Heirloom Grits-Pecan Pie

September 12, 2016

heirloom-grits-pecan-pie-whole-with-knife-and-pie-server

A match made in down South heaven—grits and pecans. We're marrying them up for the most gracious pie this end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Incorporating grits with pecan pie filling is nearly genius. The pudding-soft texture of our Hickory King Dent grits softens the intense sugar blast that overwhelms some pecan pie experiences. A dribble of apple cider vinegar rounds out the flavor, a trick borrowed from another Southern favorite, vinegar pie.

The pie crust is graced with a bit of corn flour made from our heirloom grits—just couldn't resist! Corn flour is easy to make if you have a spice grinder. If not, use purchased corn flour (not cornstarch), or substitute wheat flour. We like a 50/50 butter-shortening blend, but an all-butter crust is fine. If making pie crust isn’t your thing, feel free to use a pre-made crust. No judgements here!
       The recipe turns out a 10-inch pie slightly thinner than the average pecan pie. You certainly can make a 9-inch pie if prefer thicker slices. You’ll have a bit of extra pie dough... the chickens will love it!
 

Makes a 10-inch pie  |  Cooking time: About 2 hours with some overlapping steps

How to Make Corn Flour

Put ¼ cup of Barkley’s Mill Stone Ground Grits in a spice grinder or food mill and process until you have a very fine powder. Be sure to shake the mill as you grind. Remove the lid, scrape the sides, then grind again. Sift the corn flour through a fine mesh strainer and measure out 2 tablespoons.


Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground, sifted corn flour (see How to Make Corn Flour, above)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 tablespoons cold shortening or lard, divided into small lumps
  • 7–10 tablespoons ice water

For the Pie

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup, cane syrup, sorghum syrup
  • 1½ teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 cup pecan halves

stone-ground heirloom-grits-pecan-pie-ingredients

Method

Make the Grits

Combine the water, grits, and salt in a small saucepan. Stir to loosen hulls and chaff, wait a minute, then skim the surface. (For info about chaff, check out Grits Basics: 5 Tips to Make Perfect Stone Ground Grits.)

Place the pan over medium-high heat and stir the grits frequently as they come to a full rolling boil—6 to 7 minutes. Lower the heat until you get a low but steady simmer and cook the grits for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the grits are smooth and creamy—usually 35 to 50 minutes. Add a small amount of water if the grits get too thick while cooking. Remove the lid and let the grits cool.

Make the Pie Crust

Combine the flour, corn flour, sugar, and salt in a wide mixing bowl.  |  Alternately, combine them in a food processor. Scatter the butter and shortening pieces across the flour and use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse cornmeal with some pea-size clumps.  |  Alternately, In a food processor, pulse the ingredients in short bursts then transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl.

Drizzle the ice water across the flour—1 tablespoon at a time—and stir with a fork to draw the dough together. Once most of the mixture has joined into clumps, use your hands to press everything into a ball. Flatten out the dough into a disk about ¾ inch thick, sprinkling with flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes—an hour or more is best, up to 2 days is fine.

Unwrap the chilled dough disk and dust both sides with flour. Use a floured rolling pin to flatten the dough, working from the center outward, until it’s about ⅛ inch thick. Fold the dough in half and lay it across one side of the pie pan. Try not to stretch it. Unfold the crust and gently work it into the pan. Trim away excess dough, leaving about 1 inch overhanging. Fold and tuck the extra dough under to leave a generous edge that you can crimp or flute however you like.

For best results, place the crust in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes—or about 15 minutes in the freezer—before assembling and baking the pie.

Make the Filling

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and corn syrup and bring to a low boil. Using a whisk, stir the simmering mixture for 3 to 4 minutes while it lightly caramelizes. When the syrup gets foamy and starts to rise, remove the pan from the heat.

Stir in the cooked grits, the vanilla, and vinegar and let the mixture cool until you can comfortably hold your finger in it. Once cooled, whisk in the eggs. Tip: if the mixture is too hot, the eggs will curdle—meaning, cook!

Make the Pie

Preheat the oven to 325˚ F, placing a rack in the lower third.

Sprinkle the pecan pieces in a single layer across the bottom of the crust. Gently pour the grits batter over the pecans, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the mixing bowl. Smooth the batter evenly inside the crust.

Dump the pecan halves into the bowl of remaining batter and use your fingers to coat the nuts (this will make them crispy). Arrange the pecan halves on top of the pie, starting from the center and working in a circle outward. Don’t worry if some sink, they’ll rise back up during baking.

Bake the pie until the filling has set, usually 45 to 55 minutes. Timing depends on your oven. The center should be a tad jiggly yet spring back when pressed.

Tip: Keep in mind that a custard pie continues to set after it comes out of the oven. If unsure, err on the side of undercooked than overcooked.

The pie continues to set and firm up as it cools so it's best to let it cool to room temperature before slicing. Cooling may take an hour or more. Serve Heirloom Grits-Pecan Pie with whipped cream or ice cream, if you like.

sliced-stone-ground-heirloom-grits-pecan-pie-with-knife-and-pie-server

Crust Browning Tip

About 25 to 30 minutes into baking, the crust may show signs of over browning. Be prepared! Pull a piece of foil slightly larger than the pie pan, fold it in half, and cut a hole roughly ½ inch smaller than the pie. Unfold, and lay it loosely over the pie as it bakes.




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