adapted from Willis's "Bon Appetit, Y'all" (Ten Speed Press, 2008).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.