Cream Cheese Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + extra for dusting
1 pkg (3-oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tbsp sugar
Sift flour into a large bowl. Add cream cheese, butter, and sugar; rub with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Form the dough into a ball then flatten and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 hour.
Roll pastry out on a lightly floured surface and carefully line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate or a 9-inch tart pan. Crimp edge and refrigerate.
3 1/2 cups pecan halves
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
grated peel and juice of 1/2 lemon
4 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract
Set 1 cup of the pecan halves aside. Coarsely chopped the remaining pecans.
Whisk together the eggs, and brown sugar until light and foamy. Beat in the corn syrup, lemon peel and juice, butter and vanilla. Stir in the chopped pecans and pour mixture into the pastry crust.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Set the pie on a baking sheet and carefully arrange the reserved whole pecan halves in a decorative pattern on top of the pie filling.
Bake at 350 degrees until the filling has risen and set and the pecans have colored, approximately 45 minutes.
Cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.