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A pecan pie without the finicky crust — or the too sweet filling

A pecan pie with hot water pastry.
A press-in hot water pastry offers ease in making a pecan pie, here enriched with sweetened condensed milk and nutty malted milk powder.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times; prop styling by Kate Parisian)

Thanksgiving in 2020 is going to look a lot different this year in more ways than one. So instead of doing things the way they’ve always been done, here are recipes that throw tradition out the window — at least just this once — and play around with the expected holiday tropes. You’ll see that the classic dishes can be much easier — and more fun — when you focus on highlighting the qualities in each that really matter.

After almost a year of being at home and the same old, same old, reinvigorate your Thanksgiving table with a fresh outlook on the traditional holiday staples.

Being from the South, I love pecan pie and always will, its sickly sweetness an instant reminder of home. However, I understand that its corn syrup custard can put some people off, especially when overcooked and sweetened with too much extra sugar. In proper balance the sweetness counteracts the bitter skins of the pecans perfectly, and the custard layer adds lusciousness to the tannic nuts.

And while corn syrup will always be an essential ingredient in pecan pie, contributing a smooth, chewy texture to the custard, there’s no reason it has to be the main player. For my malted milk version, I add some sweetened condensed milk, malted milk powder and browned butter to lend a creamy, extra-nutty flavor not unlike a great butter pecan ice cream. Healthy doses of lemon juice and salt help balance the sweetness perfectly.

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As for the crust, I’m against traditional cold pastry crust during the holidays, so instead I offer you this: a hot water pastry crust. It comes together quickly and only requires a brief kneading before you press it into a pie tin. The great thing about this crust is that it allows you to take your time in shaping it, so there’s no stressing over keeping dough cold or tears in the pastry. It also bakes up like a crunchy shortbread cookie, which is an ideal base for the rich, custardy pecan pie filling. An improvement that’s bound to win over plenty more pie lovers to the wonders of pecan pie.

Malted Milk Pecan Pie

Time 1 hour, plus 1 hour 10 minutes unattended
Yields Serves 8


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