My mom Wilma was a high school home ec teacher and for the most part, I inherited the cooking gene from her. A few months ago I made a blueberry pie to celebrate the Pruitt’s new baby, Paige. Eating a decent-sized piece, my husband “acted” like he loved the pie I served at Jesse and Mary Jo’s. But a couple days later, he told my crust was really doughy and ‘tough to eat’. So my life’s work was to learn to make a decent pie crust.
Brainard Cooper is the Pie Master. He should retire from USC and open a pie shop in Columbia, SC. Just don’t ask him to make a peach pie on July 4th!
When I was at his house in South Carolina for a week in October, he decided it was high time for me to learn to make a pie crust as part of a really good pecan pie! We didn’t start small – we decided to make 7 pies to donate to the Columbia Flood Victims (five to the Downtown Church and two to WLTX for their excellent flood coverage as they worked around the clock for 10 days!)
The recipes for both the crust and the pecan pie filling follow below. Brainard doesn’t allow people to mess around in his kitchen – let’s go over a few of his sure-fire tips to making the best pecan pie ever!
First, wash the pecans. Store bought or from a road side stand in the South – thoroughly wash the pecans with water (no soap silly!) and pat them dry.
Then spread them out on a cookie sheet and toast for 30 minutes at 350. Make sure you turn the cookie sheet once in awhile.
Please buy your pie tins ahead of time! We got these from Piggly Wiggly for 50 cents each! Keep a good stock of pie tins on hand – nothing stinks worse than promising someone a pie and Publix being out of pie tins (trust me it happened!).
Measure your ingredients exactly. If it says a cup of sugar, fill the cup to the rim! And another little tip – seriously remember what you put in bowl when mixing – I started one pie with a cup of sugar in the bowl and ended mixing in another cup because I forgot I had put the sugar in already – very sweet pie!
DO NOT get water in your cups between ingredients. Nothing ruins a pie like water in the mix when it isn’t called for! Dry the cups thoroughly or use another clean cup! If you are making pies with Brainard you better remember these last two rules. He is a real stickler about both!
Cut 1 tablespoon pieces of butter, place on wax paper and freeze. Put 1 tablespoon pieces of Crisco on wax paper and also freeze. The butter and Crisco will melt and cause steam to be in the pie, which will make the crust even flakier.
There is a secret ingredient in Brainard’s pies. When he reads this blog on the computing machine, he won’t be happy I told you, but it’s Southern Praline Mix.
His sister Lynne bought him a bottle of it for Christmas a couple of years ago in Savannah. If you don’t live in the South, you can find it online for $8 and it will last you quite awhile because you only use 2 teaspoons for each pie! Click here to find it!
Bake your pie on the lower level of the oven and turn them a quarter of a turn every 15 minutes. This cooks the crust more evenly on the bottom. You can bake two at a time because who ever wants just one pecan pie!
SINGLE PIE CRUST (click on the name for the entire recipe)
- 1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
- 1/2 t salt
- 4 T frozen Crisco (in 1 T pieces)
- 4 T frozen butter (in 1 T pieces)
- 3-6 T ice cold water
In your food processor (with the dough blade) put the flour and salt in and gently pulse a couple of times. Start adding the Crisco and the butter pieces, one by one and pulse a few times. Add a tablespoon at a time of ice cold water until it forms a ball while running the food processor.
Stop blending and take out and form into a round ball and then cut in half.
Flour the surface and then roll out half of the dough, turning over a couple of times. Roll pie crust on to the roller and place in the greased pie crust. Drape in the pie tin and cut the extra off around it.
Tuck the dough under to plump up crust.
Put in the frig until you are ready to add the pecan mix.
Clean out the food processor and get ready to make the pecan pie filling.
PECAN PIE FILLING (click on the name for the entire recipe)
- 1/2 cup Karo® Light Corn Syrup
- 1/2 cup Karo® Dark Corn Syrup
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 T butter, melted
- 1 t Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) toasted pecans (see above!)
Put the sugar, eggs and vanilla in the food processor (mixing blade). Pulse. Add the mixture of dark and light Karo syrup and melted butter. Pulse and then add the toasted pecans.
Add to the chilled pie crust. Place the pie in the pre-heated oven (350) for 1 – 1 hour and 10 minutes, turning a quarter of the way every 15 minutes.
Take out and let cool. If you are going to eat today, you can leave out on the cabinet. If you are going to eat later, you can put in the refrigerator or the freezer.
Why Travel, Cooking and DIY? A creative type, I have always loved painting and decorating as a hobby. Upcycling is a real passion. My mom was a Home Ec teacher when we were growing up. I learned a lot from her and because I love hosting get-togethers, I had to step up my game in the kitchen as well. And lastly, my love of travel comes from my Grandma Schmitt.
An Illinois native, I worked in the White House Communications Agency early in my career (President Reagan), prior to returning to Illinois State University to finish my undergraduate and Master's. After a couple of post-graduate internships (minor league baseball and Big Ten Conference), I then worked in college athletics full-time for more than 22 years -- first at the University of South Carolina for 15 years and then at Santa Clara University for the last seven years. We moved to Tampa, Florida in Dec., 2016 after spending 8.5 years in Northern California.