Pumpkins aren’t the only vegetables that can be transformed into custard pies. You can make custard pies with all sort of squashes and root vegetables. My family even makes a killer zucchini custard pie every summer. This Thanksgiving Carrot Pie with Pecan Crust from Joshua McFadden’s Six Seasons has been a family favorite for Thanksgiving the last several years. The color is a bright, almost neon orange. If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving in the backyard like us for social distancing, this pie looks radiant in the Southern California sunshine. The custard is rich and flavorful, and the pecan crust adds a toasty, comforting complexity.
thanksgiving carrot pie with pecan crust
2 pounds carrots, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or crème fraiche
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup pecans
1 2/3 cups (7.25 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 oz very cold, unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons very cold water
Put the carrots in a large saucepan, cover with water, add 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to a gentle boil and cook until the carrots are thoroughly tender, 20 -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 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 caramelly, 5-6 minutes. Be careful because this caramel is very hot.
Carefully add 1/4 cup cream 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 cup 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 really smooth. Set aside until your pie shell is ready.
Make the pecan pie dough. Put the pecans in a food processor and pulse until they are very fine and uniform, through 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 pieces is the size of a small pea.
With the 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 it’s still dry and crumbly or hold together and feels moist. If it is still 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 heal of your hand and then with a dough scraper or this 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 ok 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 temp for a few minutes before rolling to avoid cracking.
Lightly flour the work surface and roll out the pecan dough to a 14-inch round. Gently transfer it to a pie plate. Tuck the excess pastry under itself to make a neat thicker edge. Using two fingers of one 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 fridge.
Heat the oven to 400F. 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 temp to 325F. 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 temp to 300F. Pour the filling into the partially baked crust and bake at 325F 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 don’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.