Pecan “Mystery” Pie

A long entry, and time for a “real” baked pie.  I decided to move on to some one-crust filled pies.  This one is a variation on a pecan pie, which includes the surprise layer of cream cheese down below. I think that part is the mystery, as it makes it kind of a cheesecake-pecan-pie, though once it’s all put together it’s hard to put your finger on that cheesecake taste underneath.

Make no mistake, it’s probably really bad for you.  But also very good.  I would say some line about how I’m a southern girl and this is merely traditional southern dessert, but, really, I was born in Ohio so it doesn’t count.

First, some instructions on crust.  A lot of times when you see recipes for pies, even on TV, they’ll tell you “start with a pie crust” but not bother explaining that part. I even saw Alton Brown suggest that you just go out and buy one rather than go to the trouble.  Pie crusts from scratch can be kind of a pain in the butt, or they’re the easiest thing ever, depending on how much practice you have at making them.  I have “more than some,” so I find them fairly easy now, but my first few didn’t turn out at all.

For this post I’ll start with the instructions on how to make a crust, but in future posts I won’t bother to repeat myself, and just do what most recipes do and say “first make a crust.” I’ll begin with the standard pie crust, and later on do a buttermilk crust that’s a little easier to work with, but has more ingredients.  This is just the regular “Betty Crocker” pie crust recipe with photo illustration.

Cup of flour

First, you will need about a cup of flour.  Also add about a half teaspoon of salt to this.

Add shortening

Then, add a fat. Regular shortening is what I use. I tend to overmix just a bit “too much” crust, as, when it comes time to roll it out, I find that to be very preferable to having not enough crust and running short of the edge of my pie tin.  This is 1/3 cup shortening, and a bit to grow on.

About the size of small peas or something

The next step is to mix these things together. You can use a pastry blender, or a couple of butter knives.  I’ve gotten fast at using the knives.  You want the shortening to basically disappear within the flour, and turn in to small clumps.  The recipe says “about the size of small peas.” I don’t really get that comparison to be honest. Go smaller than that.

Dough for pie

After that you add some water.  I just get a bit less than a quarter cup and slowly add it, mixing the dough after each drop. You do not want to add too much, so, as soon as the dough starts clumping right, stop adding water.  Generally you’ll be mixing it with your fingers rather than a spoon. Have clean hands.

Flattened Crust

Now flour a surface, heavily, and flour your rolling pin too. Roll the dough out completely flat. Then roll it out some more.  You want to make sure it’s not too thick since people don’t want a huge mouthful of crust, just whatever yummy filling is inside and the crust to hold it together.

Almost ready crust

The trickiest part of this whole process for me is putting the pie crust in to the pie tin.  My method is to roll it around the pin, hold the pin over the pie tin, and transfer the crust in to it slowly and carefully. If anything tears, patch it up with water and extra dough.  Make sure you push the dough in to the corners of the tray (important if you’re doing a bake and fill later pie in particular).  Tear off any excess and do a little design on the edges depending on your artistic ability.  I did the standard “pinch” design, which you’ll see better after the pie is baked.

If I was going to add a “cold” filling like meringue, I’d put the pie in the oven now, but for now I’m setting it aside to do my cream cheese and pecan filling.

Cream cheese filling ingredients

In this bowl:

8 0z (1 “brick”) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/3 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Use the mixer until it’s a nice, even filling, then pour that in to the prepared pie crust.

Pecan chopping

Then, what’s a pecan pie without pecans?  Chop a bunch up.  This is about a cup and a half, chopped coarsely.   No food processor here, since you want big chunks.

This goes in to the prepared pie, right on top of the cream cheese filling.  This is the current state of the pie…

Pecan pie in progress

It looks great! I already want to eat it except for the whole raw dough problem.  There is one more, dangerous step, the topping.

Corn syrup

This is what's killing us all

Warning: filling contains a cup of corn syrup, sweet sweet sweetener with no nutritional value or merit.  Eat corn syrup at your own risk.

Also in this filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend it.  Now there are a lot of variant ways to make a pecan pie filling, so this is just a method that makes a small amount to topper the pie.

Pecan pie ready for the oven

Dump this concoction over top of the prepared pecans.  (That weird looking thing is the stopper for my teakettle that snuck in to the shot, by the way. Pay it no mind.)

Bake this at 375 degrees, for about 35 to 40 minutes.  I recommend putting foil around the outside crust area to prevent it from burning during the baking period. Test the pie by pushing down on the center area with a spoon and testing the give. It should be solid and not give very much.  I may have taken mine out a bit too early since there was still some liquid in the center, which for proper pie cohesion you do not want.

Wine and Pecan Pie

Final step: enjoy pie!  The wine was for dinner, which you should enjoy before eating your dessert.

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