Mini Butterscotch Pie (like Pecan pie minus the pecans) has a gooey, caramelly filling and flaky crust that begs for whipped cream. Plus, it’s perfectly sized for two!
A day for Math nerds
Last week was Pi Day (March 14th, or 3/14), a day fully created to make my math tutor/chef’s heart skip a beat. I love the number-to-date relationship (not to bring back nightmares from Geometry, but pi (∏), an irrational number representing the ratio between the circumference and diameter of a circle, is 3.14159…). I, of course, also love pie (remember my ode to pie from last year, Easy as Pi (Day)? For this year’s Pi Day I made a single crust Chicken Pot Pie (I had a cooked chicken breast I wanted to use up…easy peasy. Dessert, though, that was a bit more challenging…I found Butterscotch Pie on Smitten Kitchen that looked quite yummy. Since I was only cooking for my husband and myself, I wanted a mini 6-inch pie that wouldn’t call to me from the fridge for the rest of the week. Hmmm…there was only one way forward for me: MATH!
Break out the calculator!
I see you cringing in your seat…don’t worry! I only needed to calculate the volume of a 6-inch pie pan and the volume of a 9-inch pie pan, then divide the two answers and adjust each ingredients weight by the result (Ummm…pie pans are sloped). An internet search came up empty — I found various answers for the volume of 9-inch pie pan but none for the 6-inch pie pan. Ok, new plan…I just filled each pan with water and poured that amount into a measuring cup. The result? A 9-inch pan held 4 cups and a 6-inch pan held 1-1/2 cups, so the ratio to adjust the ingredients was 3/8. In the end I just divided the recipe in half and had done with it!
(Do you see what goes on in my head? It’s combat in here, folks)
I adjusted the Butterscotch Pie filling ingredients in my recipe to reflect a 6-inch pie. For the crust, I made a single pie crust that fit just fine. There was an interesting method to par bake the crust (paraphrased) on Smitten Kitchen that I decided to try: after chilling the pie dough, “roll it out, freeze it right on the pie plate and use foil to hold the shape instead of pie weighs. While the crust is par-baking, make the filling and pour it in right when the crust comes out of the oven.” Neat!
This Butterscotch Pie was rather ugly coming out of the oven (what’s with that divot in the middle?), but it was quite delicious…it had the consistency of pecan pie filling with a lovely butterscotch flavor from the salt and vanilla (and no one noticed the divot when it was sliced & served). I almost wish I had made the full recipe just so it would call out to me. Anyway, I consider this year’s Pi Day well celebrated, with pie and math!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
p.s. We lost Dr. Stephan Hawking, that eminent astrophysicist, on Pi Day last week. Hobbled in body, Dr. Hawking’s mind soared in the universe using math as his spaceship. I think Pi Day is a fitting day to celebrate his life, don’t you?
Mini Butterscotch Pie
- 1 single pie crust, see Recipe Notes
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (2 oz, 57g, cold
- 3/4 cup brown sugar (5-3/4 oz, 160g)
- 1/4 tsp coarse or flaky sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1/3 cup heavy cream (2-3/4 oz, 75g), cold
- 2 tsp vanilla extract, or to taste
- 3 large eggs
- Heat oven to 400°F.
- Freeze the crust for 15 minutes while you make the filling. When it's solid, prick the bottom with a fork. Coat a piece of foil with butter or nonstick spray and press tightly against frozen pie shell, covering the dough and rim and molding it to fit the shape of the edges. Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully, gently remove foil. If any parts have puffed, just press them gently back into place. Patch any tears or cracks with reserved dough scraps. Leave the oven on.
- For the filling: Melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and salt and stir to combine (it will be clumpy, not smooth). Let the mixture simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring. Whisk in the cream and remove from heat. Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes, then whisk in eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.
- As soon as crust comes out of oven, you can pour in the filling. Bake for 10 minutes at 400°F, and then reduce heat to 300°F and bake pie another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pie jiggles slightly in center when moved.
- Let the pie cool completely. Serve chilled or at room temperature with lightly sweetened whipped cream (especially if you have any imperfections to hide).