Well, I lost, and I lost bad. I lost so bad you may want to start calling me John McCain. My friends, my friends, this throwdown was a blowout. I don't know how Bobby Flay does these challenges for a living because the stress nearly gave me a coronary.
My friend Lisa and I decided to have a pecan pie bake-off on Friday. Using different recipes, we talked smack and made fun of each other's technique and flour-covered clothing as we rolled dough, stirred filling, and slid our pies into the oven. And though my fluted dish was far deeper than Lisa's, the pies seemed to finish baking at roughly the same time.
Cue doomsday music.
When the pies were nearly cool, we cut into them. I recoiled in horror: the center of my pie was still liquidy, unset. To her credit, Lisa tried not to smirk, but she just barely succeeded. This would not bode well for me. I tossed my pie back in the oven for 30 more minutes. (Happily, I used the extra time to assemble my pumpkin mini pies.)
Yesterday, we invited over a few friends and their multitudinous offspring for an official blind tasting. Each guest received a plate with two pie slices that we labeled, creatively, 1 and 2. Everyone then tossed either a 1 or a 2 into a jar depending on which pie they liked better.
Now I could offer up a whole slew of excuses for why Lisa won and I lost, but the real reason is simple: her pie was better. So much better that she beat me 10 to 3. TEN TO THREE! Even my own husband voted for Lisa's pie, and I'd used the recipe he makes every Thanksgiving. I mean, have you ever?
Lisa's pie kicked my pie's butt for a few reasons. First, she toasted her nuts, which boosted their flavor. Second, she opted for chopped pecans over pecan halves, which a) made her pie prettier, and b) greatly facilitated cutting neat slices. (It's hard to get a knife through big, chewy pecans when there's a gelatinous filling underneath.) Third, her crust dough was far easier to roll out than mine.
Lisa, I hereby anoint you Queen of Pecan Pie. You got the title, and I got shame, humiliation, and a complete loss of professional credibility. It's going to be a while before I live this one down.
Lisa's winning pie.
Recipe for Lisa's WINNING Thanksgiving Pecan Pie
Okay, so calling it Lisa's pie is something of a misnomer. She gets full credit for baking prowess, but the recipe itself must be credited to the Montgomery High Bicentennial Cookbook (1976). Lisa adapted her recipe from "Brenda's Louisiana Pecan Pie."
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (one 16-ounce bottle) dark corn syrup
2/3 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups chopped, toasted pecans, plus a handful of unchopped pecan halves to decorate the top
2 unbaked 9-inch pie crusts (Lisa used this recipe from Epicurious, but she swapped regular all-purpose flour for the pastry flour) lining two shallow glass pie plates
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs thoroughly with sugar, salt, corn syrup, and melted butter. Add pecans and pour into pie crusts. Decorate tops with whole pecans. Bake for 55 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.