Few traditional Thanksgiving tables will be without a pecan pie this year. There's not much to this sugary, nutty, crumbly dessert; some kind of crust, some pecans and (usually) an ungodly amount of dark and light corn syrups. It's not the most appetizing pie to make—there's something a little obscene about the way the corn syrup emerges from the jar—but the brilliant babka enthusiasts at Breads Bakery have come up with a recipe that eschews the corn stuff for caramel, another obscenely oozing sugar product.
Their recipe for Caramel Pecan Pie has nary a jar of processed nonsense in sight, instead asking the baker to slowly caramelize cane sugar to get that rich, chewy texture the traditional pie is known for. The caramel adds a nice smokiness that helps counter some of the rich sugar-and-cream flavors while retaining the decadence of the dessert. If you're not making pumpkin whoopie pies, this could be your next best bet.
Caramel Pecan Pie
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2/3 cup softened unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg
To make the dough, cream together the butter, sugar and salt until very white and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until smooth, then slowly add almond flour—followed by the regular flour—to the butter mixture until the dry ingredients are incorporated, but not overmixed. Roll the dough into a 1" thick square, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
- 2.5 cups granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 ounce dark chocolate
- 3 eggs
- 2/3 cup softened butter
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup pecan halves
Bring heavy cream to a boil and set aside. In a separate heavy duty pan, heat 1 cup sugar spread evenly over moderate heat. Once the sugar begins to liquify, stir sparingly and slowly begin to add the remaining sugar in thin layers until it achieves a dark golden brown color and smooth texture; be careful not to burn it. The caramel will be extremely hot, so use oven mitts and long sleeves and avoid touching it. Add the hot heavy cream slowly and stir with a wooden spoon. The mixture will expand rapidly, especially if the cream is not hot enough. Continue stirring until it subsides.
Add the chocolate and let the mixture cool to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, then whisk in butter, eggs and vanilla extract. Let the mixture cool to room temperature then refrigerate until you're ready to assemble the pie.
Assembling the pie:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a fluted pie shell with butter. Flour a board and rolling pin and roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut a large circle out of the dough, a few inches larger in diameter than your pie shell. Gently fold this circle into quarters, forming a triangle. Place the triangle point directly in the center of the pie pan and unfold the dough so that it hangs over the edges evenly. Gently lift and press the dough into the bottom corner of the pan and trim off excess dough around the top edge. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Line the chilled pie shell tightly with a circle of parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill to the rim with dried, uncooked beans rice or pie weights. Baked until light brown around the edges and bottom. Remove paper and beans and reduce oven heat to 300.
Pour in 4.5 ounces of the caramel mixture, then top with 1/3 cup broken up pecan pieces. Top with the remaining caramel, then arrange remaining pecan halves in a concentric circle on the edge facing the center. Conversely, you can just say to hell with looks and scatter the pecans evenly on top.
Bake the pie for 18-20 minutes or until caramel has set and nuts are nicely toasted. Serve with vanilla or dulce de leche ice creams or whipped cream.