Thanksgiving dinner without pecan pie is like Christmas without presents. Or a birthday party with no cake. Or ringing in the new year without sipping on something bubbly. The holiday just wouldn’t be the same without one, sitting side-by-side with its autumnal pumpkin and apple companions. And have you noticed that every year when dessert time arrives, there is always a family member who doesn’t like one of the flavors? It’s true. Pay close attention to the comments at the table this year and you are bound to hear someone confessing their distaste for either the apple, pecan, or pumpkin. There seems to be an equal divide amongst everyone’s personal pie preferences, and we have come to accept that this will never change. But this confusion has its benefits: more pies are made so everyone is content. We believe that all pies are equal, and every Thanksgiving our dessert plates proudly display a slice of each one! This year though, we have something extra special to bring to the Fall feast. We’ve added a secret ingredient that has transformed this southern classic into an irresistible treat that everyone at the table will agree on.
This pie will get all the attention this year, and for good reason. Sometimes pecan pies can be overly sugary, but this one is perfectly balanced. The filling is sweet, but not cloying: with brown sugar, vanilla, and dark corn syrup for a more robust flavor and richer color. And a few simple tricks set this pie apart. Here, the pecans are roasted beforehand for extra nuttiness, and a splash of kahlua liqueur brings a satisfying coffee flavor and pleasant warmth to every bite. But what puts this dessert over the top is the coffee that is added to the crust. It rounds out the sweetness while enhancing the kahlua, and will have everyone applauding after their first taste. And for a standing ovation, a scoop of vanilla ice cream will surely bring the crowd to their feet.
While the flavors in the pie may be complex, the prep is anything but. The crust uses a classic pie dough recipe, which we enhanced with cold-brew coffee instead of plain water. And the filling is simply stirred together in a bowl, then poured into the crust and baked. Feel free to get creative when decorating—use pecan halves to make any design on top, or leave them off entirely, it’s up to you! With or without ice cream, this pie is guaranteed to bring people of all preferences together, and is sure to earn a permanent home at your Thanksgiving table.
Kahlua Pecan Pie
makes one 9-inch pie, serves 8 to 10
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups (155g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (113g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
1/4 cup (60ml) chilled coffee, plus up to 1 tablespoon more if needed
For the filling:
6 ounces (170 g / about 1 1/2 cups) pecans
1 packed cup (213g) brown sugar
3/4 cup (177ml) dark corn syrup
6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/3 cup (78ml) kahlua liquor
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepare the crust:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the chilled pieces of butter, and use a pastry knife or your fingers to work the butter into the flour until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Add 1/4 cup of cold coffee, and stir until the dough comes together. If it seems too dry, add a few teaspoons of coffee as needed. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it slightly into a disc shape, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to overnight.
On a floured work surface, roll out the dough until it makes a rough circle about 12 inches wide. Transfer it to a 9-inch pie dish, gently folding it in quarters to make the transfer easier, then unfolding it in the pie dish. Press the crust into the bottom and sides of the dish, folding any overhanging dough over to make a nice edge. Use a fork to crimp the edges if desired, or leave them rustic like we did here. Place the pie dish in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
Prepare the filling:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet, and bake until fragrant and toasted, 12 to 15 minutes. Grind or finely chop the pecans, and set aside. Raise oven temperature to 400°F.
In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt. Place over medium heat and stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl, and let cool for about 10 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and stir to combine. Then add the kahlua and vanilla, and stir until blended. Add the chopped pecans, and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the chilled pie crust, and decorate the top with pecan halves as desired. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325°F and continue baking until the center is set and no longer jiggles when you nudge the pan, 40 to 50 minutes more. Transfer to a rack, and cool completely. Serve room temperature or warmed up, and enjoy!
— To cover the top of the pie with pecan halves as pictured here, you will need about 125g of pecans.