A Brief Guide To The Popular Pecan Pie
Contrary to popular belief, pecan pie isn’t just a holiday dessert. You can enjoy pecan pie anytime you want because it’s not exactly specific to the holidays. Did you know January 23rd is considered National Pie Day? Or maybe you didn’t know that February was declared Great American Pie Month. If you missed that, don’t worry because March 14 or 3.14 is right around the corner. This is otherwise referred to as National Pi Day, which celebrates the circumference of a circle. Baking the perfect pecan pie is a great way to celebrate this mathematical constant. When the first three months of the year find ways to celebrate pie, it should come as no surprise that pecan pie remains a top favorite all year round.
To gain a deeper understanding of why pecan pie is so favored amongst dessert lovers, let’s dive into its origins, nutritional information, and the various ways to prepare it.
A Brief History Of Pecan Pie
Pecan pie has been a staple of American desserts for decades, with most dessert connoisseurs believing the dish originated in the southern states. There are even some claims that the first pecan pie recipe was published in 1886 in the women’s magazine, Harper’s Bazaar. Despite the speculation of its origins, several southern states have named pecan pie their official state pie, Texas and Oklahoma. They aren’t the only states that hold pecans in high regard. When it comes to pecan pie and anything related to this delicious nut, some states have gone so far as to name it their official state nut. Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee have all deemed the pecan nut as the number one nut in their state.
Culturally, pecan pie has been gaining momentum as a traditional holiday dish since the southern states began thinking of ways to commercialize it. The pecan nut didn’t begin catching the eyes of growers until the mid-1800s when the demand was growing. It’s no wonder the recipe book for variations of pecan pie continues to thrive.
A Quick Take: Pecan Nut Origins
There is just as much curiosity about the history of pecan nuts as there is about the origins of pecan pie. Of the all nutritious nuts around, pecans are a marvel as they have a natural buttery, smooth flavor. These sweet morsels have been around for centuries with the great Native Tribes of North America using the Algonquian word “pakani” to describe “a nut that needs a stone to crack it.” Today, the most commonly used derivative is “pecan.” Although there are various etymologies explaining different ways to pronounce pecan, one constant is absolute, pecans are just as delicious plain as they are in any dish, especially desserts. The pecan nut was part of the diets of Indigenous Tribes throughout the southcentral and southeastern regions of the United States. Pecan nuts were also found in parts of Northern Mexico. The pecan trees typically grew in or around river beds.
Once farmers noticed how favored the pecan nut was becoming in the southern states and parts of the east coast, it wasn’t long before new growing and harvesting ideas entered the mix. It’s said that pecan nuts were getting some overseas attention by the early 1800s. Spanish and French tradesmen began exporting pecans to their respective countries. Soon after that, European cities, like London, paid more attention to the smooth, crunchy pecans that were native to North America.
Pecan Pie Nutrition
How healthy is pecan pie? This is a frequently asked question regarding one of America’s favorite southern staple pies. As with most desserts, it’s completely alright to have a slice or two. As the quote by Oscar Wilde goes, “everything in moderation, including moderation.” That’s not to say eat a whole pie in one sitting. However, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with treating yourself by saving room for dessert.
Macronutrients of Pecans
Pecans are the main ingredient in pecan pie and they contribute to the overall nutritional value of the dish. In just one ounce or approximately fifteen pecan halves, there’s a healthy mix of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. One ounce of pecan nuts sits at around 196 calories. It’s the perfect choice for an energy-boosting snack to get you through the day. Pecans are naturally low in carbohydrates and cholesterol. That handful or ounce contains about four grams of carbs, with the majority of those nutrients coming from fiber. Around 2.7 grams of the carbs in pecans are mostly soluble fiber, a much-needed macronutrient that is known to help reduce blood sugar levels.
Pecans are heart-healthy nuts due to the fatty acids they contain. These fats are known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats help lower the LDL or bad cholesterol levels within the cardiovascular system. They are also praised for helping to decrease inflammation and stabilize heart rhythms. Healthy protein levels are essential for virtually every part of your body. Just one ounce of pecans provides around 2.6 grams of protein. Not only is protein one of the critical components of all healthy cells in your body, but it’s also necessary for maintaining muscle, bone, skin, and hair health. Protein is also integral to your overall energy levels and this macronutrient is needed within your bloodstream to help carry oxygen throughout the body.
Micronutrients of Pecans
Did you know pecans contain around 19 vitamins and minerals? The list includes Vitamins A, B6, and E along with folates, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. All of these micronutrients help with maintaining skin, eyes, bone, teeth, muscle, nerve, and immune health. The health benefits of pecans are seemingly endless.
Vitamin B6 helps strengthen your immune system, providing safeguards against infection. Vitamin B6 also helps with brain function. It helps to regulate levels of amino acids in the blood and contributes to the development of serotonin, a hormone your nervous system uses to improve overall mood. Vitamin E has antioxidant properties and also helps with vision health. It’s an integral nutrient for reproduction and the health of the brain, skin, and blood. Folates or Vitamin B9 are integral to the formation of red blood cells, cell growth, and cell function. Niacin or Vitamin B3 helps to reduce blood pressure, improve blood fat levels and skin health as well as boosts brain function. Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 helps produce energy by breaking down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It’s also important for the development and proper functioning of the dermal tissues, vital organs, blood cells, and lining of the digestive tract.
Thiamine or Vitamin B1 plays an integral role in heart, muscle, and nerve function. It also helps the body use carbs as energy. Magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties, boosts physical performance, promotes cardiovascular health, and helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Manganese is important for the formation of bones, connective tissues, hormones, and helps with blood clotting. It also helps with calcium absorption and metabolizes fats and carbohydrates. Phosphorus is integral to the formation of bones and teeth. It also helps the body utilize proteins for developing and maintaining cells and tissues. Zinc is an important nutrient for metabolic function, healing factors, and the immune system.
Pecan Pie Nutritional Breakdown
For an average 9” in diameter pecan pie, the nutritional facts breakdown covers one slice or ⅛ of a piece of the pie. Of course, these numbers may vary depending on the pecan pie recipe you’re using. However, this should provide you with an idea of the nutritional facts based on a traditional Texas Southern Pecan Pie with all the sweet fixin’s. One serving size of pecan pie delivers around five hundred calories. The total fat in one serving is around 23 grams or thirty-five percent of your daily value. There are around 73 grams of carbohydrates, roughly twenty-four percent of the daily value needed. Eight percent of the carbs stem from dietary fibers. Each serving size provides around 5 grams of protein.
A slice of tasty pecan pie can provide approximately four percent of your daily value of Vitamin A. Vitamin A supports immune function and bone health. It also helps reduce the appearance of acne and protects the eyes from night blindness and age-related vision loss. Pecan pie also has four percent of your daily value of calcium. Calcium is vital to building and maintaining strong bones as well as improving the functioning of the nerves, heart, and muscles. A serving of pecan pie has eight percent of your daily value of iron. Iron helps preserve the body’s energy, ability to focus, gastrointestinal process, immune system, and regulates body temperature.
Pecan Pie Crust
Imagine, you just prepared your favorite pecan pie and the smell wafts throughout the house. You pull it out of the oven and let it cool down. You cut into it only to discover the crust is too soft and falling apart. The gooey, inviting slice you expected to place on the serving plate has no shape and the crust is seemingly non-existent. It somehow fused with the filling and looks like a glob of pie instead of a delicate, ready-to-eat slice. Every baker, no matter their level of expertise can relate to this scenario. What went wrong? Why did the crust turn out this way? There is no easy answer. Excess moisture could be due to several factors including humidity from the surrounding environment to the liquid pie filling you used. If the pecan pie crust is too soggy, review the steps you took in preparing it. Regardless of the type of pie being prepared, a well-prepped pie crust is all about cohesion. Try one of these three tips to achieve that desirable crunch with every bite.
Weigh it down: Blind-bake
If you are using the same pecan pie crust recipe you’ve always used and can’t figure out why the crust is soggy, consider blind-baking your crust. Yes, this process is often used for pie fillings that don’t need to cook, like pudding or cream-filled pies. However, this trick can be used for any pie crust when a soggy bottom becomes an issue. After you’ve lined the pie pan with your pecan pie crust, line the pastry with parchment paper. Make sure you leave a little excess parchment paper hanging over the sides. You can use pie weights, but if you don’t have those on hand, dried beans are a perfect option. Fill the parchment-lined pie crust with the chosen weights. Make sure you fill the pie crust to the top, firmly pressing and evenly distributing the weights. This ensures the pie crust siding won’t cave in on itself and air bubbles won’t form. Bake the crust on the top rack of the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for around ten to fifteen minutes or until you notice that slightly golden brown edging. Once it’s out of the oven, remove the weights and parchment paper. If the bottom of the crust feels dry, it’s ready for the rest of your pecan pie recipe. If the base still seems a little wet, pop it back in the oven for five to ten minutes. Make sure you don’t overcook the crust, after all, pecan pie filling needs 60 to 75 minutes in the oven too.
Wonders of egg wash
A traditional egg wash of the crust is a great way to prevent the filling from seeping in between the crust and pie pan. Pecan pie filling can be thick and that liquid is especially sticky. If the pie crust has cracks in it or is thinner on the bottom than you expected, the pecan pie filling can easily leak through. This could cause a soggy pie crust or cause the crust to stick to the bottom of the pie pan, which makes it harder to cut out slices. Before adding the pecan pie filling, brush the pie crust with egg wash and bake it for around five to ten minutes. If you’re worried about the crust browning too much, cover it with aluminum foil before baking.
Less is more
For your pie crust, experiment with using less water in the recipe. In other words, if the recipe calls for several spoons of ice water, try using just half a tablespoon at a time. Just enough water to get the dough to come together. Then, let it rest in the refrigerator before rolling it out. As you roll it out, if you notice some dry cracks in the dough, add just a little water a time. Flour can absorb about twice its weight in water. As long as you don’t surpass that ratio, the pie crust should be ready for some light kneading. Remember, don’t over-knead the dough as it can cause the pie crust to become too stretchy.
Now, what if your pecan pie crust is tough or it’s too dry? This could indicate that maybe the crust was overcooked, the pie crust was over kneaded or overworked, or you added too much water to the dough. A pecan pie crust should be slightly crunchy, and tender, yet flakey. Then again, don’t worry about a stiff crust too much. A little extra crunch never hurts, but if you’re overly concerned with it, consider having pecan pie a la mode. Just serve up slices with a hearty scoop of your favorite ice cream. As the cold dessert drips down the pie, it’ll help moisten up the tough crust, creating a mouth-watering blend of pecan pie and ice cream.
Want to make your pecan pie crust aesthetically pleasing? Have you ever considered crimping the pie crust? There are various ways you can crimp a pie crust. All you need is patience and a steady hand. You can experiment with scallop-like edges, rope-like patterns, angled crimping, or fork-designed crimping. It’s a simple process because crimping usually involves how you use your index finger, thumb, knuckle, or fork.
If you have extra pecans that you aren’t sure what to do with consider making a pecan crust. Simply crush your leftover Millican pecans until they are finely ground and add them to your pot pie crust. A delicious pecan crust is perfect for any type of pot pie. If you have leftover turkey, chicken, or beef, just add some vegetables for a heartwarming pot pie with pecan crust.
Pecan Pie Filling
Recipes for pecan pie filling vary. It’s all based on the ratio of sugars and pecans you want to use. Some pecan pie lovers prefer extra sweetness while others might be interested in lower sugar with a thick, buttery pecan flavor. Regardless of which route you choose, the rewarding part is how the pecan pie filling sets and how it tastes. If the ingredient ratio is off, you might struggle with a tough pecan pie filling or a runny, grainy one. Figuring out which pecan pie recipe to follow all depends on your ingredient preference. Don’t forget, there are a variety of ways to mix it up. Do you need something unique for the kids to enjoy? Pecan pie muffins are a prime example of sweet treats the kids and their classmates can enjoy. How about something to surprise your colleagues with? No-bake pumpkin pecan pie bites will bring smiles of satisfaction to their faces.
Maybe you have never made a pecan pie and would like to try. Although there are various options to choose from, consider using a classic pecan pie recipe first. From there, if you want to expand your pecan horizons, there is a mini pecan pie recipe to try. If you love desserts, like cheesecake, apple pie, or lemon tarts, why not combine the sweet, buttery, and crunchy pecan with it. Mini pecan lemon berry tarts, for instance, are the perfect weekend treat. Enjoy these small bites with your hot cocoa or cup of coffee. Need a savory dessert for your date night or special dinner plans? A pecan pie cheesecake is a perfect answer. It needs to be refrigerated overnight before serving. The great thing about this pecan pie cheesecake is you can prepare it days ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to five days. If you are on the hunt for a pecan pie recipe that doesn’t need added sugar, take a peek at the deconstructed dutch apple pecan pie recipe. With subtle hints of coconut, cinnamon, and vanilla, your taste buds are sure to enjoy it.
Pecan Pie: Is it done?
There are different ways to make sure your pecan pie is fully cooked. If you can’t tell whether the pecan pie is done or not, here are a few questions to ask yourself. Is the pie too runny? Is it too grainy? Does elevation or altitude factor into the baking time? These are all valid questions with simple solutions. If the pie filling is too runny, that usually indicates the pecan pie is undercooked. Remember, pecan pie is a custard-like pie. This means if it hasn’t baked long enough, the center could still come out runny. Details like the type of oven and the altitude of the oven matter when it comes to baking. You might have to make some adjustments to the oven temperature, which is usually between 325 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The time it takes to bake could vary as well, anywhere between sixty to seventy-five minutes. Keep in mind the oven temperature and the internal temperature of a pecan pie differ. The recipe you use may call for preheating the oven to 350 degrees F, however, the internal temperature of a fully-cooked pecan pie should be 200 degrees F.
How to properly store your pecan pie
To your surprise, you have leftover pecan pie after dinner. Don’t fret in thinking you have to toss it out. There are safe ways to store the sweet dessert so you can enjoy a slice the next day or for brunch a few days later. It’s best to refrigerate pecan pie leftovers in an airtight container for no longer than 3 to 4 days. If the leftovers were not properly stored or it’s been longer than 4 days, follow food safety protocols. It’s not recommended that you consume what’s left as the likelihood of food poisoning increases the longer time passes or if the leftovers were exposed for too long.
Did you know you can prepare your pecan pie in advance? Planning dessert for special family dinners, events, or holidays doesn’t have to mean a few days beforehand. If done right, you can prepare and store your pecan pie for weeks, if not, months ahead of time. Just remember, patience is key as some recipes make require you to prep and precook the filling or prebake the crust. Don’t worry about whether it will maintain its texture or taste. If stored correctly, a pecan pie can stay frozen for up to 3 months and still taste just as good as the day you baked it. Once it’s out of the freezer, you have to bake it in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes or longer. Allow it to fully cool before serving.
Pecan pie has been a staple in southern states for nearly a century for good reason. It’s the perfect sweet treat for any occasion and can be enjoyed year-round. You don’t have to wait for the holidays to enjoy the explosive flavors of pecan pie. Surprise your family and friends with a savory pecan gooey butter pie and you won’t have to wait long to witness their delighted, thankful expressions.