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Oct 10, 2013 03:50 PM

A less-sweet pecan pie

When I was growing up, we got to choose our birthday dinner. We were a 'pie' family, rather than cake lovers. Now that I'm (much) older, I still have access to yummy pecan halves. But I must confess, the recipe on the back of the Karo Dark syrup bottle is too flippin' sweet. Ouch! makes my teeth hurt. Can anyone point me towards an updated recipe? Still the pecans, caramelly goodness(much reduced) of the middle goo, and pie crust. I'm 57 on Nov 23 and I'd love to have a slice of updated heaven. Thanks in advance.

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  1. just reduce the sugar and syrup by 1/4 to a 1/3 and use the same recipe

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cherylptw

      Yes, my recipe uses 1 C syrup but only 2/3 C. sugar (looks like a "traditional" pie uses 1 C). My recipe also has 1/2 tsp. salt which would help counter-balance the sweet, and does not have the vanilla. Vanilla also amplifies the sweet, so try leaving that out.

      Filling I use is:

      3 eggs
      2/3 cup granulated sugar
      ½ teaspoon salt
      1/3 cup butter, melted
      1 cup light or dark corn syrup (Karo)
      1 - 1 1/2 cup pecan halves or pieces (Heaping cup)

    2. You could also look for a French tart-style recipe, since those tend to be less about the goo and more about the nuts.

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. Just for the record, I won't have any Karo in the house. Vile stuff.

          1. re: Will Owen

            You may consider it vile, but it is what traditional pecan pie is made with.

            I use a dollop of molasses in the white Karo, and I use 2 C of pecans instead of the normal 1 C.

            I believe there are some recipes out there that put cream cheese or sour cream in the filling, and that would cut the sweetness.

            I am now on a low carb diet, and I confess I haven't made pecan pie in several years. But pecan pie is all about being sweet. That is the way it is supposed to be.

            1. re: sueatmo

              How was pecan pie made before Karo? With cane syrup.

              1. re: magiesmom

                Since Karo has been around since 1902 (and corn syrup longer than that), lots of other processes have also changed. I'm sure the wood fire smoke added to the flavor of pecan pies in the past, but I'll continue using my oven and Karo.


                1. re: magiesmom

                  Karo is cane syrup. The pecan pie recipe I used for decades called for white corn syrup. However in my childhood, I remember eating dark Karo syrup on pancakes.

                  I believe Alton Brown indicates that the syrup is hygroscopic. It adds to the moisture of a baked product. (I think I have that right. Someone correct me if I am wrong.) You could add some of the syrup instead of some of the white sugar, if you wanted a certain effect in your baked goods.

                  1. re: sueatmo

                    no, Karo is corn syrup, cane syrup is made from sugar cane.

                    1. re: magiesmom

                      cane syrup also makes for a less-sweet, far less gloppy-gooey pie.

                      Cane syrup for me -- I sub dark rum for vanilla extract -- makes a truly lovely pie.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        As does Lyle's Golden Syrup (a cane syrup), which is what I use.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Here's a version from the 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking. (What follows has been paraphrased)

                          Pecan Pie with Cane Sugar and Rum

                          pie crust using favorite recipe including store bought

                          3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
                          3 large eggs
                          1 cup sugar (white for a lighter flavor, brown for a richer flavor and color)
                          1 cup cane syrup
                          5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
                          1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon dark rum
                          1/2 teaspoon salt

                          Preheat oven to 375F

                          Spread pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast the nuts in the oven 6-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Nuts should be golden and fragrant.

                          Whisk remaining filling ingredients until blended. Stir in the toasted nuts.

                          Place the pie crust in the pie pan and place it in the prehated oven. Cook until the crust is hot to the touch; then, pour in the filling.

                          Bake until the edges are firm and the center seems set but quivery, like gelatin, when the pan is nudged, 35-45 minutes. Let cool on a rack for at least 11/2 hours.

                          Serve warm or at room temperature.

                          Do-Ahead Notes: The pie can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store in the refrigerator but let warm to room temperature, or warm in a 275F oven for 15 minutes before serving.

                          Another option: Add more -- and stronger -- liquor. In my files, I have the recipe from Tujague's restaurant in New Orleans which calls for 3 tablespoons Armagnac or brandy rather than the more typical rum (as above) or bourbon.

                          1. re: Indy 67

                            that's the recipe I use -- it's actually a variation on the recipe in the book, but it's a good one.

                          2. re: sunshine842

                            I wonder about the comparative sweetness of cane and corn syrup. Cane syrup is a mix of sucrose, glucose and fructose, the latter 2 coming from the dissociation of sucrose.

                            Corn syrup is often described as pure glucose (dextrose), though I've seen a more detailed analysis that included more complex sugars. But in any case it has little to no fructose. Fructose tastes substantially sweeter than glucose.

                            I think part of why Karo added HFCS to their syrup for a while was because customers expected something a bit sweeter.

                            I haven't tasted southern style cane syrup. I have used Karo, but rarely tasted it plain. But Lyles Golden Syrup certainly is sweet (with the added complexity of a 'buttery' taste).

                            1. re: paulj

                              you can't compare if you haven't tasted them -- Karo, cane syrup, and Lyle's all have their own distinctive flavor.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                They do indeed. Cane syrup and Lyle's can stand on their own to dress things. I can't imagine using corn syrup as anything but an ingredient.

                    2. re: Will Owen

                      Will Owen I agree with you. Karo is frankenfood and I wouldn't touch the stuff either. I'm planning to make a pecan pie this year using the Cook's Illustrated recipe which calls for maple syrup. We'll see how it goes. :)

                      1. re: zenith628

                        How is Karo (corn) syrup "frankenfood"? It's corn starch that's been converted into sugar. I suppose you think beer is frankenfood, too, since barley malt undergoes a similar process.

                        1. re: LorenzoGA

                          Ditto that although the Wholesome Sweeteners brand is my go-to for my very occasional corn syrup needs (I like their molasses as well). They don't have a "dark" version, though. I guess brown rice syrup is "frankenfood" too because its manufacturing process is also similar.

                        2. re: zenith628

                          My current biggest complaint with corn syrup is that it doesn't add any real flavor (other than sweetness) to the pie, yet it is one of the largest components of said pie.

                          Maple syrup makes a wonderful pecan pie.

                          1. re: sandylc

                            That can be an advantage, though, depending on your taste. I personally love maple but have no interest in tasting it in a pecan pie. Corn syrup might also be a better humectant than maple.

                            1. re: MacGuffin

                              Seriously, you should try it - it's really good.

                              1. re: sandylc

                                I have no doubt others find it good, but at 59 I have a pretty good idea of what I'm likely to like. I don't mind tasting some vanilla in pecan pie but other than that, I like the predominant flavor to be that of pecans. It's just a matter of personal taste. :) And I REALLY wish I'd asked for the recipe for that pie I had 25 or so years ago at Souen. :((

                                1. re: MacGuffin

                                  You beat me! I'm 54...

                                  I have always loved pecan pie, but was disappointed in the sugary, flavorless goo surrounding those wonderful nuts. Thus, the maple syrup - a bit of rum is nice, too.

                                  1. re: sandylc

                                    Ah, but I'm almost allergic to alcohol and loathe the way it smells and tastes. I can handle flavor extracts just fine, though. I guess it's because the amounts used are small.

                          2. re: zenith628

                            I've made that recipe, It is AWESOME. I love it, Maple syrup is incredible. And the bourbon whip cream that goes with it puts it over the top!

                      2. Bourbon
                        Semi Sweet/Bittersweet chocolate
                        Sprinkle sea salt or other finishing salt

                        Any or all of the above would balance the sweetness.

                        1. One can up the pecans a little too when you reduce the Karo.