In my family, pecan pie was not really our thing. Dad made something called Chess Pie, and we fondly referred to it as “pecan pie without the pecans” — which we did not miss at all.

On a troll through Grammy’s marked-up cookbooks, though, I found a recipe for pecan pie that caught my eye. Why? No corn syrup. Most pecan pies are held together with a minor bucket-full of light corn syrup. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m a fan of having my sweetness taste like sugar.

At first try, though, this was pecan-pie lite. Not enough pecans, by a long shot, too brooding with dark brown sugar, and way too much butter, even for me. (I wonder if Grammy ever modified this and just didn’t write down the notes. Pondering that possibility of lost guidance — did she ever double this? would she have made that with pears too? — is a bittersweet thing. Part of me is glad for a moment to just remember Grammy and Dad as I work in my kitchen; part of me wishes they were there to stick their fingers in stuff and taste with me.)

Shaping the crust's edge

Create a little ridge with crust edges -- then you can shape it like this.

In the second round, I boosted the pecans, changed to light-brown sugar, cut the butter, cut the milk, baked it differently and voila! A pecan pie that even my opinionated book group was willing to sign off on.

For those of you who are wondering about crust, you may want to try Of Course You Can Pie Crust. I had fun shaping the edges on this pie — it’s Thanksgiving, time to go a tetch fancier than the usual fork-tine mash.

The book group, by the way, embodied what I had sensed about pecan pies: There is such a thing as a pecan-pie person, and they know what they like. At last night’s informal tasting, there was muttering that it MUST have chocolate, and other muttering that texture was everything. As not-really-a-pecan-pie person, I felt incredibly lucky that the end result of the tasting was smiles. The final suggestion was “still more pecans,” so today’s tweak is just that, taking the pecans up to triple what the original recipe included.

Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving!

Brown Sugar Pecan Pie all done

Brown Sugar Pecan Pie

This pie is actually better the second day. Don’t refrigerate it — store it covered on the counter.

Makes one nine-inch pie

  • Pie crust for a one-crust pie, unbaked
  • 1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups pecans*

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out crust and fit into pan.

Combine sugar and flour in a large bowl and mix well. Add melted butter, milk, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add pecans. Pour batter into pie shell.

Transfer pan to preheated oven. Bake 15 minutes at 400°, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake for 20-25 minutes longer, until firm.

Chopped and whole pecans*I chopped up about half the pecans in one test, and that was too much bitty stuff. If you like the idea of some chopped, some whole, I’d chop about a half-cup.

Photos and recipe copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC