Day 1: Butterscotch Pie

Monday, November 16, 2009

Starry-eyed and excited, I dove into Day 1 with high expectations for myself. “With all the reading I’ve done about pie-making, everything should work perfectly the first time,” I [subconsciously] thought.

Day 1’s Challenge: Butterscotch Pie.

Get yourself a cup of coffee and settle in. This is a doozie.

It was my Grandad’s favorite. I called my Grandma this past week to get the skinny on this recipe. She told me that she and my grandad got a brand-new electric mixer when they got married over 60 years ago—this recipe for Butterscotch Pie was found in the recipes that came with the mixer, and would eventually become my grandad’s favorite. No birthday cake for him—he just wanted my grandma’s butterscotch pie.

After all the intense shopping and various errands to compile all of the ingredients needed for this week, I got everything organized and read the recipe for the thousandth time. It’s kinda confusing—there’s not too much verbal embellishment in this 1949 recipe. You'll see.

It's about 5:55 pm, btw, at this point.

To accompany the first pie, I attempted my first-ever homemade crust, tackling the Pate Brisee from Martha Stewart (which makes 2 crusts). The key, I’ve heard, is to make sure everything for the crust is cold.

I measured out the flour and let it sit in the freezer for a few minutes first...

Then cut up the butter to also let it sit in the freezer for a sec:

After pulsing the flour/sugar/salt a little, add the butter:

Then you add the ice water in a steady stream through the spout. It's tricky because you're not supposed to pulse it too much or add too much water. I got lucky and got the right consistency on the first try:

Look who was watching me from his perch:

Then the dough is split into two balls, flattened slightly, and wrapped in seran wrap in the fridge for an hour.

When the hour was up, onto the lightly-floured Silpat it went:

Rolled it out, in even strokes, clockwise:

Lay it over my pie pan, pressing down:

Cut the excess with a little pastry cutter thingy:

and then pressed in the edges...


Jonny's mom has these really awesome/fancy pie weights, which you put in the pie crust when baking it initially, so the crust doesn't get bubbles in it:

Baked the pie shell at 350 for about 12 minutes.

While this was cooling, it was time to tackle the Butterscotch monster.

This is when the trouble began...but this is what Pie Week is all about. Getting experience. Right?

So, I got my stuff measured out, all nice and neat. The recipe calls for "scalded milk," but my grandma said that this was before evaporated milk, so you can use evaporated milk instead.

Let me just say, this is not the first time I've mistaken evaporated milk for sweetened condensed milk. (There was a key lime pie incident circa 2007. Grody.)


So, butterscotch filling Batch #1 goes into the garbage, and I start Batch #2. Dark brown sugar, egg yolks, and the evaporated milk (NOT sweetened condensed), etc. into Batch 2.

I also [naively] think, "oh good, I've got my mistake under my belt, Murphy and his Law have had their way with me, and it will be smooth sailing from here..."

Cooks over a double boiler:

Thickened... mmmmm

Meanwhile, with my other hand, I was whipping up the meringue topping.

Or so I thought.

There was some confusion on my part of what constitutes "frothy."


(By the way, I've never made meringue before.)

I poured the butterscotch filling into my beautifully cooled crust:

Again, Naive Leslie says to herself, "Maybe cooking the pie will make the meringue rise?"


This is NOT what it's supposed to look like. [Look at the meringue in the pie in the 7 Days of Pie logo at the top of this post. Yeah...]

So Jonny and I have a good laugh about it..."Pie Week is ruined!" I think, and we trek over to my parents' house. The plan had been to "surprise" them with my grandad's favorite pie. But alas, it was set to be an admission of defeat instead.

When we get there, Jonny, me, my mom, and my dad all have a good laugh about the meringue-that-wasn't. Then, Sensible Steve suggests just scraping off the offensive "meringue" and trying again. Brilliant.

Meringue Round 2:

3 egg whites, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, beat until frothy. Add 6 tablespoons of sugar gradually, until stiff and glossy.

This takes probably almost 10 minutes of beating the egg whites & such at a very high speed with a hand mixer. The point is to get the air into the egg whites so they'll stand up. This is how the magic happens.

Now that's stiff and glossy:

Topping the pie:

Pam & Steve get in on the action:

And THAT'S meringue!

Into the oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Hallelujah! It's beautiful!

And it's only 10:20 pm!


YUM! Thanks Mom & Dad and Jonny for helping a girl out on her first meringue. Pie Week is not a disaster [yet]!

Butterscotch Pie
(please learn from my mistakes)

3 eggs, separated
4 T cornstarch
1 c dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 T melted butter
2 c milk, scalded, or 1 can evaporated milk, measure and fill to 2 c with water
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla

Beat egg yolks 1 minute. Make paste of cornstarch, sugar and beaten egg yolks, add melted butter and milk and salt, cook until thick in top of double boiler, stir constantly. Cool slightly. Add vanilla and beat 1 minute with portable mixer. Pour into cooled pie shell and cover with meringue.


3 egg whites
1/4 t cream of tartar
6 T sugar

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Gradually add the sugar until stiff and glossy. (see above for picture of stiff and glossy.) Top pie with meringue and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool completely.

Let these blunders bring you smooth sailing should you make this pie yourself.

vinyl accompaniment [started with my favorite record]

xoxo Pie Sleuth


  1. That looks so very tasty sissy. Great job on day 1! Good thing we have a mom and dad who are always so positive. Way to go on that pretty meringue!!

  2. Way to go Les!!! That looks AMAZING!

    So you didn't say how it tasted? Was it delicious or what? I'm excited to see what the rest of pie week holds. :) xoxo

  3. it's DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!!!! real live butterscotch! SO SO YUM!

  4. That looks delicious! I may try to attempt this at thanksgiving...try to spice up things instead of the same ole pumpkin :)

  5. 1. Butterscotch is one of my fave flavors (over chocolate!) and therefore, I demand a piece!

    2. Oh boy did I make up a whole lot of dances to that Carly Simon album when I was a child.

    3. I would like to observe that this experience is symbolic of why you and Steve ran a marathon together--good for him for not letting you give up!

  6. Leslie,
    I made a meringue last night between 10:55 and 11:05 for a Pumpkin Chiffon pie. Having a stand mixer makes all the difference.

  7. I'm so glad you stuck with it! The meringue is perfect and I'm sure well worth the wait for tasting! Ready for success # 2, my friend :)

  8. That is easily the most entertaining account of the making of a butterscotch pie that I have ever read. My friend, you are not just making pies, but inventing a new literary genre in the process.

  9. I am drooling...! I love pie week, what a fun idea! :)


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