Sunday, July 18, 2010

Birthday... Pie?

As I mentioned before the fiancé prefers pie to cake. So, for our joint birthday celebration last weekend, I made a birthday cake for myself, and a birthday pie for him. I gave him free reign over what kind of birthday pie he wanted, and after looking through a ton of recipes, he decided to try a variation on a pecan pie. I'd never made a pecan pie before, always played it safe with fruit pies, so this was a fun little adventure for me too.

I was a little nervous, though, since this was going to be served at a birthday party with his family, and you never want to bring a poorly made pie to a party, much less a party with your future family-in-law. Everything worked out fairly well even though it was ridiculously hot in the kitchen, again, and I did quite a lot of raging after the pie crust refused to transfer easily from the table to the pie dish. I managed to get everything to work eventually, though, and it was DEFINITELY worth the headache.

English Toffee Pecan Pie

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
3-4 tablespoons ice water

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in shortening and butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about the size of peas. Sprinkle with water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix lightly with a fork after each addition, until mixture is moistened. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and shape into a flattened disk. Wrap in plastic; transfer to refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Lightly flour a pastry cloth (which I didn't have, but if I'm making lots of pies in the future, I definitely will be looking into getting some!) and roll out dough on cloth, using a covered rolling pin, to a 12 inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. With a dry pastry brush, sweep off excess flour, fit dough into a 9 inch glass pie plate. Trim to a 1/2 inch overhang all around. Fold under and trim edges.

3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (make sure it's ONLY 1/2 teaspoon, or even slightly less, this stuff can easily overpower the other flavors)
1 cup toffee bits (you can buy Heath brand already chopped up in the baking aisle)
1 cup chopped pecans
22+ pecan halves, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375 (rack in lower third of oven). In a large bowl, mix together eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, salt, vanilla, almond extract, toffee bits and chopped pecans.

2. Pour filling into pie crust. Top with pecans by evenly spacing 14 around outer edge of pie filling. Make a second row by evenly spacing 7 pecans in a smaller circle in the center. Place 1 pecan in center. (I ended up using more pecans in my two outer circles, I just placed them closer together)

3. Transfer pie to oven; bake for 20 minutes. Cover with parchment paper-lined aluminum foil and continue baking until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 20-30 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Unfortunately, I only have one photo of the pie, since after we cut it I didn't have a chance to take more. Also pictured is my chocolate cake and a loaf of banana bread I just happened to make the same day. It was a very busy, but very very fun day in the kitchen, even with the heat.

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