Butterscotch Meringue

I returned to my comfort zone this weekend. It's been a couple weeks of new and interesting pies. I was ready for a break, a familiar process, and a pie I knew I liked. Plus, this pie came up over dinner the other night and eyes perked up when I said "I know how to make that!"

"But!" I hear you say, "isn't this all about getting out of your comfort zone? Aren't you supposed to push yourself?" Well, yes, but when you push all the time, you break. Taking a break is good. It let's you see if you've progressed, apply new skills, and recuperate.

I took the notes from the last few weeks of making crusts and a filling lightly adapted from Nealey Dozier’s Browned Butter Butterscotch Pie. With four leftover egg whites, I usually make a meringue for the instead of topping with whipped cream.

For the crust, I used a typical 3:2:1 crust. That’s 3-parts flour, 2-parts fat, 1 part water by weight. I mixed it by hand, and made sure to make the butter as small as an English Pea. (Growing up with black-eyed peas, the classic instruction to “Mix till the butter is the size of a pea” was very problematic.) I also used only the amount of water called for in the formula. I tend to over hydrate. The dough came together and resulted in a beautiful crust that didn’t puff much and kept it’s edge decoration. After rolling it out, I flipped the pan over and used it as a guide to cut the dough because, for the life of me, trimming after placing in the plate doesn't work well.

The filling is pretty straight forward. Melt and cook the butter over medium heat till it stops foaming and the bits of milk solid brown. While the butter melts, whisk together the yolks and cornstarch. You might as well measure everything out for the meringue now, too. Add the brown sugar and stir till it forms an oily paste. Add the evaporated milk slowly while stirring. It’s going to hiss and steam at you. Then the whole milk. If you have little bits of brown sugar in the mix, it’s fine—they’ll melt once everything comes back to a boil. Bring to a boil and temper the hot milk into the yolk and cornstarch, then stir that back into the pot. While stirring, return to a boil, then pour it into your fully baked shell. Add the bourbon afterwards.

With the meringue, I’m going to say do whatever you want to do. What I tried didn’t work. I’m pretty certain I had too high a ratio of sugar to egg whites. That was simply because I wasn’t thinking ahead, felt rushed, and just guessed. I failed to mise en place, and it bit me on the butt. Next week will be another meringue’ed pie (Flapper Pie), so another try. But I’ll use a 3:2 ratio of sugar to egg white, and the Stella Park's method for Swiss meringue.

Next time I make this filling, I’m pretty certain the cornstarch can drop in half to two tablespoons, too.

Overall, about two months into the baking part of this project, I’m pretty happy. There’s the frustration of missing the “A” goal, but this easily was me hitting my “B” goal, and I know what to do next time. And I’m coming to a deeper understanding of the broader methods and how to put the components together and what needs tweaking.

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 9” Shallow pastry crust, fully-baked

Filling

  • 1/2c Unsalted Butter

  • 1c + 2T Dark Brown Sugar, Packed

  • 1/4c Cornstarch

  • 1/2t Salt

  • 12oz Evaporated Milk

  • 1/2c Milk (Whole or 2%)

  • 4 yolks

  • 1T Whiskey

Topping

  • Meringue

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and salt. Add in the egg yolks to form a paste. Set aside.

  3. In a medium pot, melt and brown the butter over medium heat. Cook it til it stops foaming and the browned bits of milk solid appear.

  4. Add brown sugar and stir till it melts and forms a paste with the butter.

  5. Slowly add evaporated milk slowly into the butter-brown sugar paste, then the milk, and stire till smooth.

  6. Increase the heat to medium-heat and stir till it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium.

  7. Temper 1/2c of milk-sugar mixture into the cornstarch-yolks and whisk the cornstarch-yolks back into the hot milk-sugar mix.

  8. Bring to a boil and stir for 2-3 minutes.

  9. Remove from heat. Stir in whiskey.

  10. Let cool for a few minutes and pour into the baked pie shell.

  11. Make meringue, top pie as you like, and bake in the oven till golden brown.

  12. Cool at room temp for an hour then chill for at least four hours.

  13. Eat