Thanksgiving has become my favorite American holiday.
Though when I first arrived to the US, more than 20 years ago to Texas, I had never heard of the celebration. I was a bit perplexed as to why people where roasting turkeys so early in the year (in Mexico turkey is a Christmas tradition). Now, I totally get it.
I love how everything seems to stop and be put on hold. I love how attention shifts almost entirely to food and the kitchen takes center stage. I love the intense emotions that surround the holiday. I love the time of year. And, since Alan left for college, I love that our family will all be together for a few days, mostly eating.
I especially love how Thanksgiving opens the door to celebrate the contributions that immigrants have historically brought to the American table. Now, more than ever, this is deeply meaningful to me.
I love how Thanksgiving embraces and holds onto to classic recipes and traditions that have been passed down through generations. But I also love how it welcomes new and surprising additions that complement the rest.
In that spirit, I created a Dulce de Leche Caramel Cinnamon Chocolate Pecan Pie.
I had never tasted pecan pie before moving to the US. And then about a decade ago, my dear friend Debra introduced us to her dark chocolate version of pecan pie… which we devoured so fast that she started bringing, not one, but two each year. Last year, I told her I was tempted to make it a bit more outrageous and decadent by incorporating Dulce de Leche Caramel to that super gooey filling.
Dulce de leche caramel, or Mexican cajeta, is an iconic ingredient in Mexican kitchens. We Mexicans are crazy about it. Made from goats’ milk, rather than cows’ milk, as in some other countries, it is also made in a traditional way – cooked down slowly as layers of flavor build into each other in a single product. It’s so good you can eat it with a spoon, or top your bananas or apples with it.
In this recipe, dulce de leche caramel makes for a more gooey, more sticky, more chewy filling with a rich, deep and intrinsic rustic caramel taste. The pecans have a better cushion to sit on and be coated in. The chocolate chunks can shine even more.
Below is the recipe, and above is a video clip from an upcoming episode of the new season, where I make it. And we all eat it. We are going to be making it again for our Thanksgiving table, and my hopes are that you will give it a try too…
For the crust:
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more to work the dough
- Pinch of kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 stick (or 1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1/4 cup cold water
For the filling:
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup Dulce de Leche or Cajeta
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 2 cups (or 8 ounces) pecan halves, coarsely chopped
- 2 ounces (or 1/3 cup) chopped bittersweet chocolate
To prepare the crust:
- Place the flour, salt, sugar and diced cold butter in a food processor. Process a few times, until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. Add the cold water and process again a few times. The dough should become more moist. Turn out of the food processor and gather into a ball. Lightly dust your countertop with flour, and knead the dough 3 to 4 times until it comes together. Shape into a flat ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for until firm, about an hour.
To prepare the filling:
- In a bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until foamy. Incorporate the Dulce de Leche, brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter and salt and whisk until it is well blended. Add the chopped pecans and chocolate and mix well.
To assemble the pie:
- Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lightly dust your countertop, hands and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough into about an 11” to 12” round. Place it in a pie mold, pressing the bottom and sides into the mold and crimp the edge on top.
- Pour the filling into pie crust. Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Bake for 55 minutes, or until the pie is set and edges have lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.