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Holiday Organic Synthesis: Chocolate Pecan Pie

Here’s a recipe that I’ve put up here for the Thanksgiving and holiday season – I’m at home today, and I’m going to be following this exact prep a bit later in the day. I’ve made it for years this way, as have some friends, so you can consider this the Org Syn procedure for chocolate pecan pie:
Melt 2 squares (2 oz.) baking chocolate (see below if you can’t find this) with 3 tablespoons (about 43g) butter in a microwave or double boiler. Combine 1 cup (240 mL) corn syrup (see below if you don’t have this) and 3/4 cup sugar (150g) in a saucepan and bring to boil for 2 minutes, then mix the melted chocolate and butter into it. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat three eggs, then add the chocolate mixture to them, slowly and with vigorous stirring (you don’t want to end up making scrambled eggs with chocolate sauce).
Add one teaspoon (5 mL) of vanilla, and mix in about 1 1/2 cups of broken-up pecans, which I think should be about 150g. You can push that to nearly two cups and still get the whole mixture into a deep-dish pie shell, and I recommend going heavy on the nuts, since the pecan/goop ratio is one thing that distinguishes a home-made pie from some of the abominations that people will sell you. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes at 375 F (190C), and let cool completely before you attack it. Note that this product has an extremely high energy density – it’s not shock-sensitive or anything, but I wouldn’t want to see what it would do to a calorimeter.
Note for non-US readers: the baking chocolate can be replaced by 40 grams of cocoa powder (not the Dutch-processed kind) with 28 grams of some sort of shortening (unsalted butter, vegetable shortening, oil, etc.) If you don’t have corn syrup, then just use a total of 350g white sugar instead, and add 60 mL water to the recipe.

24 comments on “Holiday Organic Synthesis: Chocolate Pecan Pie”

  1. mad says:

    No application of the rotovap from the other day?! 🙂

  2. RM says:

    Just a note that corn syrup is the US term for glucose syrup, which, if you have it, is better to use in this recipe than sucrose syrup (the white sugar and water).
    The reason being that glucose and sucrose have different hygroscopic properties, so in the syrupy/semi-solid filling of a traditional pecan pie, means that there will be textural differences between a filling using glucose and one using sucrose. I think even invert syrup (equimolar glucose and fructose; e.g. Golden syrup) would be better than sucrose for this reason, though you may have to adjust for differences in water content between US corn syrup and local invert syrup

  3. Hap says:

    A $9K rotovap makes for an expensive chocolate pecan pie.

  4. HK says:

    The ideal pecan/goop ratio… One day, guys, one day…

  5. bromine says:

    Chocolate pecan pie has become quite popular these days.
    In my opinion, pecan pie is a recipie best left unmodified.

  6. marmot says:

    For a slight change in protocol: If you add a bit of bourbon, it makes the pie sort of a New Orleans-style ala Emeril. Add it when you add the vanilla. (awesome!)

  7. Ian says:

    I second RM on glucose syrup (golden syrup) vs sucrose syrup (sugar syrup) in baking/cooking. I like fluffier cake, so sugar syrup would be the choice..
    Oh, I never had choc pecan cake before. Would love to try
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Ian, Australia.

  8. Brian says:

    Thanks for the recipe, Derek. I love pecan pie. Incidently as a Canadian, I initially thought that when I started work in the States, that I would have to convert all my measurements of reagents to US Imperial values because I knew about how the metric system wasn’t easily accepted. That still is worth a laugh. I appreciate the conversions.
    Have a Happy Thanksgiving.
    Brian

  9. Anonymous BMS Researcher says:

    A wonderful variation I discovered in Vermont: maple-walnut pie. Like pecan pie, but with maple syrup as the main sweetener and walnuts instead of pecans.

  10. Could you tell us how you throw your sinker Derek?
    You had a decent season last year, good luck in 2011!

  11. ben says:

    This pie just went in the oven for American thanksgiving with the Canadian family in New Zealand. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for such a bulletproof prep and thus far it has come off without a hitch, well except that our corn syrup we get here has the consistency of decades old hi-vac oil… so it is essentially glue but I persevered.
    A tip for anyone making their own crust, unless you want a moment like when you’re putting 5 reactions on at once and realise you didn’t collect enough DCM from the still do it before the filling… not during :/

  12. Peej says:

    Woah. Chemistry point…. from my extensive homebrewing days, I recall that Corn Syrup is NOT glucose syrup at all, but mostly fructose and sucrose. Fructose is not good for fermenting, where glucose is… and corn syrup was always best avoided in brewing. If I’m wrong on this one, I spent a whole lotta time traveling around to find glucose powder (corn sugar) rather that running to the local market for syrup…

  13. Peej says:

    Woah. Chemistry point…. from my extensive homebrewing days, I recall that Corn Syrup is NOT glucose syrup at all, but mostly fructose and sucrose. Fructose is not good for fermenting, where glucose is… and corn syrup was always best avoided in brewing. If I’m wrong on this one, I spent a whole lotta time traveling around to find glucose powder (corn sugar) rather that running to the local market for syrup…

  14. CialisizeMe says:

    Made the pie, turned out great. A real hit among both kids and adults. I ended up using brown sugar though, switched the sugar/syrup measurements, and also went heavy on the pecans- including a couple of rings of whole pecans on the top for decoration. I am a traditional pecan pie lover, and even I loved it. Thanks.

  15. Stephen says:

    Best pecan pie recipe:
    Joy of Cooking, just double the nuts.
    Preheat oven 450F
    Bake pie dough in 9″ pan for 7 min.
    (2 cups flour, 1.5 sticks butter, 1t salt, 1/4 cup water)
    Then let cool. Turn oven to 375F.
    In a bowl, mix:
    3 eggs, beaten
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup corn syrup
    1t vanilla extract
    1/3 cup melted butter. Mix. Then add:
    *2* cups raw pecans. Mix.
    Add to pie shell.
    Bake at 375F for 45 min. Then let cool.
    Enjoy!

  16. If you don’t have corn syrup handy, you can just substitute karo syrup (which can generally be found in the kitchen cupboards in most houses). I don’t know what differences there may be in chemical composition between karo syrup and corn syrup, but long experience indicates recipes that call for corn syrup consistently work fine with karo syrup substituted.

  17. DevicesRUs says:

    Karo is corn syrup. Not HFCS but plain old ordinary corn syrup.

  18. Aniko says:

    Great recipe! It suits not only Thanksgiving dinner, but the Christmas menu as well. I just tried it over the holidays, and had a great success with it. http://www.simbiosys.com/blog/2011/01/04/start-the-new-year-with-a-great-new-release-archem-2011/#comment-1554

  19. bbooooooya says:

    A refinement I tried this year on the pecan pie (which I just read in a cookbook) is to roast the pecans before mixing. I just spread them out on a cookie sheet for abt 10 minutes while the oven was coming to temp: I think it added a ‘nuttier’ flavor to the pie.

  20. PiLover says:

    This is the exact same recipe my family has used for years. Add 120 mL of Bourbon for the perfect Derby Day Pie.

  21. Paul Brinkley says:

    A few things, from a noobie baker (and an even nooblier chemist):
    2 squares of baking chocolate appears to be 1 oz, not 2. (I’m about to use 4 squares, 2oz now.) Also, I’m using Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet; there were several other varieties I could have chosen.
    I used a standard 9″ pie crust.
    40-45min at 375 was WAYYYY too long. I stopped the clock at 30 min when it was looking pretty burnt.

  22. Paul Brinkley says:

    A few things, from a noobie baker (and an even nooblier chemist):
    2 squares of baking chocolate appears to be 1 oz, not 2. (I’m about to use 4 squares, 2oz now.) Also, I’m using Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet; there were several other varieties I could have chosen. Used Karo syrup as Jonadab suggested.
    I should have taken the Karo / sugar / chocolate / butter mixture off the heat as soon as I blended them. I poured them (slowly) into the egg while still so hot that they were curdling the whites faster than I could whisk.
    I used a standard 9″ pie crust.
    40-45min at 375 was WAYYYY too long. I stopped the clock at 30 min when it was looking pretty burnt.
    Going to try again with the same chocolate and dimensions, and maybe 20min at 375. (Might be 30-40 if you put it in right after you turn the oven on; not sure.)

  23. Paul Brinkley says:

    (Hrmph; sorry about the double post; first one looked like it would time out. *shakefist*)
    Also, just FYI: shortbread 9″ crust, brand name pre-made. I like a homemade crust as much as the next guy, but after making my own ginger snap crusts, I didn’t feel like going through all that for science this time.

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