After apple pie, what is more American than pecan pie? It originated from the French settlers in New Orleans after they were introduced to pecans by the Native Americans.
It is a sweet treat, and I absolutely love it. I actually find myself in good company, sharing my love for pecan pie with the honorable Martin Luther King Jr. himself — having just celebrated his birthday, I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about King’s favorite treat.
Last week, we celebrated the man and all his accomplishments for the greater good of the American people, and today, we culminate the festivities by celebrating with his favorite dessert. As a southerner, King enjoyed the richer things in life. The sweet and charismatic flavors of a good Southern pecan pie was one of the richer foods he enjoyed the most.
The pecan pie is a popular attendant to the Thanksgiving table, but it isn’t invited to many events beyond that dinner. A handful of new cooks pass over this flavorful opportunity when looking through cookbooks because it doesn’t fit the normal mold of a fruit-filled pie. That is an unfortunate mistake. This nutty little pie packs a sweet punch that can leave you wondering why you ever chose a fruit-filled pie before.
The key to any good pie starts with the crust. Yes, Pillsbury and every grocery store in the state surely makes their own ready-to-bake pie crust, but no matter what the box says, it is NOT as good as making it from scratch. A pie crust measured, mixed and rolled out by hand adds depth to a pie that takes the finished product from good to great. If you ever get a hold of great-grandma’s secret recipe, it may seem simple, but believe me, it is priceless and you better hang onto it.
Although, if you aren’t fortunate enough to have great grandma’s, then Ms. Betty Crocker makes a fine stand-in grandma when it comes to following recipes. If you are the adventurous cooking type, you can take a few different recipes, test them out and see for yourself which one wins you over. Almost all will have similar ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, shortening and/or butter. Short and sweet makes for a perfect pie crust.
After the creation of the pie crust, we now look to the filling. Pecan pie takes a few extra steps than some of the fruit pies, but the extra steps are proved well worth it after taking a bite into the finished masterpiece. One step you might be tempted to breeze over, but should seriously consider, is roasting the pecans. You might think that because they are going into a pie with so many other ingredients and will be cooked anyway, roasting isn’t necessary. On the contrary, my dear friends; roasting is essential for achieving the richest flavor in true Southern style.
Nuts can either be dry roasted or roasted with a little oil. You will need to preheat your oven to 350˚F and then decide if you want to dry roast or not. If you decide to roast with oil, you can pour the pecans in a bowl with oil in one cup nuts-to-one teaspoon oil ratio. Then place the coated nuts flat on a baking sheet and cook for five to 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
If you decide to dry roast, do everything the same but omit the oil. Be alert while roasting the nuts; as soon as you smell the nutty aroma and see that the nuts are a deep brown, be sure to take them out of the oven. It is easy to overcook them, and nobody likes burnt nuts — believe me. While you are taking the extra few minutes to roast the nuts, you might even want to roast a few extra types of nuts along with honey and have them as a ready to eat snack for the upcoming Superbowl feast.
Now that you know the two most important parts to making the most mouthwatering pecan pie, all you have to do is pick a recipe.
I suggest in honor of a great man who once loved these pies and in consideration of your tastebuds’ well-being, you grab a friend and attempt to bake this pie as you discuss just what it means when a man says “I have a dream…”