Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pecan Pie vs Pumpkin Pie

Photo by Kat
 Today begins the cooking and preparation for tomorrows big turkey feast. And when I say "big turkey," I do mean it! We've got a 24 lb. free-range turkey, giving us something to be mighty thankful for this year!

I will be doing most of the cooking this year, though not all. My dear friend Mae will be playing hostess after we made a deal that if she had everyone over, I would do most of the work. I would like to have hosted myself but Kat and I only have room in our tiny house for about 3 guests. At last count, we're expecting 15 or so for Thanksgiving and that number may still rise! A few other friends will be pitching in on the cooking and bringing dishes. There will be absolutely no shortage of food!

Here is a brief rundown of this years menu:

Roasted Turkey, brined in apple cider with oranges and spices

Tofurkey (not mine, I promise!)

Polenta Giblet Stuffing

Gluten-free Vegetarian Stuffing

Garlic Mashed Potatoes with gravy

Orange Spice Cranberry Sauce

Waldorf Salad

Green Bean Casserole

Ginger Carrots

Homemade Whole Wheat Rolls with butter

Gluten-free Pecan Pie

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Scratch Pumpkin Pie

I'm fairly sure no one will go hungry tomorrow. I will be preparing all but the gluten free stuff, Waldorf Salad, the carrots and green beans. At the last minute I decided to make a Pumpkin Pie. That's a desert that seems to be falling out of favor more and more as people begin exploring more non-traditional Thanksgiving ideas. Some people are pumpkin pie aficionados. Others are not and most of those seem to downright hate the stuff. Myself, I've never been the biggest fan. This may be entirely to having spent my life eating pumpkin pie from a can. Tonight, I'm going to make a pie from scratch. I'm certain someone will eat it!

Now pecan pie, well that's a whole different story! Pecan pie is, hands down my favorite and I look forward to Thanksgiving just so I can make one. Chess pie, a corn syrup based custard of which pecan pie is but one variety, is a Southern specialty and there are endless ways to make it. Add pecans, buttermilk, maple syrup., whiskey, vanilla. The flavor combinations are endless and everyone has their favorite. Make a cornmeal crust and it will take you to another world!

Today's cooking begins with the rolls. These I made completely by hand, not even using a spoon! While the dough was rising, I set to work on other things, like getting the turkey into the brine. This year I took a tip from Pure & Yummy on making apple cider brine. I did mine a little differently, using the following recipe:

3 quarts apple cider
6 cinnamon sticks, broken
about 10 whole cloves
1 t allspice (I would have used whole if I had it)
2 bay leaves
2/3 c kosher salt
2/3 c sugar

I mixed all these together in a stock pot and brought the mixture to a boil in order to dissolve the salt and sugar. Once done, I set the pot out on the front porch to cool (it's about 31° outside right now). Once it had cooled, I took our turkey and cleaned it out real good, washing it and patting it dry. I put it inside a large 5 gallon bucket, adding ice and cold water to finish filling the container. I sealed it tight and put it in the shed out back until tomorrow. It will only get down to the mid-20's tonight, not enough to freeze the brine (the salt will see to that!).

Next on the list today - making Orange Cranberry Sauce. I already outlined this process in an earlier post. The difference this time is that I did not use vanilla bean, preferring the taste without.

Next up, pie crust. The recipe I like the best is a butter crust from America's Test Kitchen. I've never gotten anything but rave reviews anytime I've ever made it. At first, I was only going to make the Bourbon Pecan Pie but, since no one had offered to bring a pumpkin and because we have 3 little pie pumpkins in the basement, I thought that it would be just as easy to make 2 pies as one. I roasted one of the pumpkins and pureed the meat to use later.

I made a 2 crust batch of pie dough and split it in two pieces. I wrapped each in plastic and put it in the fridge until later.

By this point the dough for the rolls had risen and could be rolled out into little balls about 1" to 1-1/2" in diameter. In retrospect, these were too small. I've only made rolls a couple of times and am still learning how big to make them. I placed the rolls on the parchment lined cookie sheets and let them rise until they had doubled in size. I then baked them at 350° for a half and hour or so.

Once I had finished with the rolls, it was time to start on the polenta. Since the oven was free for the time being, I decided to roast the seeds from the pumpkin. I cooked the polenta for a half an hour or so and poured it into a greased cookie sheet to cool overnight.
Photo by Kat
Now it was pie time. I started with the pecan. First, I preheated the oven to 400°. Taking one of the crusts out of the fridge, I rolled it out into a disc big enough for a 9" pie dish. I fit the crust into the dish, then covered it with foil, carefully pressing it down to cover the bottom and sides of the crust. Then I filled the foil with pie weights. You can buy these at a kitchen store if you like spending money. Or you can use rice or, as I did, pinto beans. I won't be eating these beans but I will keep them around for the next pie! I baked the crust for about 15 minutes. I set it aside while I made the filling.

Bourbon Pecan Pie Filling
Heat the oven to 275° and place the rack to the middle setting. Set up a double boiler or place a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of water. Melt:
6 T unsalted butter
Once the butter is melted, remove the bowl from the heat and stir in:
1 c dark brown sugar
3/4 c light corn syrup
3 eggs
1 shot Kentucky bourbon
1/2 t salt
Whisk everything together well and place bowl back over the heat. Continue heating, stirring regularly, until the temperature reaches 130°. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in:
2 c chopped pecans
Pour the filling into the prebaked crust and bake for 50-60 minutes until the custard jiggles. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack It is best to let the pie sit overnight, which is why I like to bake a pecan pie at least a day in advance.

Now that pie #1 was out of the way it was time for pie #2. This time there was no crust to prebake, and pumpkin is an easier pie to make than pecan.

From Scratch Pumpkin Pie
Heat the oven to 425°. Prepare a 9" pie dish with crust and refrigerate until ready for use. In a large mixing bowl, combine:
2 c pumpkin puree
1 c evaporated milk
1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t cinnamon
1 t allspice
1 t ginger
1 t cardamom
1/2 t ground clove
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
Whisk everything together until smooth and creamy. Pour into chilled pie crust and bake at 425° for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and continue baking for another 45 minutes. If the crust starts to get too dark before the pie is finished, take a strip of foil and carefully cover the outer edge of the pie. The pie is done when a knife stuck in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

All right, that's it! I'm off to bed to rest up for tomorrow. Have a Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Photo by Kat


  1. Since I wasn't here to watch I want to know how you do the punkin puree. Do you roast the punkin in halves and scrape the stuff out like we do when we eat acorn squash? And please oh please you NEEED to post your punkin seed recipe for the world to see, because they are to die for.

  2. what a delicious blog! here is so many uncanny inspirations!

    have a nice time,

  3. Making pumpkin puree is simple. Just roast the cleaned pumpkin halves (or quarters, if it's a larger pumpkin) at about 375° for 45 minutes to an hour, until the meat is soft. You don't really have to season it, though you can. I leave the seasonings for when I'm making the pie. Once the pumpkin has cooked, scrape out the meat and run it through the food processor until it's nice and smooth. You need 2 cups of this glop for the pie recipe.

    I will post the method I use for roasting pumpkin seeds this weekend!

  4. I started drooling when I read about the pecan pie. It looks delish. Despite all the food that arrived yesterday for the feast, we somehow missed the pecan pie. I may have to try this as a post-Thanksgiving project. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I'm a pumpkin pie kind of gal, but I think a slice of each pie would have been my preference. ;)