Apple-Pecan Pie

When fall finally arrives (not sure it’s here yet), it’s time to bake again — and by November, it’s time to think of baking for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I am anything in life, I am a pie baker. I’m not a county fair blue ribbon winner, but I’m something better — I’m the person folks like to see walking into their house or the church potluck with a pie basket on her arm. It wasn’t always that way, but pie baking is a progressive art or one that is a lifelong undertaking. I began with pies that didn’t taste badly, but were pale and puny at best and were luckily called out by older, experienced pie bakers in the mid-70’s. (“You could have left that in the oven a while longer.”) Even now, hundreds and hundreds of pies later, there’s the occasional crust that won’t hold together, for example, and gets ceremoniously dumped straight into the garbage can. It doesn’t faze me anymore, but pies continue to be educational as long as you’re willing to bake them. If you don’t bake one for a while and then assume you’ll be fine, that pie may or may not bake into something worth eating with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

Jump to Recipe

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There’s not a brand-new pie recipe for the holidays each and every year around here, but my heart grows by leaps and bounds when there is. Just somehow lifts me up to know I’ve dreamed and then created something that makes a holiday new and luscious all over again. It’s not bad to see my husband happy as any camper sitting at the table eating pie either. Since he’s the first guinea pig, that is. And since he’s The Pie Guy. Lately I kept thinking about a combo apple-pecan pie and I first thought I’d try something like the Pumpkin-Pecan Pie you sometimes see around this time of year. Regular old pumpkin filling in the bottom and pecan pie filling on top. The more I thought about it, the more too oo-ey goo-ey that sounded. It might have been ok, but a simpler, spicier pecan top crust appealed more. Pecans like my sister and I make at Christmas for snacks or gifts. Surely that could be done. In fact, there was a Bon Appétit pumpkin pie topped with nearly the same idea. If it was good enough for BA, it was good enough for me. And you. In fact, if spices sounded great in the pecans, I’d also layer them in both the apple filling and — what the heck — the crust. Truth is, this pie will leave your mouth with a warm tingly buzz — in other words, smacky-happy.

above and below: Using baking apples unpeeled will more likely result in apples that hold their shape after baking so your pie sits up tall and proud, not slouched and soft. I like Pink Lady apples for this or Granny Smith. Cooling the pie completely before cutting is a necessity for a beautiful slice.

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The recipe flew around in my body for a few weeks before I bought ingredients, began baking, and put it down on paper. Here’s how it went…

Making the dough in the food processor. I’m lazy. Use your own recipe, but add the spices I’ve used. Of course a store-bought crust will work if that sounds good. Click or tap on the images below to view them without captions or in more slideshow form.

NOTE: Some bakers prefer to roll dough between sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper.

Making the apple filling, pecan topping, and baking:

Apple-Pecan Pie

For the fall and winter American holidays, pie is the strong answer when someone asks about dessert. Pumpkin pie leads the way for Thanksgiving, but apple or pecan are right up there near the top and show up at Christmas and Hanukkah, too. Here’s a warm spice-laden apple pie topped not with a second crust, but with crunchy pecans reminiscent of the nuts many cooks stir up for cold weather party appetizers or snacks. I provide a favorite butter crust recipe laced with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, but you can use whatever crust is easiest at your house. Do think about including the spices in your dough. makes one 9-inch pie

Ingredients

  • Chilled pastry for one 9-inch pie-See NOTES for recipe, use your own, or purchase.
  • 6 cups unpeeled thinly sliced apples (I like Pink Lady or Granny Smith.)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon each freshly ground nutmeg and ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons cold salted butter cut into small pieces
  • Pecan topping- See NOTES for recipe.

Instructions

  • PREHEAT OVEN to 425 degrees F. Set rack at center.
  • MIX APPLE FILLING/SPOON INTO PASTRY/COVER WITH FOIL: In a large bowl, gently stir together the apples, sugar, flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. Spoon evenly into the pastry-lined pie plate. Dot with butter. Cover with a sprayed or buttered doubled square piece of aluminum that just fits the top of the pie. Place pie on rimmed baking sheet.
  • BAKE PIE for 35-45 minutes or until apples are tender or nearly tender. Remove from oven and set on a dry potholder on the counter if using a Pyrex pan. (Pyrex may shatter if you place it on stove grates or a cold/wet counter.)
  • ADD PECAN TOPPING carefully and evenly to the apple mixture using a spoon or slotted spoon, being sure to first let excess egg mixture drip back into the bowl. The pecans should be just coated, not dripping. Turn the pecans right-side up so your pie is pretty.
  • BAKE PIE again for 10-15 more minutes or until crust and pecans are browned and apples are tender when pierced with a small, sharp knife.
  • COOL PIE on a rack – for at least 2 hours. (Use a potholder on the rack if baking in Pyrex.) Store loosely wrapped at room temperature 2 days or 4-5 days in the refrigerator. Freeze well-wrapped for 6 months only if you must.

Notes

PECAN TOPPING:
• 1 beaten egg white
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
• 1 tablespoon maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon melted butter, cooled
• 1 ½ cups pecan halves
Whisk together beaten egg white with brown sugar, kosher salt, ground cinnamon and ground cayenne pepper. Whisk in maple syrup and butter. Stir into pecan halves.
PASTRY for one 9-inch pie crust:   Chill after mixing and then roll out OR roll out and then freeze briefly in the pie plate while you make the filling — the latter being my choice.
Ingredients:
• 1 1/3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon each: ground cinnamon and ground ginger
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
• 8 tablespoons (4 ounces/1 stick) cold salted butter cut into small pieces
• ¼ cup ice water (Measure water in cup, add ice, stir a few times, remove ice.)
Directions:
1. MIX DRY INGREDIENTS: In a food processor medium bowl, pulse/mix together the flour, salt, and spices.
2. ADD THE BUTTER pieces and pulse or cut in with a pastry cutter until mixture is evenly crumbly. You’ll want it in larger pieces for the processor and more like meal for the pastry cutter. (You can even use your fingers to cut in the butter in a pinch.  Work quickly as the heat of your hands can melt the butter.)
3. ADD THE ICE WATER a little at a time, pulsing or stirring until the dough just starts to come together and holds together when you pinch it with your fingers. (If it’s too dry, add another tablespoon ice water, mix, and pinch again.)
4. TURN OUT onto a flour-covered board or counter and quickly shape and knead into first a ball and then a disc. (You can refrigerate for 30 minutes here or roll right away, as I do.)
5. ROLL DOUGH out evenly using a floured rolling pin to about a 12-inch circle, lifting it several times and reflouring to avoid sticking to the board/counter.
6. ROLL DOUGH UP onto the pin gently and loosely and then unroll it into the 9-inch pie plate. Move it, if necessary, so that it sit evenly in the plate. If there’s any more than an inch over hanging the edges of the plate, trim that away. (See Pie Dough Cookies under TIPS.)
7. TURN EDGES of dough under and crimp or flute as desired. Fill and bake if you’ve already chilled the dough or freeze for 15 minutes while you make the filling, the latter being my choice.
Inspiration for pecan topping from BA and my sister Helen’s Spicy Pecans.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2021. All rights reserved.

NOTE: This recipe is still being tested a time or two. I’ll amend it as needed and, if you make it and find it needs a tweak — I’d love to hear from you in comments or otherwise.

UPDATE–First test in: My dear niece Sharijoy’s friend Chris made the pie using a store-bought Pillsbury crust that he sprinkled with the spices I include in my dough. Both Sharijoy and Chris thought it was pretty tasty. Here’s the pic!

Pie and Wine Pairings Done Right/WINE FOLLY

Drain fried Pie Dough Cookies for a second or two on paper towels and then place them in a small bowl of cinnamon sugar, spooning the mixture over the cookies. Eat hot or warm.
I like French rolling pins for pie dough.

TIPS:

PIE HELPS:

Better pie dough directions than mine/EPICURIOUS

How to Make a Perfect Pie/WILLIAMSSONOMA

Blueberry Pie and a Lesson in Pie Baking/DORIEGREENSPAN

CHANGE IT UP:

  • When I have time, I’ll be doing this! Try baking this pie with a mixture of apples and pears and fresh cranberries.
  • You can skip a spice or two if you don’t have them, but do then ramp up your available spices or use substitutes like allspice or finely ground black pepper. (Better yet, borrow from a neighbor.) This pie should leave a warm imprint in the back of your mouth after eating.
  • Using purchased pastry? Dust the rolled out dough evenly with some of the spices from my dough recipe.
  • No pastry for you? This pie might work without a bottom crust, as will many pies. If you try it, let me know.
  • TOPPING: If serving with whipped cream, consider adding a little Scotch or whiskey to the cream as you whip it. After adding it to the pie slice, sprinkle with a little cinnamon or freshly ground nutmeg.

REDUCING WASTE:

  • By making your own pastry (and anything else you do “from scratch”), you cut down on driving, fuel, packaging, electricity, and recycling needs. You also are more self-sufficient. You can pass down/over the skill to someone else.
  • PIE DOUGH COOKIES! Extra pieces of dough can be fried in a small skillet of oil and tossed in a small bowl of mixed sugar and cinnamon for “pie dough cookies.” I’ve never tried it, but other bakers say you can also bake them. (See video above.)
  • Don’t peel your apples; you’ll just throw away the peels. They hold their shape better in the pie with the peels and you get more nutrition as well as fiber.
  • Extra pecans? Make Alyce and Helen’s Spicy Nuts using all pecans or a mixture of nuts.
  • Buy spices in small containers to avoid them becoming stale. If you buy whole spices and grind them, they’ll last longer. (Example: nutmeg)
  • 5 Ways to Keep Brown Sugar Soft/KITCHN

below: “The Babies” got groomed this week.

LEFT-Rosie (Labradoodle, age 7). CENTER- Tucker (Golden, is 12 this week). RIGHT: Pie in pantry safe from Rosie!

LIFE GOES ON:

Thanks for spending time in my kitchen with me. I’m grateful!

Be well and cook on,

Alyce

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