Carrot Pie with a Pecan Crust
“I eat a lot of carrots—by themselves, pickled, in salads, grilled, in cake—and so why not in a pie?” asks Chef Joshua McFadden, executive chef and owner of Portland restaurant Ava Gene’s. He explains, “The pie has a soft, delicate texture reminiscent of a pumpkin pie (though the slices won't hold their shape as well as pumpkin pie), but it's distinctly carrot and deliberately not too sweet. The pecan crust adds a touch of richness.” Serve it with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream, if you like. A plain slice is also very good for breakfast.
For the pecan crust:
- 1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) pecans
- 1 2/3 (7 1/4 oz./205 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. (2 oz./60 g) sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) (4 oz./125 g) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- 2 Tbs. very cold water
For the filling:
- 2 lb. (1 kg) carrots (about 6 large), trimmed, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz./375 ml) heavy cream or crème fraîche
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
For garnish (optional):
- 3 Tbs. chopped candied ginger
- 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) chopped toasted pecans
To make the crust, put the pecans in a food processor and pulse until they are very fine and uniform, though not to the point of pecan butter. Add the flour, sugar and salt and pulse a few times to blend. Add the butter and pulse again until the largest piece is the size of a small pea.
With the food processor running, drizzle in the water and process until the mixture climbs up the sides of the processor. Remove the top and squeeze a big pinch of the dough to see whether it's still dry and crumbly or holds together and feels moist. If it is dry, pulse in a few more drops of water.
When the dough is the right consistency, dump it on a lightly floured counter and gather it into a ball. Push the dough away from you with the heel of your hand and then, with a dough scraper or thin spatula, scrape it back into a ball. Repeat for a few strokes until the dough starts to come together. Don't overwork it; it's okay if it's still slightly crumbly. Shape it into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for about 30 minutes; if you chill it longer, leave at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling it to avoid cracking. At this point the dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
To make the filling, put the carrots in a large saucepan, cover with water, add 2 tsp. salt and bring to boil. Adjust the heat to a gentle boil and cook until the carrots are thoroughly tender, 20 to 35 minutes, depending on the age and shape of your carrots. Drain well and transfer to a blender.
Put the sugar and 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) water into the saucepan, stir to moisten the sugar and cook over medium-high heat, without stirring but with a few swirls of the pan, until the sugar syrup has turned a dark amber and smells very caramel-y, 5 to 6 minutes. Be careful because the caramel is very hot.
Carefully add 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) of the cream—it may spatter—and whisk until the caramel is smooth. Add the butter and a pinch more salt. Pour the caramel sauce into the blender with the carrots. Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups (10 oz./310 ml) cream, the whole eggs (which you've cracked one at a time into a separate bowl, just in case any shell gets in them) and egg yolk. Blend on high until the filling is very smooth. Set aside until your pie shell is ready.
Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the pecan dough into a 14-inch (35-cm) round. Roll it gently around your rolling pin, move it over a 9-inch (23-cm) pie plate and gently unroll it into position, allowing it to drape into the corners without stretching. Tuck the excess pastry under itself to make a neat thicker edge. Using two fingers of one hand and one finger of the other hand, work your way around the edge to flute it. Chill the pie shell for 30 minutes in the freezer or 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Preheat an oven to 400°F (200°C). Line the pie shell with foil or parchment paper and fill with dried rice or beans. If you're using foil, fold it toward the center so it doesn't get stuck in the pastry. Bake until the edges are puffed and very light brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (165°C). Carefully remove the foil and weights and bake for another 20 minutes to dry out the center of the crust. Make sure the crust edges aren't getting too brown. If so, reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C).
Pour the filling into the partially baked crust and bake at 325°F until the filling is just set. It will still be very soft, but the top will have puffed a bit and when you shake the pie, you won't see actual rolling liquid in the center, just a bit of a jiggle. This should take about 1 hour.
Let the pie cool completely before cutting and serving. If desired, garnish the top of the pie with the ginger and pecans just before serving. Makes one 9-inch (23-cm) pie; serves 6 to 8.
Adapted from Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, by Joshua McFadden with Martha Holmberg (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017.