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Recipe: chocolate espresso pecan pie

My passport expired last year. I didn’t rush out to renew it because I wasn’t going anywhere, I had no hair for several months, and didn’t want security trouble because of a bald photo ID when I would later have hair. Even when my passport is renewed (with new curly head of hair – thanks, chemo) I’m pretty content to stay put this summer. Our summers are brief in the mountains, but they are oh so amazing. Places with long drawn out summers are absolutely miserable to me: 1) too hot 2) too much sun 3) humid (that is the worst) 4) buggy 5) too many people. Jeremy and I looked at one another this weekend, bikes paused as we overlooked the expanse of green pine forests draped on the flanks of giant snow-capped mountains and asked, “Why on Earth would we want to leave THIS?” As we rode our bikes down a dirt road back toward home, we passed a gentleman walking his dog. He waved hello and shouted, “Another beautiful day in paradise!” That is where we live. Paradise.

melting out slowly

a very happy place

Summer looms on the horizon and I am relishing having my health back this year. There are still various issues to deal with, but they are minor compared to last year’s medical clusterfuck. We’re trail running, hiking, biking, and living what my pal, Cindy calls, “other people’s vacations”. While some can’t stand to stay put, we are more than happy to have the opportunity to explore more of our backyard, our home. Some people get that. Others don’t.

she gets it

Speaking of “getting it”, I never quite understood the appeal of pecan pie. Growing up in the south, you see it everywhere – that overly sweet, gooey, nutty, mess of a pie. That’s what I always thought after one bite and that’s where it ended… with one bite. So what was it that drew me to this caffeinated twist on a pecan pie? I honestly could not tell you, but I can say that I’m glad it called to me.

blend butter into the flour, salt, and sugar

add enough water so it just sticks together

The recipe comes from Fine Cooking, my all-time favorite cooking rag which boasts great recipes and gorgeous glossies. It called for half butter and half shortening in the crust, but I only occasionally have shortening in the cupboard and I *always* have butter in my fridge or freezer (you know that, right?). It’s all butter, this one. I chilled the crust for a day and proceeded to make the pie the following day.

rolling out the pie crust


I like pie, but I don’t love pie. That might be why my pie crusts are always “rustic” rather than “pretty”. We just don’t hang out that much to know each other well enough. But it is nice when we meet up from time to time. I’m the one who used to walk through the cookware stores and ask “Why would you need a pie weight?”.

why indeed, when you have dried beans

gooey mess of yum

While the pie crust baked, I mixed the filling which is essentially butter, chocolate, espresso, coffee liqueur, eggs, and an ass ton of sugar in two forms. I sorted out the best looking pecan halves for the decorative part of the pie and then coarse chopped the remaining pecans.

pecans arranged in the pie crust

pouring goop of spasticity over the pecans

The recipe said not to worry, that the pecans would float to the top, and they did. Some of them began rafting about as I walked the pie to the oven, but they were easy to park back in their designated spaces. I suppose that is why the instructions say to reserve a quarter of the filling to pour into the pie when it is in the oven – but to me, that’s just a recipe for injury. Patience is the operating word here. If you care at all about presentation (and even if you don’t) it’s probably best to let the pie cool completely, refrigerate it overnight, and THEN slice it for serving. Otherwise you might end up with a little kiddy pool of sugary glop spilling all over the place (ask me how I know this). If you do have the patience to wait, you shall be rewarded with not only a lovely slice of dark and enchanting pie, but a deliciously sweet (but not overly sweet), nutty pie with not-so-subtle hints of a coffee shop swirling about your mouth. I loved it. Jeremy loved it. Neither of us love pecan pie. I think you will love it.

cooling down

sink your teeth into this one

Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie
[print recipe]
slightly modified from Fine Cooking #88

6 oz. (170g) all purpose flour
1 tsp (5g) sugar
3/8 tsp (3g) salt
4 oz. (115g) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2-4 tbsps cold water

3 oz. (85g) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 oz. (60g) unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 cup (330g) light corn syrup
1 cup (225g) sugar
1/4 tsp (2g) kosher salt
2 tbsps (6g) instant espresso powder
1 tbsp hot water
2 tbsps (30g) coffee liqueur
2 cups (230g) pecans, lightly toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 (60g) cup perfect pecan halves

Make the pie crust: Blend the flour, sugar, salt, and butter together in a food processor until you get coarse crumbs. Dump the contents into a medium bowl and sprinkle cold water (2-4 tablespoons) over the mixture while tossing it with a fork. It should come together easily, but not be overly sticky or wet. Press it together into a ball and flatten it into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 2 hours or up to 2 days in the refrigerator. You can freeze the dough for up to 2 months (thaw overnight in fridge before using). Remove the dough form the refrigerator 15 minutes before planning to roll out (let it sit at room temp). Roll the dough out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thickness or at least to a 13-inch diameter. Place the pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan and arrange so that there is 1/2 inch extra dough hanging over the sides. Trim it to be relatively round (save excess dough for repair later). Fold the edge down underneath itself and crimp the edge. Chill the dough in a refrigerator for 45 minutes or a freezer for 20 minutes. Heat oven to 350°F. Place rack in center of oven. Line the pie crust with foil and fill it with dried beans. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until edges turn lightly golden. Remove from oven. Carefully lift out the foil and repair any mishaps with extra dough. Let cool.

Make filling: Melt chocolate and butter over gentle heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Dissolve the instant espresso in 1 tablespoon of hot water. Add the chocolate, espresso, and coffee liqueur to the egg mixture and whisk to blend. Sprinkle the chopped pecans into the pie shell and arrange the pecan halves along the edge of the pie, but on top of the pieces. Pour the filling over the center of the pie. If the pecan halves begin to bandy about, just position them where you want them with your finger. Bake the pie until the filling puffs, about 45 to 55 minutes (55 for me – it was a little too gooey at 45). Transfer to rack and allow to cool completely. You can refrigerate the pie for several hours making it easier to serve.

Serves 8 to 10.

54 nibbles at “staycation”

  1. Tartelette says:

    That would serve 8 of the same person around here :) Outstanding Jen!
    I am reading this as I am looking at our pecan tree and I can see the first clusters, all green, all tiny…Hope to be around long enough to harvest (or I’ll just have to sneak in the yard at dark!).
    I never understood the appeal to ceramic pie weights. My mom and grandma used rice. I use dried beans, I like the smell of dried beans after baking.
    If I lived in the moutains I’d never want to travel far either! I really enjoy discovering beauties around here in the fall and winter when it is actually bearable.

  2. Anita says:

    Glad you’re enjoying paradise!! And yum, pecan pie! When I was in pastry school our teacher gave us a recipe for a pecan pie-ish filling she called “nut goo”. Maybe you could call yours “delicious espresso goo pie”!

  3. Pinky says:

    I loved pecan pie growing up, but since I’d never had any except my mother’s I didn’t realize they were typically toothaching until I moved away to college. I’ve become allergic to pecans in the last few years, so I won’t get to taste this lovely pie, but it looks heavenly. Coffee makes everything better, right?

  4. Debby says:

    I so know what you mean about staycations. You are living in paradise. So am I. I call my home my special bed & breakfast. As for your pie– I don’t like more than one bite of pecan pie. This looks amazing! It’s sweet and gooey looking, but the espresso is the kicker. I’m one of those quiet folks to reads your blog faithfully, but never posts comments. I couldn’t resist, today. Colorado is lovely, indeed.

  5. Memoria says:

    Well, I love pecan-less pie (yes, only the sugary part)! I will have to try this sans pecans, too!

  6. Jen T. says:

    I know what you mean about pecan pies- I’m not usually a fan, either. Maybe I’ll give this one a try? Coffee makes everything wonderful, I think.

    Your intro about not having hair made me giggle, but in a good way. Last year my grandma was undergoing chemo, and lost all of her hair. When I saw her after her hair started coming back in, her biggest lamentation was that it didn’t come in curly and strawberry blonde! She’s 74, and always had straight, brown hair when she was younger! She’d probably be very jealous of your curly hair!

  7. Kathy says:

    I love your dog, and I love the style in which in write.

  8. Mollie says:

    gah that looks soooooo good.

    I laugh that you call that pie crust “rustic” – you should see how we define rustic crusts at my house… i have come to love the art form of the galette simply because I’m pretty sure it’s French for “however the hell you can get the f’er in the oven”

    I’m going to come staycation at your house, m’kay?

  9. Karen B says:

    My 4-year-old was “helping” me read your blog, and has decided that we need to bring our black lab, Annie, to come play with Kaweah in the snow. It’s a good thing she can’t read a map, because she’s just stubborn enough to try to do it! If you hear a soft knock at your door, then my little girl has managed to hike out from California.

    I love to hear about the way you fully enjoy your life. While my hometown pales in comparison, it’s amazing what is in our own backyard when we take the time to explore it. And someday I hope to visit yours!

  10. Rosa says:

    That pie is terrific! You are lucky to live in such a beatiful place!



  11. Fiona says:

    You said, “sink your teeth into this one.” And I say: “yes ma’am.” No need to argue. Don’t twist my arm. Not a problem. Aye, Aye. etc.

    Also, humidity sucks. Ask me how I know.

  12. dawn says:

    well, we like to call it a ‘nocation’, as we are staying home, but won’t have time to do much (hence the no). rather the tourists take over our little piece of the earth for the next couple of months while I wait out the humidity.
    love how you aren’t a fan of pecan pie, yet create this masterpiece. good thinking!

  13. Caitlin says:

    I would love to live in that little slice of paradise, and I totally get the not travelling to vacation thing. The boyfriend doesn’t, but I’m working on it :P As for pecan pie, I’m with you – not a huge fan. But I am a pie fan, it’s just restricted to fruit pies more than anything else. Give me apple pie any time of day. Or mincemeat, but that might just be an oddity of mine!

  14. Kate @Savour Fare says:

    I’m another one who doesn’t love pie but that pie? Looks AMAZING. Now I’m craving pie! I imagine the espresso and chocolate cut the tooth aching sweetness of regular pecan pie.

  15. Whitney says:

    My mouth just started watering. Wow.

    Colorado is such a magical place. Sigh, I miss it.

  16. jo says:

    Another great recipe and I wish I was sinking my teeth into a slice of this. I do agree with you as to why leave for a vacation elsewhere when you already have one right at your backyard. I would certainly stay and enjoy it if I was there too!

  17. Amanda says:

    I hope you enjoy your summer this year and have a happy healthy time. If there are more pies like this in my future, I will be glued to your blog. But I wouldn’t expect less from you!

  18. Valérie says:

    Oh my goodness, that looks delicious!

    I’m also having a staycation this summer (albeit in the city of Montreal), and looking forward to it. It’s nice to just enjoy one’s surroundings.

  19. kiri says:

    I never used anything at as a pie weight, but would like to try and see what the difference is. Can you go ahead and use the dry beans after you bake them?

  20. Manggy says:

    DaYUM! Is that not the prettiest a pecan pie has ever been? I suppose it’s the bitter taste of the chocolate and the espresso that balances out the cloying sweetness– excellent recipe!
    I suppose if you did live out other people’s vacations you wouldn’t need to leave at all, haha! :)

  21. Dragana says:

    I envy you and the paradise you live in. It is stunning through your photographic eye. Fortunately we will be treated to a week near Creede, Co this summer. Can’t wait for the daily hikes and fly fishing!

  22. Ria says:

    Lovely pie,lovely place! :)

  23. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy says:

    I don’t love pecan pie either, but I’ll trust you on this. It looks heavenly!

    I’m so jealous of that gorgeous place where you live! People call where I live paradise, but I’d trade in a heartbeat!

  24. amy says:

    I love your pictures. They are always beautiful.
    Heheheh. I LOVE recipe…tho’ I too, may take out the pecans…Or make one with and without….Hmmmm. Thank you for this awesome inspiration.

  25. Kristin says:

    Had pretty much given up on pecan pie because of the killer sweetness, but may have to give this a try. Have you tried cranberry nut pie? I thought it sounded terrible, but finally made it, & it’s great. The tartness of the cranberries really helps cut the sweetness.

    Have a wonderful healthy Colorado summer! We’re doing the passport thing to Scotland & England (squeal!).

  26. Erin says:

    This looks fabulous! I love pecan pie, and it’s even better with chocolate.

  27. charlane says:

    ohhhhh, i love pecan pie in any incarnation. guess that’s why I’m from Alabama. sounds great.

  28. Patricia Scarpin says:

    Jen, that is fabulous! Pecan pie is not part of our food habits here and to be honest I have never tried it, which is odd since I love pies and I love pecans. :)
    Yours looks like a grown up version, so pretty! And I have always thought that keeping pies in the fridge would alter (in a bad way) the texture of the dough. That is a great tip!

  29. Chez US says:

    I am not a big pecan pie eater either, but, you have just made it look and sound fantastic! Bookmarking this one for Pecan Pie season!

    Paradise is a great place to live …. we are thinking of road tripping that way this summer, maybe check out some new digs, getting restless out on the W. Coast. Tossing around some ideas of where we’d love to be, I guess, that means buy a house and settle a little!

  30. Jenny says:

    I never knew how much I loved pecan pie until about six months ago – now it’s my favorite dessert ever.

  31. Debbie says:

    Now that is one good looking pie. I know what you mean about pecan pie being a southern thing. It’s very popular here but I’m not all that crazy about it. Yours I would definitely like to try since I am a chocolate and coffee addict!!!!

  32. Asianmommy says:

    What a fun twist on pecan pie. Looks delicious!

  33. Barb says:

    Your dog is a beauty!

  34. Laura Carr says:

    Mercy! I gained 5 lbs reading your post today. Happily.
    I so agree with you about living and enjoying one’s personal paradise. Of course, living it and sharing it with the Labbie is just too good! Living here in the ‘extended summer’ place of N. California is delicious, yet at times the crowds and heat become stifling. Oh, and as many have said before me… pecans, espresso & chocolate=Heaven.

  35. Mrs Ergül says:

    I like the uniformly crimped edges! Havent really tried a pecan pie before! You are staying in a place where Mother Nature makes a lot of appearances every year!

  36. Abby says:

    I’d never leave, either. We hardly ever leave NC – the mountains and the beaches are both here – why leave?

    But don’t invite me to your house. I may never leave there, either. Gorgeous always.

    And I love chocolate-pecan pie much better than the plain kind!

  37. audra says:

    oh my, I think you’ve actually made pecan pie appealing to me. My mom and boyfriend love pecan pie, but I can’t bear the sweetness– I usually stop at one tiny bite. However, coffee makes all things better. =) This is something I am definitely willing to try, and your instructions make it sound so easy, even for a beginner like me!

    Also, I know I’ve said this several times before… but your photos make me homesick for the mountains, I can’t even tell you how much. And I only lived in Boulder for 5 months! I was born in Denver, visited often while growing up, and always intended to settle there, but beloved’s work and family keep him tied to NYC/NJ. I’m trying to get him to go to CU (or somewhere in Cali would be the next best) for grad school– do you or hubby know anything about the microbiology department at Boulder….? ;)

    Happily, I’ll be in CO *next week* for 10 whole days!! Going to Flagstaff House for our anniversary and exploring are definitely high on the to-do list. anyway, that was my really long, overly-descriptive thank-you for the stunning photos you take, and for allowing me to feel close to a place I love so much. =]


  38. Linda says:

    When I was a driving 16 year old, there was a local restaurant that was famous for its pecan pie and, feeling cool, I’d order it and suffer through the nasty sweetness. I’ve avoided it in the 39 years since, but yours looks worth a try. Love your Colorado pics. My lab is jealous of your lab, because we have small hills, not mountains, and definite humidity.

  39. SimplePleasure says:

    Hi! Jen,
    What a gorgeous view! Cute Dog! and the Pie, wow! I want one :D

  40. Margie says:


    I haven’t even read the post. I took a look at the dog and I ignored Jeremy. (Yes, he’s adorable, but you know me and THE DOG! ;) )

    I’ll return to read what I’ve missed, and I’ve missed so much.

    Give that pooch a kiss. Oh, hug Jeremy and tell him not to be upset that he was one-up’d by the doggie.

    Miss K is as beautiful as ever. I swear, she is the most beautiful black lab that I’ve EVER seen!

  41. Melissa says:

    She gets it!

    I don’t even like pecan pie, much less love it, in that Southern incarnation. Steve always did, bless him. I promised I would try making it someday, but I must make something more like this version. Looks fantastic.

    And hello? Of course YOU would always have butter!

  42. melinda says:

    AAAAAAAARRRGGGHHH!!!! That picture!!! That pie!!! Picture me with my head lolling back, mouth open, tongue hanging out and drooling. I must and I will make that pie.

  43. Rebekka says:

    OMG…that is BEAUTIFUL dog!

  44. Lori says:

    That photo (theone of her and the Jeremy’s legs in the background) of Kaweah is absolutely striking. Her eyes… so captivating.

    This is my kind of pecan pie. I have enver been a fan because of its utter sweetness. THis I could sink my fork into.

  45. magicfish says:

    Jen… this is the pecan pie that I have always known was out there! Can’t wait to bake this one up. I want you to know that I have followed your sweet blog – and your journey – for some time now & I can’t tell you what a wonderful, incredible and lovely inspiration you are. Thank you so much for all the sharing – I know that sounds so cliche – but it’s just the truth. And I now know that there is food magazine goodness beyond Gourmet & Saveur………you just rock!!

  46. jenyu says:

    Tartelette – funny! Gosh, a pecan tree? That’s awesome. My friends had one in their yard in California, but the “wild” parrots kept eating them. So they wrapped a rubber snake around the branches to scare the parrots off ;) I think you and B should consider moving WEST :)

    Anita – goo pie sounds great! I can only imagine how awesome you’d make a pecan pie look.

    Pinky – that’s so sad about your allergy :(

    Debby – thank you. Our home is too much of a mess to ever be called a B&B – ha ha ha! We call it a “glorified tent” ;)

    Memoria – the filling tastes great.

    Jen – ah yes, the curly hair! I know of several women whose hair returned in curls. But… I’ve heard that it straightens out after a few years too. I’m hoping ;)

    Kathy – thank you :)

    Mollie – the galette is a great way to not worry about pie crusts! I dig them. Hey babe, I’m not goin’ anywhere!

    Karen – ugh, I didn’t realize 4-year olds were reading this blog! I hope you steer her away from the more colorful language ;) sorry! Oh yes, Kaweah *loves* to play with other pups in the snow! :)

    Rosa – thank you. I do feel very lucky.

    Fiona – I have a very good idea of how you know how much humidity sucks :)

    Dawn – oh poo :( I hope you get to enjoy a little time at least. But away from the tourons!

    Caitlin – I love love love apple pie. That might be why I don’t make it… because I’d eat it all up and become mongo huge ;)

    Kate – yes, they cut the sweetness and make you three times more spastic! ha ha ha.

    Whitney – it misses you, chica. Come on back now that you’re a JD!

    Jo – aww, thanks!

    Amanda – thank you, you’re sweet.

    Valerie – couldn’t agree with you more!

    Kiri – I don’t know. I keep using the same dried beans… but I’m *guessing* you can? It would be such a waste not to.

    Mark – yup, it’s like a nutty cup of mocha something or other, right? :)

    Dragana – oh Creede is lovely. Have fun there. We’re hoping for a few “local” trips out that way this summer too!

    Ria – thanks!

    Susan – no need to trade, just come on over. I’ll scout a house out for you and the SGCCs :)

    Amy – thank you and I’m curious to see how the pie comes out without the pecans! Even more gooey?

    Kristin – I love cranberries. When they are back in season, I’ll have to give it a try! Thanks. Have a fun and safe trip across the pond.

    Erin – well, I think this one might be right up your alley!

    Charlane – :)

    Patricia – perhaps it is time for you to give it a try? :) I was worried it would get soggy too, but it was actually alright overnight. Funny that ;)

    Chez Us – I keep forgetting all of you Californians have access to really good pecans. I thought you guys were looking for a house in the bay area?

    Jenny – ooh, try this one and see if it knocks regular pecan pie out of the #1 slot!

    Debbie – yup, I think the chocolate and espresso won Jeremy over, for sure.

    Asianmommy – thanks!

    Barb – awww, thank you.

    Laura – N. Cali is not a bad place to be! I do love California, but the heat… Just not that many places in CA where we can live that is cool and near good jobs. We’re lucky we found something we like.

    Mrs. E – it’s not a hard pie to make, you should try it!

    Abby – ha ha, it’d be okay if you wanted to stay in CO. I would completely understand!

    Audra – wow, I used to live in NY for 6 years and it was central NY, not NYC. I was heartsick for the West the whole time. Your best bet is to probably contact someone at the university in the microbiology dept. and figure out which professors he is most interested in working with based on their research. Graduate school applications are up b/c of the economy – so definitely put your best foot forward. Have fun in CO!

    Linda – My lab says, “All labs, come to CO!” :) Actually, she’s not particular. She wants all pups to come play here!

    SimplePleasure – thanks!

    Margie – Kaweah sends wags. She loves people :)

    Melissa – hee hee ;) I hope both you and Steve like this version so you don’t have to bake TWO pies ;)

    Melinda – ;)

    Rebekka – thank you.

    Lori – oh… she’s just a dork… a very cute dork ;) Thanks.

    Magicfish – that is such a nice comment, thank you. xxoo

  47. Connie says:

    Just made this yesterday for dinner at the in-laws. The combo of chocolate and espresso makes it so much better than your average pecan pie! this recipe is a winner!

  48. Y says:

    Look at that gooeyness! Amazing. I don’t live anywhere as gorgeous as you do, but I do quite enjoy staycations myself :)

  49. jenyu says:

    Connie – awesome!

    Y – I think it’s all about mindset :) And actually, I think you live in a pretty gorgeous place. I’ve been there!!

  50. Melissa says:

    I actually saved this just now… I think I’m going to make Steve a fattening southern meal for his birthday in August and this will be on the list. :D It will be quite the baking challenge for me too. :D

  51. jenyu says:

    Melissa – oh boy! Lucky STEVE :) Hope he likes it (I’m sure you will own this one with no problem, hon).

  52. So Very Domestic says:

    […] pecan pie. I love chocolate and I adore espresso, so its a win! The recipe is posted here at Use Real Butter, modified from Fine Cooking, and I modified it just a little as well. I made my usual crust and I […]

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  54. Sharyn Dimmick says:

    I came over here to look at a recipe for a gigantic Canary melon, but chocolate pecan pie is so much better. I’ve made chocolate pecan pie before, but never with espresso — now it’s only a matter of time! I have a tip for you though: to make non-gluey, non-cloying pecan pie (with or without chocolate and espresso), skip the corn syrup and use maple syrup instead. You have to adjust the sugar, but the improved texture and flavor is so worth it. Also, a tip from Alice Medrich: heat your filling — it gives you a crisper crust. O.K. now I’m backtracking to check out the lime cheesecake…

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