If you need an excuse to make a pie this week, national Pi Day is on the horizon. Math aficionados from across the globe will be celebrating the mathematical constant (3.1415...) on March 14, 2015. What is so special about pi? Pi can be used for engineering or manufacturing purposes to calculate the amount of materials required to make a circle. When you divide the circumference of any circle by its diameter, you get the number pi (3.1415..). Pretty neat.
Pi Day offers me an opportunity to bake with a defined purpose, bake a pie. Aside from that, I try my best to stay away from anything mathematically related. My confession, I am terrible at math. I have never understood its application beyond balancing my checkbook and baking proportions. When my first grader asks me multiplication problems, I squint my eyes, look up in the air and a sweat mustache begins to form on my upper lip. I stall for as long as I can, until I can figure out the answer and then, I still have to double check my math on a calculator. Needless to say, he has learned to ask his father for help with his math lessons as he has received one too many incorrect answers from his mother.
If you are not inspired by this mathematical constant that is pi, I highly recommend watching the movie Waitress to help motivate you to bake a pie this week. The main character played by Keri Russell, is a pie baker whose recipes are conceived and titled after her current life situations. A few examples of her pies include: I Don't Want Earl's Baby Pie; Kick in the Pants Pie and Falling in Love Chocolate Mousse Pie. The cinematography of her creations is absolutely mouthwatering and one can't help but be inspired to go into the kitchen and bake a pie after watching such beauty unfold on the screen.
My fondness for the movie has been elevated as I am finding some similarities between myself and Russell's character in the movie. Like her movie character, I too am pregnant, irritable and just want to be left alone to bake. I took a cue from the movie to give my pie a somewhat whimsical name. Proper Position Pecan Pie, was formulated due to the fact our little womb inhabitant may be in the breech position. Fingers crossed, she has a couple of weeks to relocate head down. I am raising my pint of milk to the forces of manifestation and eating my Proper Position Pecan Pie with the hope that each bite will get our baby closer to turning. At the very least, I will be full, fat and happy.
Recipe Name: Proper Position Pecan Pie
Author: Dough Mamma & Cook's Illustrated
Prep Time: 1 hr 15 min
Cook Time: 25 min
Total Time: 1 hr 40 min
Serves: 2 pies or 12 mini pies
Notes: I used bacon lard in my pie dough, you can substitute suet. Using animal fat will create a very delicate and somewhat more savory crust. The dough will not be easy to roll out. Have patience as you will most likely need to piece and pinch together your dough to form in your pie pan or muffin tins. Once they are baked, you won't notice you had to piece your dough together. If you like your pecan pie traditionally sweet, you do not need to adjust anything in the recipe. However, if you like your pecan pies slightly more nutty, add more pecans and less filling to your pies. For the mini pies, you will need to freeze them overnight, so make sure to incorporate the inactive time into your baking schedule. Likewise, you will need to refrigerate your dough for 4 hrs, so keep this in mind as well. Lastly, the whip cream will help cut some of the sweetness since it has sour cream and bourbon in it.
1/4 cup butter, chilled and small diced
3 Tbsp of bacon lard (or suet from your butcher shop)
2 oz of shortening, chilled (I used all natural spectrum)
2 1/2 cups AP flour (12.5oz)
1/8 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup of milk, (add 1 Tbsp at a time)
2 tsp of lemon juice
2 cups of pecans (lightly toasted, you will have extra)
1/4 cup butter melted
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 Tbsp of molasses
1 1/2 Tbsp of All Purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3 tsp of bourbon
1/2 tsp of vanilla bean paste
1 cup of corn syrup (I made my own organic version, recipe below)
Bourbon Whip Cream: courtesy of Cook's Illustrated
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp of salt
2-3 tsp of bourbon
Organic Corn Syrup: courtesy of homegrownandhealthy.com
2 cups of frozen organic corn kernels
5 1/2 cups of water
36 oz of sugar (brown for dark syrup, white for light syrup - I used 50/50)
1 Tbsp of vanilla bean paste
2 tsp salt
Place your butter, lard and shortening into a bowl. Using a pie cutter, mix all your fats. In a separate bowl, whisk your sugar, salt, flour, and baking powder. Add your dry ingredients to your mixed fat and mix using your pie cutter until well incorporated. Add your lemon juice, mix again. Add your milk 1 Tbsp at a time until the dough comes together in a ball.
You can also use your food processor following the same steps, waiting to add your milk last.
Once your dough is formed, divide in half and wrap each ball in plastic wrap and leave in your refrigerator for 4 hours.
Mini Pies: makes 12-15 in a muffin tin
Butter your muffin tins lightly and add parchment strips as shown in the picture.
Once your dough has been chilled for 4 hours, roll out your dough on a well floured surface.
Using a 6-inch cutter, start cutting out circles. Re-roll any scraps and cut into more circles. Gently remove your circles with a spatula. Don't worry if they crack and break, they will, its o.k. Place each circle of dough into your muffin tin and form your pie crusts. You will most likely need to patch here and there to eliminate cracks.
Prick your pie dough with a fork to allow air to escape. Fill your dough about 1/2 way with your toasted pecans. Pour your filling about 3/4 high.
Wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze your muffin tins overnight or for 12 hours.
When you are ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap and place directly into a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 18 minutes or until the crust is nicely golden brown. Allow to cool in pans for 20 minutes. When you are ready to remove, take a knife and carefully loosen the top of the crust from the top of the pan. Take your parchment strips and lift while rotating to remove. Cool on wire racks.
Roll out your dough on a well floured surface. Carefully remove your dough with the help of a spatula. Place your dough in your pie pan. Patch any holes or cracks in your pie dough. Wrap lightly in plastic wrap and put back into your refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Remove pie dough from refrigerator, prick with fork holes. Fill your pie about 2/3rds high with toasted pecans, add your filling about 3/4 high.
Heat your oven to 325 degrees. Place your pecans on a cookie sheet and place in your oven for about 10-12 minutes. When you smell a nutty aroma, they are done. Don't allow them to get too much color as they will cook more in the pie.
Once your pecans have cooled, chop into small pieces. Cutting your pecans into small pieces will make it easier to cut your pie. Set pecans aside.
Mix all other ingredients together in a bowl using a whisk until well combined. Set mixture aside, or refrigerate until ready to use. Cover with plastic wrap if not using right away. Whisk together prior to pouring.
Take a large size pot and boil your water. Add your corn. Cook on simmer for about 40 minutes or until your water is reduced to about 2 1/2 cups of water.
Add your sugar, vanilla and salt and cook on high until your candy thermometer reads 235 degrees.
Stir occasionally. It will bubble vigorously, so having a large pot will eliminate any possible spills (I learned the hard way). Once 235 degrees is reached, remove from heat immediately and pour into a glass jar and allow to cool.
This can be kept in your refrigerator for 4 weeks. If you have some sugar crystals, you can microwave a minute at a time. I had a few and didn't bother trying to get rid of them.
Bourbon Whip Cream
In your stand mixer bowl, whisk heavy cream, sour cream, brown sugar and salt until combined. Cover in plastic wrap.Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
Remove from refrigerator, place in a stand mixer with your whisk attachment. Add your bourbon. Whisk at medium speed for about 1 minute. Change to high speed and whisk for about 2 more minutes. Keep a close eye on it as your liquor may lead to curdling if whipped too long. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate if not using right away.