Instead of doing things the way they’ve always been done, here are recipes for Thanksgiving 2020 that throw tradition out the window — at least just this once — and show how the classics can be much easier — and more fun — when you focus on highlighting the qualities in each that really matter.
Making this hot pastry helps you avoid having to make finicky, traditional cold-water pastry, but if you’re a diehard for the latter, you can also bake this filling in it. Simply blind-bake your cold pastry and proceed with the recipe below. Whichever route you take, make sure you’re using a true 9-inch pan — measure the diameter from inside rim to inside rim; the height from the bottom to the rim should be 1 1/4 inches; the volume should be 4 cups.
Nestle’s Carnation brand of malted milk powder, which is easy to find, has a more pronounced flavor than the British brand Horlicks — look for it next to the hot cocoa mixes or in the drinks aisle.
Make the crust: Place the flour in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan or skillet, heat the butter over medium heat, swirling until the last solid piece is melted. Add the salt and 2 tablespoons of water and return the mixture to a simmer, swirling to combine. Immediately pour the hot butter over the flour; reserve the pan on the stove. Stir with a spoon until the mixture forms a clumpy dough. (Resist the urge to add more liquid; the dough will seem too dry at first, but continue mixing, smashing the dough into any pockets of flour, until all the flour is absorbed.) Clean off the spoon with your hand and knead the dough — don’t worry, it will be warm but not too hot to handle — in the bowl until it comes together into a smooth ball, 1 minute.
Immediately transfer the dough ball to a 9-inch metal pie pan. Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, smoothing it out with your fingers and creating a small levee of dough around the rim. (Take your time here since you can shape and reshape the dough as much as you want; creating a levee of dough at the rim and having an even thickness throughout is what’s most important.) Crimp the edge with your fingers or a fork, if you like, then prick the bottom and side all over with the tines of a fork. Place the pan in the refrigerator and chill until the dough is firm, at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the chilled pastry with a sheet of foil or parchment paper, then pour in 3 cups of raw rice or dry beans to use as pie weights. Transfer the pastry directly to the oven and bake until the crust is golden brown at the edge, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil or paper and weights and continue baking the crust until the bottom no longer looks raw, about 5 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Let the crust cool a little while you make the filling.
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and malted milk powder until evenly combined (doing this first prevents the powder from clumping). Add the corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, vanilla and salt, and stir until smooth. Heat the butter in the reserved saucepan over medium heat. Once fully melted, continue cooking, stirring with a whisk to scrape the bottom of the pan occasionally, until the butter smells nutty and its solids turn light golden brown, 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Immediately pour the butter into the bowl, scraping the bottom to make sure you get out as many browned solids as possible. Whisk until smooth, then whisk in the eggs until fully incorporated; stir in the pecans.
Pour the filling into the crust and return the pie to the oven. Bake until the filling is slightly raised and barely wobbles when tapped from the side and the crust is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing and serving.
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