The following recipe is from John Thornes book Outlaw Cook and is preceded by several pages on his search for the perfect pecan pie. He concluded that because the recipe is so simple it is amenable to infinite variation and all you can do is hone it to your own palate. He also spent a great deal of time and energy researching pre-corn syrup sugars, which 19th century recipes would have used, which is how he ended up using golden syrup, but if you can find cane syrup you could use that instead.
Fine-tuning your pecan pie:
A little cream (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup) mixed into a pecan pie filling before baking gives it a richer, lighter texture.
For a sweeter, lighter pie: add more sugar and use fewer pecans; for a denser, less sweet pie: add more pecans and use less sugar.
The buttery flavour and the lard-induced flakiness of a butter and lard crust make it the perfect one for a perfect pecan pie. And a Southern pecan pie authority I know suggests that you roll out the dough a little thicker than usual; a thick, richly shortened crust provides an appetizing balance to the sweetness of the filling.
JOHN THORNE'S PECAN PIE
1 well-packed cup full-flavoured brown sugar
Scant 2/3 cup golden syrup
2 T dark rum
4 T butter
1/4 t salt
2 cups broken pecan meats
9-inch unbaked pie shell
Preheat oven to 350F. In a large saucepan, heat the brown sugar, golden syrup and butter to the boiling point. Stirring constantly and scraping back any foam that clings to the side of the pan, let this mixture boil for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool while, in a separate bowl, you beat the eggs until creamy.
When the boiled syrup has cooled, beat in the eggs, salt and pecans. Pour into the unbaked pie shell and bake for about 50 minutes.
Thorne's recipe is similar to the one I use. I do use the cream. Bourbon instead of rum. Above all, don't use corn syrup. I have been using Steen's cane syrup for years, and it's great. I've just acquired some golden syrup and will give it a try soon. The pecans are falling around here now.
I have grown pecans and baked pretty fine pecan pies all my life, and I have never ever ever made a pie this good THANK YOU for the Thorne recipe. I love the cooking on the stove in advance, love the addition of a little cream. I didn't add the rum, may try that another time, but put in a drop of Mexican vanilla.
So, I just made this recipe (I had some Lyle's in the cupboard) and I have a few questions. Perhaps I didn't let the syrup cool enough, because when I mixed it with the eggs, some of hardened right away. And I wasn't quite sure what mixing the eggs till creamy meant -- til they formed a ribbon? I didn't mix them that much. I baked it about five minutes less than the recipe called for because the pecans were looking a bit well done. Can't cut into it til tomorrow, but it does smell good.
If your pecans are not freshly picked from the grove what you should do with them is bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the pecans in the boiling water for about 1 minute. The stale oils that have come to the surface and impart a bitter flavor will be washed away, you will see that as a dark scum. Rinse them well and then toast at 350 F. for about 15-20 minutes.
For a 9"pie I start with an unbaked pie shell. Then in a bowl combine half a stick of melted butter with 1 C. sugar, 3 lightly beaten eggs, 3/4 C. dark corn syrup and mix well. Then stir in 1/2 C. lightly chopped pecans and 3 Tbs. good quality bourbon. Pour into the prepared shell and bake 40-50 minutes at 350 F. until just set.
Most basic pecan pies are very similar - some have dark instead of white corn syrup, some add vanilla, some don't. I sometimes add a pinch of orange zest. There are even some with no eggs, and some have as many as three.
For me, if you have good pecans, it is a waste to add chocolate or whatever.
It is good to toast the pecans lightly, especially if they are not totally fresh. They don't overcook.