Pie in the Sky

Pecan pie. Photo by Sharon Diamond.
Over Thanksgiving, my husband’s cousin Sharon sent me a photo of the pecan pie she made for dessert. Sharon had used the recipe of our late, great Aunt Beulah.
Beulah was a legend — beautiful, spirited, brilliant, stylish, an unparalleled cook and hostess, and a woman who could have a fascinating conversation with anyone regardless of age, station, profession and demographic. She was both interesting and interested, traveled extensively and was everyone’s favorite.
When I received the photo, I called Sharon right away, and we had a grand chat about family, tradition and, of course, food. She then sent me the photo of the vintage 3×5 typed card with the recipe that included Aunt Beulah’s handwritten notes. Priceless. I simply had to share.
Pecan Pie ala Beulah
Makes a 9-inch pie
Beulah always labeled her recipes thusly; if it was my brownies, she copied out the recipe and entitled it “Brownies ala Keri.” Earning a spot in Beulah’s recipe card file was the height of praise.
A note on the pie shell: Use your favorite crust recipe or buy a frozen or premade pie shell.
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup broken pecans
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Heat your oven to 450 degrees F. Mix the beaten eggs with all the other ingredients, and pour them into an unbaked pie shell. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is set. Cool completely. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Buttermilk pie. Photo by Keri White

Buttermilk Pie ala The Wall Street Journal ala My Mom

Makes 1 9-inch pie
My husband is not a big eater. He rarely makes requests and even more rarely makes dessert requests. So when he cut this recipe out of the Weekend Journal a few weeks back, I knew I had to make it.
I waited until my mother, she of the mad pie skills, came to visit, and she and I set to work. Normally, I follow a new recipe, especially a baked item, to the letter before I begin to tweak it, but since Mom is a pie pro, I felt confident cutting a few corners.
The original version called for rye flour, which I neither had nor wanted, so we used all-purpose. I also used past-their-prime raspberries and made them into a semi-jam as the topping over the fresh berries, but the original recipe uses raspberry jam cooked down into a syrup. Either is fine — I just wanted to avoid tossing the berries.
I also swapped the rye whiskey called for in the filling for bourbon; I find the caramel sweetness of bourbon is better for desserts, and since I had ditched the rye flour, which was likely meant to complement the booze in the pie, I felt this was the right call.
The pie was quite tasty — a delicious, smooth custardy filling without too much eggy-ness. Prebaking the crust was a good move; it kept the bottom of the pie nicely crisp and avoided even a whisper of fogginess.
The version here is pretty much identical to the WSJ version. It just shaves some of the time off, skipping one part of the prebaking and reducing the dough chilling time by half.
Note: The raspberry topping is optional. Although local berries are long gone, we were able to get some good quality fresh berries at the market. The pie would be fine plain or topped with a fruit compote, chocolate, caramel or toffee.
For the crust:
1½ cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
4 tablespoons buttermilk
For the filling:
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons bourbon
For the topping:
1½ cups fresh raspberries
¼ cup raspberry jam (or ½ cup overripe raspberries simmered with 1 tablespoon sugar and ¼ cup water until the berries break down and form a sauce
Mix the crust ingredients in a large bowl, and beat them on low-medium until small, pea-sized bits form. Gather the dough together into a disc (about 5 inches in diameter) and wrap it in cellophane. Refrigerate it for about 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and roll it out on a floured surface until it is thin and large enough to fit into a pie plate. Crimp the edges in decoratively, and freeze the pie shell for 15 minutes.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the pie shell from the freezer, and prick it all over with a fork. Line it with parchment and cover the surface with rice, beans or pie weights to avoid the crust contracting. Bake it for 20 minutes.
While the pie bakes, make the filling: Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl with a whisk.
Remove the pie shell from the oven — it should not be fully cooked. Pour the filling into the shell, and return the pie to the oven for 35-40 minutes. The crust should be golden brown when done, and the center should be a bit wiggly; it will continue to set over the next few hours.
To garnish the pie, artfully arrange the raspberries over its surface. Melt the jam or make berry sauce and cool it slightly. Drizzle it over the pie and serve.


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