Maria is a master of public health, and a master gardener. She & husband Bo, known online as The Gardener & The Cook are in coastal Alabama.
Nothing says Thanksgiving and Christmas like a pecan pie. Let's face it, folks, there is no way to make this scrumptious dessert healthy. It can, however, be made a little bit less unhealthy, with just a few tiny changes that no one will ever notice. I was actually surprised when these tiny changes made an even tastier pie.
I Made a Few Changes
I've had this recipe for pecan pie for almost as long as I can remember, and yes, as usual, I have made minor changes. To decrease the Karo syrup would decrease the volume, so instead, I decreased the butter and the salt some, and the brown sugar just tiny a bit.
Unfortunately, I cannot say I was able to make it into a "good for you" recipe, as all pecan pies are almost pure sugar, but it certainly does make the best pecan pie ever. Oh, and it's pronounced "puh-kahn" with the emphasis on the second syllable; not "pee-can" which sounds really vulgar.
- 1 cup Karo syrup, light or dark
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup pecan halves (or enough to cover the surface of the pie)
- Beat the eggs, and set aside.
- Melt the butter.
- Combine syrup, brown sugar, salt, butter, and vanilla.
- Mix well in an electric mixer.
- Add beaten eggs.
- Pour into an unbaked pie crust.
- Lay pecan halves on top (Optional: lay pecans in a series of concentric circles.)
- Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes.
- Allow it to rest until firmly set.
Some Tips for a Better Pie
- Reduce the brown sugar just a bit: Normally directions regarding brown sugar say to pack it. To reduce the sugar content just a bit, I did not pack it tightly, as I usually do, but only lightly so.
- Place a cookie sheet under the pie for baking: For a pie that has a liquid or very thin filling prior to cooking, such as pecan pie, I line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with foil. The pan is for stability and easier handling; it also prevents spillage into the oven if the pie filling were to boil over. The foil keeps the pan clean so it doesn't have to be washed.
- Don’t be alarmed if the filling is pale before baking: The unbaked filling is a pale caramel color that will bake to a true caramel color. The fact that I used a bit less brown sugar and clear Kayro Syrup, lightened the overall color. If you prefer an extremely dark brown baked filling, use dark Karo syrup
Is the Crust Getting Too Brown?
If the edge of the crust gets too brown before the pie appears to be set, put a pie crust shield or strips of aluminum foil over the crust edge to prevent burning.
Don't Cut the Pie Too Soon!
Warm pecan pie is delicious, but it should be allowed to rest until set firm. Unless, of course, you prefer "runny" filling as one of our girls does. When the pie is still warm, the center has not yet jelled completely. If cut at this stage, the filling will ooze out from under the pecans, sometimes allowing them to slide off the top.
I cut the pie in the photo above before it had cooled completely because we wanted to eat a piece while it was still warm. The result wasn’t too bad – this time.
Presentation Is Everything, Or Is It?
It takes a bit more time, but I definitely think it's worth it to lay the pecan halves in a pattern of concentric circles, as shown in the photo above.
Some people use broken pieces, and stir them into the filling mixture. They will float to the top, but it isn't very pretty when cooked. As all the great chefs say, "presentation is everything."
My pie crusts don’t always turn out as pretty as I would like, so if they’re really bad I hide them with extra pie dough. I use tiny cookie cutters to cut seasonal shapes. The one shown below was for Thanksgiving a few years ago.
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