browned butter triple nut pie

I knew what the subject of today’s post was going to be. The meaning of Christmas to me. A religiously confused, complicated young woman. About how I interpret its magic and its universal message. There would be Christmas pie.

But this morning (as I write this it is Saturday, December 15th) it’s just not possible, for I am dead today. Drained from a tragedy that affected no one I know. In a town that I had never heard of. I try not to comment on current events on this site. I have other outlets for that. And although deeply afflicted today, the girl who talks too much has nothing to say. There are too many without that holiday this year. Without that spirit. I need time to heal.

Saturday is baking day. I planned to bake today. Gifts, actually. I can’t do it. You would think taking time, just me and my dough, would be cathartic. It has been through loss and sadness in the past. But this feels different.

Pecan Pie
I am not eloquent in times of tragedy; I never have been. So, I do all I can. I share pie. It seems petty — something edible surely can’t heal. Comfort food is still just food, after all. But it’s all I can give. It’s a very good pie. It’s a very seasonal pie. It’s adapted in great ways from the only pecan pie recipe I have ever loved. It’s not too sweet. Its flavor is deeply complex. Its tender crust coddles it’s warm interior. And that’s all I need to say. Because this time, it’s really not about the pie.

May you serve it at your holiday celebrations, remaining conscious of the fact that your lights are twinkling just as others dimmed. May you serve it to your loved ones and eat and enjoy. And may you take that opportunity to hold them closer than ever before. Here is pie. Let it pull you through.

They go back to school today. Please give them pie.
Warm Pie and Ice Cream
Browned Butter Triple Nut Pie
Adapted liberally from Perfect Pecan Pie, Cook’s Illustrated

If you know how I bake, you know my two true loves: nuts and browned butter. I like this pie best with a combination of pecans (for that classic buttery praline flavor), hazelnuts (for their echoing notes of the browned butter filling and powerful aroma), and pistachios (for color and intrigue). It is imperative that you use a wooden spoon to mix the filling; a whisk will incorporate air, giving your pie that foamy white top that plagues some pecan pies. The crust must still be warm when the filling is added. I prefer this pie served warm with vanilla ice cream.

75 grams (1/2 cup) pistachios
70 grams (1/2 cup) hazelnuts
65 grams (2/3 cup) pecans

1 Recipe Tender-Flaky Single-Crust Pie Dough (recipe follows) or your favorite crust recipe
1 egg
1 tsp water

98 grams (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter
200 grams (1 cup) dark brown sugar
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
232 grams (3/4 cup) light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the nuts: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans and hazelnuts on 1 rimmed baking sheet. Place pistachios on another rimmed baking sheet. Toast until golden brown and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes for pistachios and 8 to 10 minutes for pecans and hazelnuts, shaking pans once during cooking. Let cool for 5 minutes and chop into small pieces. (I like to chop the nuts for pecan and nut pies, as it makes for a higher nut to filling ration and for a pleasant bite.) Set aside for filling.

For the crust: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough to 12½-inch round and transfer to 9-inch pie plate. Trim overhang to ½ inch, tuck under dough, and crimp as desired. Freeze for 45 minutes.

Line dough with large square of aluminum foil and fill with pie weights. Cover crimped edge with foil (without touching it). Bake for 20 minutes, pressing on weights halfway through baking. Remove foil and weights and continue to bake for 5 minutes. Set aside until ready to fill. Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees.

For the filling: Fill a large saucepan with water to 2 inches. Set medium heatsafe bowl on top and bring water to bare simmer. Whisk together egg and water in small bowl; set aside. Melt butter in small, light-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Once melted, continue to cook, stirring occasionally until milk solids have turned dark brown and butter smells of toasted hazelnuts, about 10 minutes. (Whisk constantly during last 3 minutes.) Remove bowl from saucepan and transfer browned butter to bowl. Add sugar and salt and mix with wooden spoon until sugar soaks up all butter and is uniformly moistened. Break yolks of eggs. Mix in eggs, corn syrup, and vanilla and set bowl back over saucepan. Stir gently until mixture is thin and shiny and registers 130 degrees. Mix in nuts.

Pour filling into crust. Brush rim with egg-water mixture. Bake pie until just very center jiggles slightly and center registers 205 degrees. Let cool for 4 hours before slicing and serving.

Tender-Flaky Single-Crust Pie Dough
140 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
33 grams (1/4 cup) cake flour
112 grams (1 stick) butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and frozen
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3-4 tbsp ice water

Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in food processor to combine. Add frozen cubes of butter and pulse until butter is the size of hazelnuts with some larger pieces remaining. Transfer mixture to large bowl.

Starting with 3 tbsp, drizzle water over the mixture and fold in with a rubber spatula, trying to get the dough to clump and hold together. It will not form a neat ball and still will look shaggy. If necessary, add more water as needed to get the dough to roughly hold together

Dump mixture onto counter and gather into a horizontal pile. Using your palm, smear the butter and flour into the counter, going down the pile. Continue doing this along length of pile until dough starts to come together and there are long sheets of butter throughout layers of flour. Using bench scraper, gather dough into ball. Wrap dough in plastic and store in refrigerator until ready to use, up to 2 days. (Dough can be frozen for up to 1 month.)

10 responses

  1. Beautiful sentiments. It’s an awful time and all our thoughts are with those families.

    On the more frivolous note of pie, this looks wonderful. I often find pecan pie a bit too sweet so like that you say this filling isn’t overly sugary. Will definitely be making this over the holidays (so many bakes, so little time!)

    • It is, of course, a decadent dessert of which a sliver is more than adequate. But the one thing I dislike is too-sweet sweets, and this pie doesn’t bother me one bit. I think the use of dark brown sugar, the powerful browned butter, and the complexity of the mixed nuts on top keep this pie from being tooth-achingly sweet, despite all that sugar and corn syrup!

  2. Well said. I couldn’t figure out how to express what I was thinking and feeling on my blog… so I just didn’t put up a post on Monday… my way of giving a moment of silence. Pie works too.

  3. wonderful sentiments, i had a tough time wrapping my head around things as well, so took a moment of silence. hardly went forgotten, but dealt with in my own way. this pie, oh my, browned butter and all those nuts– simply wonderful :)

  4. Great pie. I like the idea of doing mini ones in a shallow muffin tin. I guess Golden Syrup or Maple Syrup could be used instead of corn syrup?

    • Thank you! I would go with Golden Syrup. Maple syrup doesn’t quite have the coagulation properties of corn syrup; golden syrup, though more deeply flavored, is closer. The maple might also cover the brown butter flavor. I love the mini pie idea!

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