Wait a minute. It's less than 2 weeks till Thanksgiving. Shouldn't I be seeing a pumpkin pie here?
Well... yeah, if you're totally wedded to tradition. And admittedly, this is the time of year when many of us are. Grandma always made pumpkin pie. Or Mom always bought Mrs. Smith's frozen apple pie (and passed it off as homemade by “distressing” the edges).
Whatever. If it's your family tradition, it's a comfortable raft to cling to.
Then again, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
Which to me, translates as “Let someone else bring the darned pumpkin pie. I'M making Chocolate Chunk Pecan.”
And I have, for the past five Thanksgivings at my brother-in-law's. And you know what? It leaves those other Thanksgiving regulars in the dust. Especially when I set the Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Bean ice cream alongside.
Have I convinced you? DARE you go beyond pumpkin? If so, have at it: Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie may just become your new Thanksgiving must-have.
A nice secret for pie crust: buttermilk powder. It tenderizes the gluten, ensuring the crust is crisp, not chewy.
Do you have to use it? Of course not; like many ingredients, it's an improver, not a deal-breaker. But if you bake pies often, I recommend having a stash in your pantry.
Whisk together the following:
Add 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, working it in till it's thoroughly dispersed throughout the dry ingredients.
Add 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut in pats.
Roughly work it into the mixture in the bowl; a few large pieces remaining are OK.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon vinegar into the bowl, then 3 tablespoons of ice water. Mix quickly and gently, just till everything is thoroughly moistened.
Gather the dough into your hand, and squeeze it. If it holds together nicely, it's ready. If it needs a bit more ice water to come together, dribble some in.
Use the sticky dough to “mop” any remaining crumbs from the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Place the dough on a floured work surface, and shape it into a rough disk.
Roll it into a rectangle about 8” x 12”; it doesn't have to be perfect, ragged edges are fine.
Fold the rectangle like a letter, starting with a short side.
Turn it 90°...
...and roll it into a rough 8” x 12” rectangle again.
Fold like a letter...
...then fold in half to make a rough cube.
What's all this folding doing? It's making layers of dough, which should translate to flaky crust.
Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or for up to a couple of days.
While the dough is chilling, make the filling. Isn't this thrilling? (Add your own rejoinder...)
I'll use two kinds of chocolate in the filling: chocolate chips, and chocolate chunks. You can certainly use all chips, or all chunks; I just happen to like the economy of chocolate chips, and the rich flavor of our semisweet Peter's Burgundy chunks.
The Peter's chocolate brand has an interesting history. Daniel Peter launched his Swiss company in the 1860s. Henri Nestlé, Peter's Swiss neighbor, worked with him to blend milk with chocolate and create – yes – milk chocolate. Peter's started selling in America in 1901, and quickly became a favorite of chefs. In 1951, the brand was purchased by Nestlé's – bringing the two old neighbors back together again, if only spiritually.
Bottom line: of all the chocolates in our test kitchen, I like the flavor of our Burgundy chunks the best. According to their Web site, Burgundy chunks are “a reddish semi-sweet chocolate with a fruity, winey flavor note.” To me, they simply taste rich and smooooooth.
Place 2 large room-temperature eggs, 1 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. What if the eggs aren't at room temperature? Put them (before cracking) in a dish of hot water for 10 minutes.
Beat for about 2 minutes at high speed, till the mixture is thick and light-colored.
Stir in 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled.
Next, add 1 1/3 cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips or chunks, or a combination; and 2/3 cup diced, toasted pecans. How do you toast pecans? Spread them in a single layer on a pan, and bake in a 350°F oven till golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
Mix till combined.
If the dough has been refrigerated longer than 30 minutes, allow it to warm up for about 10 to 15 minutes, till it's pliable. While it's warming, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Roll the dough into a rough 13” circle.
Pick the crust up – a giant spatula works well here.
Place it in a 9” pie plate at least 1 1/2” deep.
Well, 1 3/8”, bare minimum; but don't go shorter than that, OK? My favorite new pie pan, from USA Pans, is nice and deep, perfect for any standard 9” pie recipe.
Notice the ridges in the bottom of the pan – they allow air to circulate more freely, helping to prevent a soggy bottom crust. Plus, with the crust having less contact with the pan, it's less liable to stick.
So, what to do with that big overhang of excess crust?
Tear it off...
...and use it as a patch where needed.
Take those patched, ragged edges, roll them under, and squeeze to make a ridge around the top of the pan edge. Yeah, your crust will look messy.
But not for long. Use your finger and thumb to pinch the crust at regular intervals...
...to make a pretty, fluted crust.
Pour the filling into the crust. Hmmm, looks pretty skimpy...
DARN, forgot the melted butter! Back goes the filling, into the bowl. ADD the melted butter.
Pour back into the crust. There, that's better.
Sprinkle 2/3 cup pecan halves on top. I toasted these; in retrospect, they didn't need toasting.
Bake the pie in the preheated 375°F oven for 30 minutes.
Tent it lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 15 minutes, till the crust and top are both golden brown. I've removed the foil here, to check how things are going.
Man, I didn't do a very good job on that crust, did I? Ah well... some days you've got the touch, some days you don't.
Remove the pie from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.
This isn't the best-looking pie in the world, is it? But just wait. Once you cut it, the thin, crunchy sugar layer on top shatters into chunks, and it becomes much more attractive.
Let the pie cool for 30 minutes before cutting. The chocolate inside will still be very soft at this point.
See the ridges in that pan? Better browning.
If you wait till the pie's completely cool, here's what the chocolate looks like. It has a pleasantly fudgy consistency.
See how the chunks give it a really decadent, throw-all-caution-to-the-winds look?
Enjoy! Preferably with ice cream.
If you're looking for something a bit different than the usual pumpkin-apple-blueberry for Thanksgiving, I guarantee this will be a popular choice, even among diehard traditionalists.
Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie.