So that dinner I made for my friend Alex’s birthday (the one with the soup) began a few days earlier when I e-mailed Alex a very important question: “Dear Alex,” I wrote, “what are your Top 5 favorite desserts of all time?”
Alex wrote back: “Hmmm…top five favorite desserts…I’ll do this w/o thinking too much: pecan pie, warm cake with cream cheese frosting, strawberry rhubarb pie, chocolate lava cake, lemon cake.” Seeing as she did this stream-of-consciousness style, I had to trust that the first dessert she named was truly her favorite. Which is why I ended up making what turned out to be (in my opinion at least) the greatest pecan pie ever.
I’m not tooting my own horn; I’m tooting the horn of my friends Matt & Renato, those guys from Baked, who have an awesome new cookbook out called “Baked Explorations.” That book has all kinds of excellent recipes in it (I can’t wait to make their monkey bread) but the pecan pie comes from their first cookbook, “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.”
This pie is super cinchy to make, assuming you know how to roll a pie crust. And I have to thank Amanda Hesser for the tip she shared in this Food52 video in which she rolls her pie crust between two sheets of plastic. As you know, I’m something of a walking disaster when it comes to rolling out pie dough; but between two sheets of plastic, sprinkled with a little flour, I was golden.
As for the birthday girl, she was a very happy camper. There she is at the head of the table with our friends Raife and her sister Lizzy and Craig:
They’re eating the soup there and then I served up Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic (recipe here):
There was Moroccan Cous Cous on the side (recipe from The Barefoot Contessa):
And then, of course, the dessert. I even put a candle in it:
Even if you don’t like Pecan Pie (as Raife doesn’t, normally) this has so much booze and chocolate in it, you’re bound to fall in love. Happy Birthday, Alex! Hope the unconscious part of your brain that wrote that list was happy.
Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
from “Baked: New Adventures in Baking” by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito
First, the pie dough recipe….
[Note, this makes 2 crusts, so halve the recipe, as I did, or divide in two and freeze the other half.]
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
3/4 cup ice cold water
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together.
Cut the cold butter into cubes and toss the cubes in the flour mixture to coat. Put the mixture in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the pieces of butter are the size of hazelnuts.
While pulsing in quick, 4-second bursts, drizzle the ice water into the food processor through the feed tube.
As soon as the dough comes together in a ball, remove it from the food processor and divide it into two equal balls. Flatten to a disk and wrap each disk first in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the disks until firm, about 1 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.)
Now for the actual pie….
1 ball of Classic Pie Dough (1/2 of the recipe above), chilled
2 cups pecan halves, toasted (<--important to toast! don't skip) 3 large eggs 3/4 cup light corn syrup 3 tablespoons sugar 4 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted Pinch of salt 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 3 tablespoons bourbon 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Unwrap the ball of chilled dough and put it directly on the work surface. [Note: use Amanda Hesser's trick and do this between two sheets of plastic.]
Roll out into a 12-inch round.
Transfer the dough to a pie dish
and carefully work it into the pie dish, folding any overhang under and crimping the edge as you go.
Wrap and freeze the crust until firm, about 2 hours, or up to 3 months.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Coarsely chop 3/4 cup of the pecans. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until combined. Add the corn syrup, sugars, butter, salt, vanilla, and bourbon. Whisk again until combined. Stir in the chopped pecans and set the filling aside.
Spread the chocolate chips evenly along the bottom of the frozen pie shell.
Slowly pour the filling on top of the chocolate chips.
Arrange the remaining 1 1/4 cups pecan halves on top of the filling.
Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, then cover the edges of the crust loosely with aluminum foil and bake for another 30 minutes. [Note: I didn’t do this and it was fine, but check periodically to see if the edges are getting too brown.] Test the pie by sticking a knife in the center of the filling. If the knife comes out clean, the pie is done. If the knife comes out with clumps of filling sticking to it, bake for another 5 minutes and test again.
Cool the pie on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature. [I served with a big dollop of whipped cream.] The pie can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 2 days.