So, I was on Epicurious yesterday, browsing the most popular recipes and landed on this one for a Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan pie and couldn't wait to make it. My excuse, because I have to justify it somehow because I really have no business making or eating Pecan pie right now (I think it is the most fattening of all pies, or very close), is that I am 'testing' it. That's right. Every Thanksgiving I bring something. Last year it was a Lemon Curd Marbled Cheesecake, which is ridiculously good, but the minute I saw this recipe I thought it might be the perfect thing to bring this year. And it is.
Though I usually like my pecan pie chilled, I couldn't wait to try this, mostly because I was dying of curiosity to see how the crust would be. It's an unsual recipe, this crust. And it feels odd when you make it, as if you are doing something wrong because the dough is a little too wet. I was concerned that it might be downright awful. But, incredibly, the secret ingredient, vodka of all things! works like a charm. I discovered this little trick while browsing the supermarket this morning. I was drawn to an issue of Cook's Illustrated, lured by the headline for a fool-proof flaky crust. I'd been planning to do an all-butter crust, since I try to avoid any kind of hydrogenated oils, but I do trust Cook's Illustrated, so since the recipe calls for half shortening and half butter, I circled back and got the Crisco.
I love Cook's Illustrated. Geek that I am, I'm always especially fascinated by the food science tid bits and the articles that explain how they arrived on a final recipe after trying all different variations. The science behind the vodka is especially interesting. Most pie crust recipes call for cold butter and a few tablespoons of water, making a crust that is often dry and tricky to work with...but the danger of too much water is that the gluten goes into overdrive and you end up with a tough crust instead of delicate, flakiness. The solution, half vodka and half water. This allows you to use double the liquid, making the dough much more pliable and easy to work with. Vodka doesn't have the same effect on flour that water does, so the dough bakes up into the flakiest, tastiest crust I've ever made. I should add too that I'm a relative newbie with pie crust. My usual method is to open a refrigerated box, unfold the pre-made dough and plop it in the pan. This is far superior, and ridiculously easy.
This pecan pie recipe calls for Bittersweet chocolate with 60-70% cacao. I used a 4 oz bar of Ghiradelli with 60%. You just melt the chocolate and then spread a thin layer over the crust. Then I put it back in the fridge to chill and set up while I made the filling. The chocolate gives this pie a Derby pie flavor, with lots of rich chocolate. One tweak that I made was to drizzle two tablespoons of melted butter over the pecans before putting them into the shell. Adding butter? Was that really necessary? No, of course not. But I love the flavor butter gives to pecans and noticed that lots of recipes call for even more butter, so figured a touch was fine. After all, it's not like the rest of this pie is low-cal. :)
I have a feeling this one might be hit on Turkey Day!
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie, adapted from Gourmet magazine
1 4oz fine-quality 60%- to 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate bar, finely chopped
2 cups pecan halves (8 ounces) toasted for about 5 min at 350
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
3 large eggs
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tab butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring. Remove from heat.
Roll out dough and place into a 9 inch pie plate, fold and crimp edges at top.
Spread chocolate in bottom of pie shell with back of spoon and let it set in the refrigerator while you mix the filling.
Whisk together eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl, then whisk in corn syrup until well mixed.
In a small bowl, drizzle the melted butter over the pecans, then lay them evenly over the chocolate in the pie shell. Pour the filling mixture over the pecans.
Bake pie until filling is puffed and crust is golden, 50 to 60 minutes. (If pie is browning too fast after 30 minutes, loosely cover with foil.)
Cool pie on a rack to warm or room temperature. Serve with plenty of whipped cream.