La Deliziosa Vita

Tired of pumpkin pie? Change it up with this easy pecan pie with bourbon whipped cream

Easy-to-make gourmet pecan pie for the holidays. Photo: Lesyy

love pumpkin pie, so that’s what I make for Thanksgiving. By Christmas, I’m pumpkin pied out and so is everyone else. That’s when I turn to my other holiday favorite, pecan pie.

Many people don’t like pecan pie because the filling is too sweet, but there’s an easy remedy: Cut the sugar with bourbon. Like any time you cook with alcohol, you want to use something you would drink. Good bourbon is pricy because the process is incredibly complex. Bourbon makers must adhere to strict laws developed over a long and storied southern history. It’s a labor of love, passion, and respect, and once you have good bourbon — be it on the rocks or in this pie — you won’t settle for less.

There are many myths about bourbon, but the most common is it must be produced in Kentucky. In fact, bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States. Only whiskey made in Kentucky, however, can be labeled Kentucky Straight Whiskey. For whiskey to be bourbon, the mash must contain at least 51 percent corn, while the “flavor grain” is malted barley, wheat, or rye. Like sourdough bread, it starts with a mother mash taken from a previous batch and set out to sour overnight. Bourbon must be aged for a minimum of two years (many premium bourbons are aged 5 to 12, and as long as 27). Every batch must be aged in a brand-new white oak barrel, which has been charred inside on a level from 1 to 4.

My favorite bourbon is made with rye, which adds a dry, spicy depth often not found in other bourbons. As for bourbon brands, I like Bulleit, which has a great story behind its high quality. In 1987, Tom Bulleit left a successful law practice to revive the bourbon recipe created by his great-great-grandfather Augustus Bulleit, a Kentucky tavern keeper in the 1830s. He produced a high-rye whiskey between 1830 and 1860, which was the inspiration for Bulleit rye, a straight rye whisky made from 95 percent rye and 5 percent malted barley. All of Bulleit’s bourbons are made with limestone-filtered Kentucky water in charred oak barrels, but the high rye content is their trademark (its many awards include the San Francisco World Spirits Competition Double Gold Medal in 2011 and 2013, and Gold Medal in 2014 and 2015). Deep russet in color with a smoky aroma, Bulleit rye is spicy yet smooth, complex yet drinkable, with hints of vanilla and honey that complement the toasted pecans in the pie.

Pecan Pie

Serves 8–10

1 cup maple syrup

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon molasses

2 tablespoons Bulleit rye

or other bourbon

4 tablespoons unsalted

butter (cut into ½ inch


½ teaspoon kosher salt

6 large egg yolks, lightly


1½ cups pecans, shelled,

toasted, and chopped

1 9-inch unbaked pie

shell, chilled in pie

plate for 30 minutes

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine syrup, sugar, cream, molasses, and bourbon, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves, about three minutes. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool 5 minutes.

Whisk butter and salt into syrup mixture. Slowly drizzle in egg yolks, whisking constantly until thoroughly incorporated. (Mixture should be smooth and shiny.) Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat, toast the pecans, stirring or tossing constantly, until oils are released and they are lightly toasted (about 1 minute).

Pour pecans in a single layer onto cutting board and, using a chef’s knife, roughly chop them. Scatter pecan pieces into bottom of pie shell. Carefully pour filling over pecans. Place pie into 450-degree oven and immediately reduce temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until filling is set and center jiggles slightly when pie is gently shaken, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool pie on rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate until set, about three hours and up to one day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Bourbon Whipped Cream

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons Bulleit rye

or other bourbon

1½ tablespoons light

brown sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla


With hand mixer or stand mixer on medium speed, beat cream for 2 minutes. Add bourbon, sugar, and vanilla, and continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Whipped cream can be refrigerated for four hours.

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