Saturday, December 1, 2012

I was meaning to say this earlier, but here you go.

It's the first day of December.  I can't believe it. As we leave thoughts of turkey's and cranberry sauce behind, and march on into anticipation of twinkle lights and tinsel (yes, I love Christmas right down to the very last holiday themed napkin), I still have some things to say about Pie.

Besides the obvious (that it's always amazing, even when it isn't that amazing) to me it's a dessert full of history. Chalk full of tradition and reminders of home.  Where I'm from Pie is a thing.  Everyone's family has their own version of the standard Apple (cheddar cheese anyone?) and any number of holiday and non holiday reasons to eat them. Don't even get me started on how we feel about our crusts, or rather, the best way to make dough. I imagine there have been hard feelings felt over lard v. butter, or more v. less water debates.  However, what I miss most about Vermont, are the truck stops linning I-90 brimming with pie slices of every variety slowly spinning in rotating glass cases.  It's fantastic.  We all had our favorites. My dad loved chocolate cream. My sister Hazel had a passion for Key Lime pie that persisted above all else. And my oldest sister Rose still prefers pumpkin over pecan. 

I've always been a fan of pies that showcase what I love most... sugar.  So I thought I would try my hand at a New England specialty.  Maple Sugar pie.  It's exactly as it sounds. And I have to say it's  possibly the best and by the far the sweetest pie I've ever had.  I have strong opinions on maple syrup, thoughts that I thoroughly and often express to anyone who will listen, but Sugar Pie may just be the crown jewel, the icing on the cake, the king of the mountain, I could go on, of maple syrup desserts.

The filling is simple. The crumble is easy. The whole thing takes maybe, excluding the crust making, fifteen minutes.  I got the recipe from a cookbook aptly tittled Pie, which includes 300 pie recipes from all over the country, compiled by a mustached man who resembles an older looking Brawny man.

The only amendment I made was making a little extra crumble, which I added towards the end of the baking time, mainly to keep the pie looking pretty.  Also, I ended up baking the pie for about 40 minutes, despite the author's warning to resist baking over 30 minutes.  While I have nothing to compare it to, I don't regret it. Not at all.

Sugar Pie
Adapted from Pie 

1 cup flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Mix dry ingredients in bowl and work in butter with hands or pastry cutter until you reach a sand like texture. Pour 1/3 of the crumble on top of a pre-baked pie crust. Side Note: To pre- bake your pie crust make sure your rolled out crust is completely frozen, and make sure you wrap tin foil tightly down over the crust.  You can use pie weights, but dried beans work just as well.

1 cup Vermont Maple Syrup (the recipe did not say Vermont, but let's get serious here shall we?)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the Maple Syrup over burner until warm, turn off heat and whisk in baking soda, whisk in eggs and vanilla. Pour filling into the shell. Top with the second third of the crumble.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes then rotate 180 degrees and continue to make for another 10 minutes. Pull pie from oven, spread the rest of the crumble evenly overtop of the pie and bake for the remaining 10 to 20 minutes. Pie will still look considerably jiggly, however it will continue to thicken and set up as it cools and as the crumble expands.

While Sugar Pie can be served warm, I think it's best room temp.  Feel free to serve with fresh whipped cream, but make sure it's not too sweet because it's name speaks for itself. It's sweet. Really, really sweet.