Photograph by Christopher T. Martin
Food stylist, cookbook photographer, and pastry chef Angie Mosier, who grew up in Tucker, is a past president of the Southern Foodways Alliance and a fervent supporter of numerous other initiatives that preserve regional traditions. That passion grew from frequent trips to her grandparents’ farmhouse near Knoxville. And no dish triggers a childhood memory for her like butterscotch pie. “This is the pie Mamaw made for me every time I would go to visit her, even when I was an adult,” Mosier said as she stirred the velvety custard simmering on the stove in the kitchen of her Grant Park home. Now she bakes them herself according to her grandmother’s instructions—but with a few small adjustments tailored to her grown-up palate. She’s cut the sugar so it’s no longer quite so sweet. She also cranked up the salt a notch to reinforce the salted-caramel flavor she craves. The meringue, though, is virtually identical to how she remembers it: silky, marshmallowy, and beaded with a scattering of golden sugar droplets.
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups whole milk
6 eggs, separated (save the whites in the refrigerator for the meringue)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 egg whites
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons shortening, chilled
2/3 cup butter, chilled and cut into half-inch pieces
1/4 cup ice water
1. Make crust: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a knife blade, add flour and salt. Cover and pulse 3 or 4 times to combine. Place the shortening and butter into the flour, cover and pulse about 6 times until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. With the processor running, slowly add cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough leaves the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Remove the dough ball, flatten slightly to form a thick disk, cover in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
2. Roll chilled dough to about 1/8-inch thickness in a round shape to fit into a deep, 9-inch pie pan for baking. Press dough into the plate gently, being careful not to make a hole. Trim excess from around the edges and fold the edges under. You can make a decorative fluted edge or press all around with the tines of a fork to make a pattern.
3. To parbake: Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and bake the pastry at 425 degrees for about 8 minutes or until the crust is just beginning to bake slightly. It should only be a light, golden brown. The crust is now ready to fill.
4. Meanwhile, combine brown sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Mix well with a fork. Add milk; stir frequently over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. In a small mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until a bit frothy. Slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly until totally incorporated. Pour warm yolk mixture into the saucepan with remaining custard mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is melted. Pour warm filling into prebaked pie crust and set aside until it cools to room temperature. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
5. Meanwhile, make meringue: In a large bowl with electric mixer, whip together the egg whites until they begin to foam, about 1 minute. Sprinkle in sugar; continue mixing on high until stiff, shiny peaks form. Pile meringue onto chilled pie filling. Using a large spoon or spatula, cover entire surface of the pie, pulling up on the utensil to create dramatic peaks and swirls. Turn on the oven broiler and place pie on the lower rack. Don’t walk away! Watch the pie constantly until it turns golden brown on the surface, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
Makes 8 to 12 servings.
This is an extended version of an article that originally appeared in our November 2011 issue.