Everyone leaving a comment telling me the movie that line is from is automatically entered in a random drawing to win a copy of the cookbook AMERICAN PIE. I have one delicious copy to give away — and another fun giveaway at the bottom of this post.
Anyway, I love pecan pie and would have gotten around to blogging about it sooner or later, but as it turns out, my friend Elise is an awesome pecan-pie-baker, and not only that, has a better pecan pie story to tell than I will EVER have. So I knelt at her feet and asked her to be Framed’s very first guest blogger. Therefore without further ado, I give you Elise Howard and her Pecan Bestseller Pie….
We did, and he did, and they were divine – oversized delights with chocolate frosting, each emblazoned with “#1.” Then Neil set us a challenge: keep the book on the Times list till the end of the calendar year – more cupcakes. Sure enough, they appeared as promised. Late January brought news of a Newbery Medal win for The Graveyard Book, a return to the #1 slot, and still more cupcakes. I think. At this point, frankly, we were operating on a perpetual blissed-out cupcake high, and the exact course of events has become a bit of a blur. The next pivotal event I remember clearly, however. The Graveyard Book became a fixture on the Times list, and Neil set the challenge: keep the book there for a year, and we would be eating even more cupcakes. “If we stay on the list for a year,” I told Neil, “I will bake you a pie.”
When week 52 finally arrived, our hearts were in our throats. But since this is a guest post on a cooking blog, you will already have guessed that we made it.
That day, Neil wrote this on his blog: “I am sure there are many people who edit books and also casually produce pies. Elise, for all I know, may be one of these people. I do not believe she is. I liked to think that she was someone who, if The Graveyard Book stayed on the NYT Bestseller List for a year, would need to brush up on her pie-making skills, to navigate the unfamiliar twin territories of piecrust and filling. It would be an adventure.”
It suited me just fine that Neil did not know that I am, in fact, a proud if junior member of a Kentucky-based baking dynasty, that I have explored in depth the tough questions: Shortening, butter, or lard? Pastry blender, twin knives, food processor, or no utensil at all? Ceramic, glass or metal?
After toying with the idea of seasonal rhubarb and realizing it would be nearly impossible to ship, I baked the pecan pie Sunday, froze it hard, and sent it overnight on Monday in a beautiful shipping box constructed by my sweet spouse; it arrived in the Midwest by 11 the next morning, nicely thawed and ready to slice.
Here’s what it looked like as Neil posted it on his journal at neilgaiman.com:
Their resultsare humbling and inspiring – and they look delicious.Meantime, here’s the recipe for my Pecan Bestseller Pie, if you’d like to try it yourself.
- 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt (less if you are using kosher or sea salt)
- ½ cup very cold shortening
- ¼ scant cup cold butter
- ¼ cup ice-cold water
- ¼ lb. butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 lb. light brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons half-and-half
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup chopped, toasted (4 or 5 minutes in a 350° oven) pecans
- Combine flour and salt in a food processor with a couple of quick pulses. Handling it as little as possible, add the shortening in about eight large chunks. Pulse rapidly 5 or 6 times till the mixture appears to be fine crumbs. Add the butter, cut into several pieces, again handling as little as possible. Pulse another 5 or 6 times until the coated particles of fat are varied in size, with the largest about the size of an almond. Begin adding water in a trickle, just a couple of tablespoons at first. Pulse 2 or 3 times. If the mixture is still quite dry, add a little more water. Pulse 2 or 3 more times. When the dough begins to form a ball, stop right away.
- Handling the dough as little as possible, using just your fingertips, shape it into a ball and flatten it on your countertop or whatever well-floured surface you will use to roll it. I like to use a cold (notice the theme?) marble pin, rolling the dough quickly and lightly with as few strokes as possible, working from the center out to the edges until the crust is about ⅛-inch thick and 13 inches in diameter for a 9-inch pie pan. (I prefer metal.) What’s up with all the cold ingredients and utensils? It keeps the fat, especially if you are using butter, cool and solid as you work, so when the pie goes in the oven, the variously sized chunks melt at last, producing a flaky, tender crust. Once the piecrust is in the pan and crimped however you like (a topic for a whole other blog post), stick it in the fridge while you work on the filling.
- Pre-heat oven to 325°. Melt butter, let cool. Beat eggs in a small bowl and set aside. Mix flour and sugar; add beat eggs and half and half. Beat well by hand or in a stand mixer on a medium setting. Stir in vinegar and vanilla. Add butter and nuts. Pour into a chilled, unbaked pie shell (9-inch is perfect). Bake for one hour, or until mixture is gooey and thick, but not totally solid. It’s meant to be cooled before serving, but it’s really good still slightly warm and custardy inside, too.