This post is also available in（こちらの言語版もある）: Japanese
For Americans, November is all about Thanksgiving and even though I haven’t really celebrated the holiday properly since moving to Japan, I still start wanting to make traditional Thanksgiving desserts like pumpkin pie or pecan pie come November. Pumpkin pie is clearly the most popular of the Thanksgiving dessert fare, but personally I have always been more partial to pecan pie. Depending on the recipe, pecan pies can be borderline too sweet, but there are also plenty of variations out there, so to cut down on the cloying sweetness potential this time I went with adding some salty bacon to the top to balance the sweetness of the sugar and syrup and some whiskey to the filling to bring out all the flavors.
Truth be told, pecan pie is not one of the easiest recipes to make in Japan. For starters, pecans themselves aren’t that common in supermarkets so I wound up buying a large bag online. Moreover, most traditional pecan pie recipes call for corn syrup, which is hard to find here so I ended up replacing it with pure maple syrup. As anyone who has ever had a big traditional American breakfast with syrup-soaked pancakes and a side of bacon knows. sweet maple syrup goes really well with the salty flavor of bacon, so this substitution wound up making the finished product even more delicious.
Speaking of bacon, in America a whole lot of people think that adding bacon to anything makes it tastier and bacon-flavored food items (even sweets like chocolate chip cookies!) are a big deal. It may sound pretty strange to Japanese people, but the saltiness and umami of bacon actually goes really well with sweet things (think butter popcorn mixed with caramel popcorn) and in a potentially very sweet recipe like pecan pie, it helps turn the sweetness factor down to more reasonable levels. Of course, pecan pie recipes that include alcohol like rum, bourbon, or whiskey are far more common than pecan pie recipes that include bacon but similarly, their addition helps balance and bring out the flavors in the pie. I had a bottle of whiskey at home so that it what I chose to use, but I feel like it was perfect with both the bacon and the pecans.
Bacon, whiskey, maple syrup, and pecans are all delicious on their own and I had a feeling they had the potential to be amazing together, but I hadn’t made a pie in years so I was still a little hesitant when I first started making this pie. However, it turned out there was no need for worry at all because the end result was amazing! I brought it to a friend’s house party and despite the fact that I fear that the crust cracked a bit and the filling stuck to the pan a little, it was gobbled up by everyone before I could even get a picture showing the inside of the pie once it had been cut. In fact, the host of the party even asked for the recipe afterward so definitely a success!
On a crusty note, yes, you could totally use a frozen pie crust for this or another crust recipe that you like, but this is a pretty damn good crust recipe. Some of you may have heard of using vodka in pie crust before and the whiskey here serves the same purpose: the alcohol makes the crust flakier. Plus, the recipe makes two crusts so you can freeze one for when you will be inevitably making another one of these amazing pies for your friends and family. Seriously, they say you cannot pie people’s affection and that may be true, but you can certainly win it with this pie.
- Pie Crust (this makes enough for two crusts so freeze the second one and have pie again later)
- 2½ (320 g) cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 tbsp (85 g) unsalted butter (chilled and diced)
- 6 tbsp (85 g) shortening (Crisco would be traditional but the stuff that comes in a squeeze tube in the baking aisle at Japanese supermarkets works fine)
- 4 tbsp whiskey (same theory behind this as vodka in pie crust—improves the texture)
- 4-6 tbsp ice water (leave the ice cubes floating in it)
- 4 eggs
- ¼ cup (50 g) firmly packed brown sugar (the light brown stuff in Japanese grocery stores is fine)
- ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup (237 ml) pure maple syrup
- 2 tbsp (28 g) unsalted butter (melted)
- 2 tbsp whiskey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (109 g) chopped pecans
- ⅓ cup (67 g) firmly packed brown sugar (the light brown stuff in Japanese grocery stores is fine)
- 2 tbsp (28 g) unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp of bacon drippings
- 3 tbsp honey
- ⅓ lb (150 g) bacon (chopped, cooked, and drained—reserve the dippings)
- 1¾ cups (173 g) of pecan halves
- Make crust: combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut in butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Sprinkle in 2 tbsp of whiskey and toss with a fork. Add 2 tbsp of the ice water and mix with a fork until moistened. Repeat with remaining whiskey and 2 more tbsp of ice water, mixing after each addition.
- If necessary, continue adding remaining ice water in 1 tbsp increments until the dough holds together.
- Divide dough into two disks and wrap in plastic. Freeze one for later use and refrigerate the other for at least 30 min to overnight.
- Remove refrigerated dough from plastic and on a well-floured surface roll out to about 12” for a 9” pie pan. Carefully transfer the dough to a pie plate, crimp edges, and refrigerate until ready to fill. (*if getting flour all over isn’t your favorite thing, see the "Notes" section for a flour-free rollout method).
- Make filling: preheat oven to 350F (180C)
- Chop pecans in food processor if only halves are available
- Crack eggs into large bowl and lightly beat with hand mixer.
- Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, maple syrup, melted butter, whiskey, and vanilla to the eggs and beat on medium until combined frothy.
- Add the chopped pecans and beat until just combined.
- Pour mixture into pie shell and cover edges with foil so they don’t burn.
- Bake 35 minutes until the top is set but still jiggly. Remove from oven.
- Make topping (I did this about 10 min before the pie’s 35 min were up): cook your chopped bacon and reserve the drippings
- Combine sugar, butter, reserved bacon drippings, and honey in a medium sauce pan and cook on medium until the sugar dissolves (about 2 min). Turn off heat, add pecans and bacon, spoon the mixture over the pie filling, and replace the foil.
- Bake another 15-20 min (until top is bubbly and golden brown but be careful not to burn the nuts and bacon!). Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of baking to brown the crust.
- Cool at least 3 hours-overnight to ensure proper filling consistency before serving.
★Rolling out pie crust without the flour mess: rolling out pie crust on a floured surface is the traditional and likely better way to make pie, but if for whatever reason this is difficult for you, you can put the chilled pie dough between two pieces of plastic wrap, roll it out, and then put the whole thing in the freezer for a few minutes to get it easier to work with. Remove from the freezer, remove one piece of the plastic wrap, and put in a pie plate. Remove the other piece of wrap and fit the dough into the plate and proceed as usual. <--I have limited counter space to flour so this works best for me.
Recipe adapted from http://www.bakeitwithbooze.com/2013/01/whiskey-bacon-pecan-pie-with-tullamore.html and various pie recipes I have had copied on Post-it notes for years now