Salted Caramel Pecan Pie
When my grandmother died, I inherited her Thanksgiving binder containing notes, recipes, and all sorts of magic. Inside was a secret page about family likes and dislikes. A HUGE bit of script proudly announced that after multiple instances of eating only rolls for Thanksgiving dinner, I had loved her pecan pie! I leafed through a few more pages and discovered that for years after that particular holiday, she made one whole pecan pie just so I could have a slice (everyone else wanted apple or pumpkin).
This is my version of her wonderful creation, and it is luscious - the filling is mostly a thick layer of salted caramel. I hope that it will become your new favorite Thanksgiving recipe.
The Seasoned Cynic’s Salted Caramel Pecan Pie
Serves up to 12
1 frozen deep dish pie crust, homemade or store bought (already in a tin)
90 to 100 whole pecans, UNsalted and UNtoasted
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, melted and set aside until luke warm (do NOT use it while it’s hot)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon table salt (***Yes, both measurements added together. This is the perfect amount, but see the note below the instructions for a possible variation)
Heat oven to either 325*F or 350*F: 325 if you want it more gooey, and 350 if you want it a bit more solid (or you want it to bake faster!).
Remove your pie crust (already in its tin) from the freezer and sprinkle 10-20 pecans inside, spreading them out on the bottom (this is a good place to use any broken pecans from the bag you bought instead of using whole ones). You should still be able to see the crust through the layer of nuts.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, melted-but-not-hot butter, light brown sugar, flour, and salt. Mix until well combined, then use a rubber spatula to scrape the filling into the pie crust, covering the pecans on the bottom.
Working as quickly as you can, make an even circle of pecans around the outside of the filling (close to the crust), then make smaller and smaller circles inside until you have 5 with a single pecan in the center. I always use roughly 80 total. You can make whatever design you’d like, but be sure to use about the same amount of pecans.
Bake directly on a rack in the center of the oven for 40+ minutes at 325*F (30-35 minutes if baking at 350*F), or until the pecans have toasted and the filling you can see between them is cookie-like and golden brown around the outside with a paler but baked center. The big deal is not letting the pecans burn! Once the pie is done, they’ll be perfectly toasted.
(If the heat source in your oven comes from above instead of below and sometimes browns things a little too quickly, you can lower the rack you bake the pie on by one level so it’s still as close to the middle of the oven as possible but is a bit farther away from the place where the heat originates - this can help the pecans toast evenly and not burn before the pie is finished baking.)
Carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for as close to 24 hours as possible - the interior is much like a chess pie filling, so it needs time alone to make its caramel magic. Seriously, don’t touch it for a day. I know. I hear you. It’ll be fine. What’s better than something you can make in advance for Thanksgiving, leaving you free to relax and enjoy more of your holiday?
***Salt note: Not everyone enjoys the same amount of sodium. If you are watching your intake or simply like food less salted, only add in 1/2 teaspoon. If you are a salt junkie and your secret fantasies involve rolling around in movie theater popcorn, add 3/4 of a teaspoon. Keep in mind that this much will make the pie taste salty. If that’s your thing, rock it.
Additional important note: this pie will change forever if it gets cold. The oozy caramel quality will not come back once it’s put in the fridge. It’s still delicious, but not the same! Heating it up will damage it, as well. Keep it at room temperature for best results.