Pumpkin Pecan Pie
Omg pie. I love pie. I mean, really now, who doesn't? Every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, my mother makes the most delicious and perfect pumpkin pie I've ever had. I'm probably biased, but whatever. The best part is that she always agreed it was perfectly acceptable to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast the day after! It wasn't until a few years ago when I learned her secret: she uses the recipe that's on the can. Seriously. She just uses the recipe that Libby's prints right on the damn can. I was bewildered. I thought she had magic pie making abilities. Actually, I still feel that way, because she's exceptionally talented at making pie crust. I am not.
For reasons I'm not entirely sure of, we hardly ever had pecan pie. She would make apple pies, and the occasional summer berry pie, and obviously lots of pumpkin pies, but never pecan. Maybe it's because pecan pie is just too delicious. Or maybe it's easier to pretend that fruit pies are "healthy" because vitamins. Or maybe she just doesn't like pecan pies (which I highly doubt). I think the main reason she wasn't big into making pecan pies is because traditionally, they are positively chuck full of sugars, corn syrup, and butter. Like, just really not very nutritional. But it's pie! It's not supposed to be good for you!
Whatever the reasons for the lack of pecan pies in my childhood, as an adult now I have a slight obsession with them. I can't get over how freaking wonderful they are. I've even experimented with various cane sugar substitutes to make a pecan pie that wasn't as horribly guilt inducing. But, I'm still working on that one.
A few weeks ago, I had a sudden inspiration to combine the two Thanksgiving favorites, pumpkin and pecan pies, into one marvelous dessert. For one, brief moment in time, I thought I was a genius. I had never seen nor heard of a pumpkin pecan pie before! Surely that means I'm the first one to think of it!
Well, I'm not. I found dozens of recipes all over the internet for pumpkin pecan pies, but they all looked the same. Each recipe involved preparing the pumpkin and pecan fillings separately, and then carefully layering them in the crust. So it's like a pie parfait, or something, which wasn't at all what I was looking for. Layering the fillings like that creates a great divide in the flavors, which can very be distracting for some people. I wanted a pie in which all of the flavors worked together, without competing for attention. It's also completely unnecessary to fuss over making sure the pecans are spooned over the top, since the they will float to the top of the pie all on their own. They're quite buoyant.
I spent a ridiculous amount of time googling and pinteresting "pumpkin pecan pie," and the only results I got were for that awkward layered thing. None of the recipes I found were anything like what I had envisioned, which was a robust, flavorful pumpkin pie, filled with chopped pecans, that gracefully float to the top where they gently roast in the oven. So, since I couldn't find what I was looking for, I had to create my own!
The following recipe is my own creation, although I did refer to basic pecan pie recipes to make sure my proportions weren't totally out of whack. This makes quite a bit of filling. I purposely made enough so that I could fill a whole 9" pie crust AND 6 mini tart crusts. (I had mini graham cracker crusts from Keebler in my pantry, and I really wanted to use them. Also, I have a strange fondness for making tiny desserts.) If you only want to make one standard sized pie, you can cut the proportions by ¼ or a third. But I suggest making the minis as well, because then you can easily sneak a taste (or six) before the big meal and no one needs to know about it. ;)
Yield: One 9" pie AND six 3" mini pies
- 1 9" pie crust*
- 6 3" pie crusts*
- 3 tbsp butter, softened
- ½ cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp bourbon
- 1½ cup dark corn syrup, or a substitute**
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1½ cups chopped pecans, plus more for decorating
* I used Keebler Graham Ready Crusts, but you can certainly use a refrigerated pie crust, or make your own. I have not yet mastered the art of making my own pie crusts, and I just love the convenience and flavor of graham cracker crusts. And the little ones are so cute.
** You can often substitute simple syrup for corn syrup in baking recipes. To make it "dark," you can use brown sugar or add a small amount of molasses. For this recipe, I made a simple syrup using 1 cup of coconut sugar, ½ cup of white sugar, 1½ cups water, and 1 tbsp molasses. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves, and then remove from heat. Cool the liquid completely before using. If you make your own simple syrup like I did, be sure to measure it again before adding it to your recipe. The addition of the molasses will increase the volume of your final product. This syrup makes the pie moist and sweet, but not at all gooey, which is exactly what I was hoping for.
- Preheat oven to 350 °F. Place prepared pie crusts on a cookie sheet. This will make it much easier to move the pies in and out of the oven.
- In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar.
- Add eggs, vinegar, salt, vanilla, bourbon, corn syrup, and spices.
- Lower speed of mixer and stir in pumpkin and chopped pecans.
- Pour filling into pie crusts, and decorate with pecan halves (optional).
- Place cookie sheet of pies on center rack in preheated oven and bake until set. The mini pies will set in 30-40 minutes. The 9" pie will set in 45-55 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack before serving. The filling will puff up in the oven while the pie bakes, but it will settle back down once the pie cools.