Friday, January 21, 2011

Southern Butterscotch Pie

After M.F.K. Fisher became a mother, she occasionally had to turn down writing gigs because juggling two girls and writing was too much. Other times she made it work, writing outside the lines in typically grand Fisher fashion.

For instance -- she was once asked to write a piece about dining in San Francisco, but she hadn't been to San Francisco recently, and a trip wasn't in the cards. Instead she wrote a piece about all the places she would eat in San Francisco if she were there: dumplings in Chinatown, crab on the wharf, an Italian restaurant tucked away in North Beach.

Smart woman, M.F.K. Fisher. And I happily steal from her playbook.

Things have been kind of crazy here and it feels like we've been eating out a lot. In just the past week I've had meals at Bar Tartine, Bar Agricole, and Local (brunch and dinner). And then there was last night.... We had dinner at a neighborhood restaurant that shall remain nameless, but wins the award for the worst meal I have ever had in San Francisco. Ever.

I feel it in my bones, it's time for some home cooking: a relaxed weekend culminating in a lazy Sunday supper, eaten a little on the early side, so as to have time for a stroll around the neighborhood and a big old slice of pie.

Here is the recipe I would make. I found it on The Kitchn, but the recipe is originally from a book by Nancy McDermott called Southern Pies. I made this pie in December and it won second place in Sean's work party/holiday bake-off. It is the quintessential southern dessert: sweet, and a little boozy from the addition of whiskey to the whipped cream (my tweak).

The mere thought of it makes me feel like unpacking my grandmother's fancy china, finding a white lacy tablecloth, and summoning everyone to the table.

Join me?

Southern Butterscotch Pie
For the pie crust: I used a Joy of Cooking recipe for an oil based pie crust. It was quick, simple, and is perfect for custard based pies or pies that don't spend too long in the oven (cooking the oil for too long can impart an "off" taste).
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
1 and 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix in a cup until creamy:
1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup cold milk
Pour the oil mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until blended. Combine dough into a ball. Roll the dough between two pieces of waxed paper then flip the dough into a 9 inch pie pan, using fingers to crimp the edges. Prick the sides and bottom with a fork. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 12 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

 For the filling
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed (make sure it is dark brown, it will give the filling that deep brown color you want)
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon bourbon whiskey

For the whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon whiskey (or to taste)

To make the filling
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, approximately 10 minutes. Add brown sugar to butter and cook until sugar is melted and a paste is formed.
Combine evaporated milk and regular milk and pour into the butter/brown sugar mixture. Bring to a simmer and stir until it is smooth and the sugar is completely dissolved.
In a separate bowl, combine cornstarch, flour, and salt. Pour 1/ 2 cup of the milk/butter/sugar mixture into the cornstarch mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the smooth cornstarch mixture back into saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook for approximately one minute, until just thickened (cooking the cornstarch much longer can actually cause it to lose its thickening ability).
Stream 1/2 cup hot milk/butter/sugar mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. Pour this mix back into the saucepan. Cook for approximately 30 seconds to one minute, and then remove from heat. Stir in whiskey. Allow to cool until warm, about 10 to 15 minutes. Strain filling through a fine mesh sieve and then pour into cooked pie crust.
Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding in order to prevent a skin from forming. Chill overnight, or until firm.

To make the whipped cream
In a medium-sized bowl, whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer until foamy and starting to thicken. Add confectioners’ sugar and bourbon whiskey and continue to beat until soft peaks are just formed.
Top with whip cream, slice and enjoy.

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