Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 6:22PM
This is the 5th entry in our Month of Pie. Pie Month is a celebration of things we love. Because life is hard, and there should always be more pie. Have a look at the other entries. Really.
Pie #1 - Lemon Cream Icebox Pie
Pie #2 - Malted Crisp Tart
I have always hated butterscotch pie.
The hatred began at an early age, going to school fundraisers that involved deep frying some sort of meat...breaded cod or breaded pork tenderloin smashed to paper-thin thickness which is pure brilliance. Throw that crispy pork on a bun, add some mustard and extra pickle, and I was very happy.
But in my mind I still see the dessert tables lined against one wall in the school cafeteria, littered with small white styrofoam plates, all topped with butterscotch pudding pies. The chocolate, apple, and cherry pies were long gone, taken by other fundraiser attendees whose parents let them get their dessert before eating their fried meat.
All that were left were the slices of butterscotch pudding pie. Every single time.
For me, butterscotch pudding pies are Pies of Sad, filled with sickly brown tears of disappointment and missed opportunity.
The flavors from the instant pudding and/or butterscotch chips don’t ring true to me. It’s like they’re trying too hard, amping up their flavors to an aggressive level, trying desperately to convince you that what you’re eating tastes better than it actually does. Throw in some frozen whipped topping with the pudding, a the desperateness ratchets up even higher.
I’m not against using shortcuts in the kitchen. It just needs to taste great. And butterscotch pie always missed the mark by a mile for me.
Leave it to Karen DeMasco at Craft in NYC and author of The Craft of Baking
. Chef DeMasco never disappoints, and when we read her recipe for Butterscotch Cream Pie with Gingersnap Crust, we figured that if anyone could convert me to butterscotch, she was the one.
Here’s the thing about butterscotch...it’s not aggressive. It’s sublime. DeMasco’s pie is full of caramel-y depth, smoothed out by dairy and infused vanilla bean. The candy crunch of the brown sugar gingersnap crust plays perfectly with the smoothness sitting on top. Add in some unsweetened whipped cream for garnish, and you’ve got something wonderful. But DeMasco wants this pie to be extraordinary and suggests the addition of Honeycomb Brittle (just an extra puffy brittle that looks like honeycomb inside). But we went with another of her recipes for garnish. And for us, the cashew brittle was what took this pie over the edge into pure awesome. Sweet, salty, with the toothsomeness that makes you want to eat a bucket of the brittle. Fortunately, we were left with extra brittle to keep us happy for a while.
Make this pie, especially if you never especially liked butterscotch pudding pie. It’s time to discover what this pie was supposed to taste like.
recipe | Butterscotch Cream Pie with Gingersnap Crust and Cashew Brittle (via Karen DeMasco's The Craft of Baking)
note - Chef DeMasco makes her own gingersnap cookies. We did not. It was still good.
- 1 ¾ cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (blitz the purchased cookies in a food processor until you get small crumbs)
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Turn your oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Mix together the cookie crumbs, sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until evenly coated. If the mixture isn’t sticking together when you press it against the side of the bowl, stir in one tablespoon of water. It’ll stick then.
Dump the mixture into your 9-inch pie plate and press the crust into place. Cover the sides and the bottom. Place the pie plate into the freezer for 10 minutes. Take it out of the freezer and bake for 10 minutes. Take the crust out of the oven and let cool completely.
Butterscotch Cream Filling
- ¾ cup sugar (divided)
- 5 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ½ vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out (but you want to use both the bean and the seeds)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
- 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream (to whisk and use as garnish)
Grab a bowl. Doesn't need to be big. Add in ¼ cup of the sugar, the egg yolks, and the cornstarch. Whisk until the mixture lightens and looks like our kitchen wall color. Which is to say a light butter yellow.
In a medium saucepan, add in ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup water, and all of the vanilla bean and seeds. Stir it up to get the water to moisten all of the sugar. Don’t be disturbed by the hunks of vanilla bean. We’ll strain them out later. Turn the heat on high. Be scared a little. Set the timer to 8 minutes and don’t touch it. Maybe a slight move of the pan if you see part of the mixture getting darker faster than the rest. But no stirring. When the caramel becomes a golden color (not brown), turn off the heat. This was exactly at the 8 minute mark for us. Slowly whisk in the cream. Be careful, the sucker’s gonna foam up. Then stir in the milk. Breathe.
Turn the heat back on under the caramel. Bring it to a boil and then turn it off.
Grab that bowl with the egg mixture you whisked earlier. Get it close to the stove.
In a slow, steady stream, whisk ⅓ of the caramel into the eggy bowl. Slowly. Thin stream. Otherwise you’ll get scambled eggs. Once you’ve added enough of the caramel, put the caramel back on the stove. Then add the egg+caramel mixture into the caramel saucepan.
Turn the heat to medium-low under the caramel saucepan. Whisk. Don’t stop whisking. Bring it to a boil and keep whisking for 8 minutes. Again with the 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the burner and whisk in the butter and salt. Nice work. Really.
Get a smallish bowl and place a fine-mesh sieve over it. Pour the caramel custard through the sieve. See, there’s that vanilla bean. Take the newly strained caramel custard and pour it into the gingersnap pie crust. Let it cool completely while you make the cashew brittle.
- A silicone baking pad or nonstick cooking spray
- 2 cups sugar
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups salted roasted cashews
If you have a silicone baking pad, use it on a baking sheet. If not, spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Keep it handy.
In a large saucepan (seriously, large, not medium), add in the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water. Stir it gently so the sugar is wet. Don’t get all sloppy while stirring. Gentle. Get a long wooden spoon ready for later.
Turn on the burner to high under the saucepan. If you believe in a higher power, ask for assistance. Cook for about 10 minutes without stirring. You want a dark caramel color. We went dark with ours and loved it. Turn off the heat.
Now, let’s be careful. Add in the baking soda and whisk. Add in the salt and keep whisking. The mixture is going to rise. Whisk. Quickly add in the cashews and stir with the wooden spoon.
Pour the mixture out on to your baking sheet. Let cool completey. We put ours out in the snow. Once cool, break it up into small pieces. Use a kitchen mallet. Or the butt of the handle of your chef’s knife.
To assemble the pie
Whip the heavy cream until you get soft peaks. Top the pie. Sprinkle on smallish bits of the cashew brittle. You might want to add a piece or two of larger brittle chunks to each person’s plate when you serve.