Monday, January 27, 2014

Man, Eater: The Pie Project

I was looking for a good way to get my resolution started (I didn't want to have my first dish be spaghetti with Prego) when I found a baking challenge that would keep me occupied all year. It was a piece by Modern Farmer called “The Modern Farmer Pie Chart of Pies.” It's basically a chart of what kind of pie is best suited to each month of the year, based on what's in season. If you haven't seen it before, you should definitely check it out.

 With a pie for every month, I thought it would be a fun and engaging way to keep my interest in my new resolution. [Tracy, here: I also imagine it will be a fun way to totally destroy my own New Year's Resolution to drop a few pounds!]   With that said, let's get to January's pie, the Pecan Pie.

I was excited for this pie for two reasons. One, I had never made a pecan pie before; and two, I had never really even had pecan pie before. Growing up, it had never presented itself as an option: my mom always made chocolate pudding pie (because it is easy and delicious) and my aunt and grandmother made some of the best apple pies I've ever had. The only other pie that even made an appearance on our dessert tables was pumpkin. Pecan never even entered into the conversation. In a way, this meant I was flying doubly blind into this challenge: I had never made a pecan pie before, but even if it turned out looking half decent, I had no way of knowing where it fell on the taste spectrum. That would be Tracy's job. [Let me just say that I was insanely excited for this pie. I love pies of all types but pecan holds a special place in my heart. My grandparents' neighbors have a bunch of pecan trees and when I was younger we would go over and gather pecans. Ever since, they have been my absolute favorite nut. Mix them in with an ooey-gooey filling and I am one happy lady.]

The recipe I used for this pie was from Tracy's Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, and I tried to prepare as much as I could from scratch. For my first foray into pies, I used a frozen crust, although I would like to try making my own crust before this challenge is over.

Pecan Pie

1 single crust pie crust
3 slightly beaten eggs
1 cup corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cups pecan halves

The recipe is pretty straightforward. First and foremost, preheat the oven to 350ยบ. I started by mixing all of the ingredients, minus the eggs and the pecans. The eggs I added in individually, to make sure that each was a good egg and that no shell had fallen into the yolk (when you're baking at such a basic level as I am, you need to take every precaution). Although the recipe doesn't specify, I used dark corn syrup for this recipe, since it's apparently better suited to pecan pies. I also used butter instead of margarine because, as Tracy pointed out, butter tastes better.

After beating the ingredients together, I added the pecan halves, making sure they were fairly evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

The next step is to pull the whole concoction into the shell. Be careful when you get to this point: you want to make sure that everything is well-balanced throughout the crust and there's no overflow. It might be helpful to put the crust on a pan before you fill it. That way, once everything's been poured in, you can just move the pan to the oven, which will minimize your risk of spilling anything.

Once the filling is in the crust and everything's been evened out, move it to the oven, but not before covering the edge of the crust with foil. This will prevent the exposed edges from over-browning before the filling I cooked all the way through. Cook the pie for 25 minutes. After that time is up, remove the foil (the edges should start browning now), and cook for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center of the pie comes up clean.

Once you take the pie out, let it cool for an hour or two, and then stick it in the fridge. You want to leave it in there for a little while so that the filling has time to firm up a little. Although I don't know from experience, I've been told that runny pecan pie is the worst kind of pecan pie. [Preach!]

Once your pie is solid and cool, it's time to dig in! My pie ended up far better than I could have expected! Delicious, firm, pecan-y: all the things you want a pecan pie to be!

All in all, I feel like I learned a lot from this first pie, and I'm excited to tackle next month's challenge (which is a chocolate pie, by the way)!

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