There are few things more Southern than a bourbon pecan pie. If you’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying this decadent treat, well, bless your heart. Sweet brown sugar, earthy pecans, and a rich blend of dates and maple syrup create a decadent flavor that’s sliced right down the middle by a sharp bite of Kentucky bourbon. Perfect any time of year, this pecan pie is bound to leave anyone as full as a tick.
Many pecan pie recipes call for corn syrup -- sometimes even calling for multiple varieties -- but given corn syrup’s well-deserved bad rep, this recipe swaps the syrup with a much healthier alternative: dates and organic maple syrup. By processing Medjool dates into a thick, caramel-like paste and mixing it with organic maple syrup, the pecan pie sets beautifully and contains fresh fruit instead of manufactured syrup. The end result is still just as rich and sweet but far less damaging to you and your taste-testers’ bodies.
Another variation of this pie recipe is the crust -- there’s no gluten! A gluten-free pie crust might make a Southern traditionalist clutch their pearls, but this crust is just as flaky, buttery, and is a much friendlier option to those with gluten intolerances and allergies. Pie for everyone!
A final note: don’t let the prep time fool you. Most of the time put into this pie is spent letting the ingredients marinate with one another or cool -- your total time elbows-deep in dough and filling will equal roughly thirty minutes or so. This is one of my favorite types of desserts in the sense that it looks way more complicated to make than it actually is. So if you’ve only been dealing with pre-rolled crusts and 2-3 ingredient fillings, don’t worry: this pie is a bird’s nest on the ground.
Whisk together your gluten-free flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add 1-1.5” chunks of cold butter to the flour and toss, making sure not to touch the butter.
Slowly add ice water in small amounts, using a fork to carefully mix the water with the dry ingredients. Continue adding water until the majority of dough loses its crumble. When the dough is sticking to itself, it’s ready to roll.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out your pie dough into one large rectangle. Carefully fold the rectangle in half, then roll out again. Continue this process 2-3 times more.
Fold your dough twice to create a small square. Wrap in saran wrap and stick in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to chill.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add approximately 12 pitted Medjool dates to a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated.
In another large mixing bowl, combine whole pecans, bourbon, and maple syrup. Set aside to soak -- this will be your pie topping.
Remove the dates from the stove and transfer to a blender or food processor. Blend or process until no large chunks remain; you want as smooth of a paste as possible.
Transfer date paste to a large mixing bowl. Begin adding ingredients one by one, making sure to fully incorporate each ingredient before moving onto the next. Add in this order: syrup, bourbon, melted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and spices. Fold in chopped pecans. Set aside and let all those delicious flavors marinate.
Remove your pie dough from the freezer and roll out into a large circle on a lightly floured surface. Loosely roll your pie crust onto your rolling pin and transfer to an 8-10” pie dish. Tuck excess crust under itself and pinch around the edges to create a fluted edge.
Place a piece of parchment paper over your pie crust and cover in pie weights, lentils, or dry beans. Place in the oven and blind bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and carefully lift parchment paper and pie weights/lentils/beans out of the dish. Use a fork to poke holes in the bottom of the pie crust. Return to the oven for an extra 5-7 minutes.
Remove from the oven, set pie dish aside, and reduce heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Slowly pour the pie filling into the crust. Take your pie topping pecans and, one by one, gently place them lengthwise along the outermost edge of the pie. Continue until you have a solid ring of pecans where your filling meets your crust. Repeat this process just under the ring you’ve created; continue until the entire pie is covered.
Carefully place in the oven and bake for 75-90 minutes. Once fully baked, the pie’s edges will be firm and set; the center can still have a little bit of a wiggle. It will continue to set while it cools.
Let the pie cool for at least 2 hours before serving. Slice and pair with a fat dollop of vanilla ice cream or a warm cup of coffee (with a nip of leftover bourbon).
This recipe makes a gluten-free pie crust, but it isn’t integral to the pie itself. Swap out steps #1-4 for your favorite “normal” pie crust recipe, or use a premade crust if you’re short on time. Any and all crusts will need to be blind baked so they can cook thoroughly underneath the ooey, gooey maple bourbon pecan filling.
To prevent your pecan topping from sinking into your filling before it's baked, carefully drop your pecans from 2-3” above the filling. It will take a little bit of aiming, but using this method lets the pecans drop onto the filling as opposed to being pressed into the filling. If you drop a pecan off-kilter, use a toothpick or fork to gently maneuver it back into position.
Get creative with your pecan designs! I like the look of stacked circles, but you can make one big spiral, straight lines, zig-zags, and anything in between. Even the messiest of pecan designs isn’t going to be enough to stop someone from coming back for a second or third slice of this delicious treat -- we promise.
When looking for a bourbon to use for this pie recipe, don’t worry about going top shelf. I used Makers Mark for this recipe, but only because I planned on drinking the other half of the pint. Mid to low shelf bourbons like Kentucky Tavern, Old Granddad, or Benchmark work just as well for getting that slight bourbon-y bite to your filling (without taking a chunk out of your wallet).