Thankful for Libby Gaughan’s Pecan Pie

For a quick Thanksgiving Day post, I want to share a recipe that we love and that has special meaning for me.  Plus, it’s pretty easy to make 🙂

Libby Gaughan was a friend of my grandmother’s many years ago (she died sometime in the 1980s).  Her son Jack was a famous, Hugo-Award-winning artist who illustrated science-fiction novels.  Libby was an indomitable force, the spine of the Republican Party in Clark County, Ohio; her house was filled with little elephant knickknacks and doorstops and photographs of herself with important Republicans like Richard Nixon.

Libby was also an excellent cook—even though she rarely did it.  Instead she drove clear to the other end of town every day to eat dinner at the Holiday Inn.  It was probably really good for her socially to have that daily connection.  Libby lived alone (her son lived in New York, I believe), and the waitresses at the Holiday Inn were so good to her.  When my grandmother and I went there with her once, it was sweet to see how all the waitresses came over to say hello and make a fuss over her.

Anyway, one of Libby’s special recipes was for pecan pie.  The best I’ve ever eaten!  It uses Kraft caramels, so it probably came from that company and isn’t some family heirloom kind of thing.  But still, it’s easy and delicious.

Libby used to say that the hardest part of making this pie was taking the wrappers off of all those caramels.  And if you use a frozen pie crust or one of those refrigerated ones, I would agree with that statement.  But I make my own crust because, for us, that is the “secret ingredient” that puts this pie over the top.  And for me, that is the hardest part of making this pie.  But so worth it!

Libby Gaughan’s Pecan Pie (makes 2)

Crust – for two 10-inch pies

  1. In a large mixing bowl mix together 3 cups sifted, all-purpose flour, 1½ teaspoons salt, and 1 cup of butter-flavored Crisco.
  2. Using a pastry cutter (or two knives) “cut” the shortening and flour together (mix by slicing) until the pieces of dough are pea-sized.
  3. Sprinkle 7 to 9 tablespoons of ICE water (you want it to be VERY COLD) over the mixture to moisten, in 2-3 tablespoon increments, mixing the dough to distribute the water evenly.  You want to handle the dough as little as possible, so toss it very gently with two forks, like a salad.  Eventually you’ll get closer to a dough than a pebbly mess of flour and shortening.
  4. Form into two balls.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. To roll out, spread one sheet of parchment paper (next to the waxed paper and aluminum foil in the supermarket) on a flat surface.  Sprinkle with flour.  Place one ball of dough atop the parchment sheet.  Sprinkle the dough with flour.  Place another sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough.  Use a rolling pin  to flatten the dough between the parchment sheets.  Roll in all directions, until the dough is the shape of a large circle big enough to fill your pie pan.
  6. Remove the top sheet of parchment.  Place your pie pan upside down over the flattened dough.  Slip one hand under the bottom sheet of parchment; then, pushing the crust dough upward into the pie pan, flip both the crust and pie pan right side up.  Through the parchment, lightly use your fingers to press the dough into the contours of the pie pan.
  7. Repeat the previous steps with the second ball of dough.
  8. Trim the pie crusts slightly beyond (maybe by an inch) the edge of your pie pan.  Fold the extra under, and then either crimp it with your fingers to make a pleasing edge that undulates in waves OR press down on it with the tines of a fork to create an edge patterned with striped lines.
  9. You can stop at this point if you want and refrigerate (or freeze) the prepared crusts in advance of a busy Thanksgiving day.  Just be sure to let the crusts come to room temperature before baking.

Filling

  1. Unwrap 72 Kraft caramels.  You’ll need at least two bags (check the count; everything seems to be downsizing these days!).  Place in a large, microwave-friendly glass or ceramic mixing bowl.  I use a really large Pyrex measuring bowl, with a handle and spout, which is convenient for pouring.
  2. Add ½ cup water and ½ cup butter.  Melt caramels, water, and butter in the microwave.
  3. Remove from microwave and stir in 1½ cups of sugar, ½ teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
  4. Beat 6 eggs in a separate bowl and stir into the caramel mixture.
  5. Add 2 cups of pecan halves.

Bake

  1. Fill your two 10-inch pie crusts with the pecan-caramel mixture.  Place on foil-covered baking sheets (to catch drips and make for easy cleanup!).
  2. Bake in a preheated 350º oven for 45 to 50 minutes.
  3. Let cool for at least two hours before eating.
  4. The filling will appear to be very soft right out of the oven.  Don’t worry.  It will firm up as it cools.

Serve with whipped cream if desired.  And then tell me if this isn’t the BEST pecan pie you’ve ever eaten!

Thank you, Libby Gaughan!  God bless, and rest in peace.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. My blog is a space for playing with ideas about creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, and the nature of "insight."
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2 Responses to Thankful for Libby Gaughan’s Pecan Pie

  1. Sounds fabulous! I’ll have to try it. Gotta love traditions!!

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