Sunday, June 5, 2011

Family Recipe: Butterscotch Pie

This is a butterscoth pie that I made with the help of my grandmother. This is a pie that she used to make for my grandfather's birthday, and also one that she hadn't eaten in a long time so there was an even greater pleasure in learning how to make it.

My grandfather passed away earlier this year, so knowing how to make this pie is very special to me. He loved to cook and was very good at it, though he had an maybe an odd sense of what was tasty. Think salmon loaf. But then on another day he might make an incredibly flavorful and tender beef stew with potatoes, carrots and onions.

The pie is fairly easy to make. The real work comes in making the filling; it takes patience to not burn or curdle it. It's technically a pudding so if you've never made one before, this is a great recipe to start with because it's so basic (and I hope I've made the directions clear enough!). Also, if you aren't interested in making the meringue, whipped cream will do just fine.

I do want to point out that this flavor is real butterscotch; that is, the flavor is derived from butter and brown sugar. This will not resemble butterscotch syrup, chips or Jell-O pudding. I find it more enjoyable because it isn't nearly as sweet.

It occurs to me as I write this post that you could try adding butterscotch chips when you add the vanilla (Step 7). If anyone tries this before I do, let me know how it turns out!

Butterscotch Pie (Serves about 8)
1 9-inch refrigerated piecrust, baked according to package
3 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue, if desired)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (use anything but skim)
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Bake your piecrust according to the package directions. Let it cool completely while you make the filling. Tip: Don't forget to poke the crust with a fork at 1-inch intervals along the sides and bottom.

2. Separate egg whites from yolks into a small bowl. Beat yolks gently, just enough to break them and mix. Reserve egg whites if you desire to make the meringue. Tip: Cold eggs separate more easily; once separated, let them come to room temperature for the meringue.

3. Cut sugar and butter together in a separate bowl. Add flour to sugar mix and combine well.

4. Add sugar mix to yolks and mix well. At this point it will still be pretty dry.

5. In a small saucepan, combine milk, salt, and water. Warm the mixture over med-high heat until it just starts to bubble. Add sugar mix and whisk until dissolved.

6. Continue whisking until mixture thickens, about 20-25 minutes. You're looking for a thick, pudding-like consistency.

7. Take mixture off the heat and mix in vanilla. Cover with a towel while you prepare the meringue. (If you're skipping the meringue, let it cool completely before filling the piecrust and storing in the fridge. You want to chill it for several hours to let the custard set before serving.)

8. Set your oven to 350 degrees.

9. In a deep, metal bowl beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed with a hand or stand mixer until very foamy.

10. Add 1 Tablespoon of sugar at a time every 30 seconds to the egg whites. Continue beating until meringue has stiff, glossy peaks. When you check the meringue, the peaks should hold stand straight.

11. Add vanilla and beat into the whites. Make sure you still have stiff peaks.

11. Spoon custard into piecrust and smooth -- be careful as it will still be warm. Spoon meringue on top of pie filling and use a spatula to spread evenly over the pie.

12. Bake pie 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees until meringue is golden brown.

13. Let cool completely on a rack before serving. You can store in the fridge for a couple of days, covered with plastic wrap.

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