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Pecan pie is a popular holiday dessert for many people, but it can be made and enjoyed any time of year. The pie itself is made of basic ingredients including corn syrup, sugar, salt, eggs, butter, vanilla and pecans. Most of the factors that can cause problems when making this pie involve the crust, the types of ingredients used, and cooking times. As always, using the freshest and highest quality ingredients will generally result in a much better pecan pie.
Every pie starts with a crust, which can be purchased at a grocery store or made at home. Someone who makes a homemade crust should be sure that the dough is not too damp in order to keep it from sticking to the pie plate. On the other hand, if the dough is too dry, it will crack and could turn dark when baking. Purchased crusts in their own tins are an easy option because they are ready for the filling. Refrigerated crusts that only need to be placed in a pie plate are another choice that generally eliminates the problem of sticky or dry dough.
The pecan pie crust is not pre-baked, but filled with the pecan mixture before it goes into the oven. It is important to make sure that the crust edge does not get too dark while allowing the center of the pie to properly cook. Small pie crust shields that look like metal hoops can be purchased to cover the edge of the crust during part of the baking. A ring of aluminum foil can also help keep the crust from turning dark brown or burning.
Pies that turn out grainy, sticky or runny can usually be avoided by following a good recipe and using quality ingredients. The ingredients should be mixed according to the recipe to help create the right texture. Baking at the right temperature for the right amount time can make a huge difference in quality, too. Undercooking will keep the pie from setting up, leaving the inside soupy or watery. Overcooking can cause filling to thicken too much, resulting in a sticky, chewy texture.
Another problem that can occur during baking is when the pecans on top start to burn before the center of the pecan pie is properly cooked. When this happens, it is generally because the temperature is too high, or the filling might contain too much liquid. Pecans that have been frozen may contain moisture that will make the filling runny and keep it from setting up. It's generally a good idea to allow frozen pecans to thaw for several hours, and make sure they are not damp on the inside before using them. Toasting them briefly in the oven before use can help ensure they do not contain moisture that could ruin the pie.
If you're a vanilla fiend, use Karo Syrup in addition to the suggested amount of vanilla in your pie recipe. Why? Natural vanilla is added to light Karo syrup and the resulting pie is darned tasty.
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