Mini Butterscotch Pie (like Pecan Pie minus the pecans) has a gooey, caramel 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, and math plays a part in that, too. 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).
Dessert, though, that was a bit more challenging…I found Smitten Kitchen's Butterscotch Pie that looked quite yummy. Since I was only cooking for my husband and myself, I wanted a mini 7-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!
Kitchen calculations for pie
I see you cringing in your seat…don’t worry! I only needed to calculate the volume of a 7-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 a 9-inch pie pan but none for the 7-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 7-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 ingredient amounts in half and had done with it!
(Do you see what goes on in my head? It’s combat in here, folks.)
What you need
The filling for this pie uses basic ingredients, and you don't have to do much to them.
- Butter: Adds richness and is the basis for butterscotch (along with the brown sugar)
- Brown sugar: Besides the sweetness, this is where the butterscotch flavor comes from (with the butter)
- Salt: Helps balance the sweetness and lends a body to the flavor
- Heavy cream: The third leg in making butterscotch, smooths out the butter/sugar mixture with richness
- Eggs: Firms up the filling structure
- Vanilla: Adds those lovely floral notes
How to par bake a pie crust
For the crust, I made a single pie crust using my No Recipe Pie Crust with a 9-6-3 ratio of flour-fat-liquid (there's that math again!).
There was an interesting method to par bake the crust (paraphrased) on Smitten Kitchen: 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."
Making butterscotch is essentially cooking butter and brown sugar together, then adding in cream. But since the filling needs to have a gooey yet solid structure, add in the eggs after the mixture has cooled a bit.
Lots of great flavor. Looks? Well...
To be honest, 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.
No one noticed the divot when the pie was sliced and served with a dollop of whipped cream. All pie imperfections are made better with whipped cream!
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?
Recipes for pie
Pies can be sweet or savory, and there are so many fillings from which to choose. From fruits to nuts and custards, there's bound to be a pie that catches your fancy! Here are a few choices to try.
Recipes for pie crust & more
Need a base for a recipe? No problem! Here are recipes for a basic pie crust, graham cracker crusts, and a shortcrust pastry. Plus how to make a lattice pie crust!
Butterscotch Pie for Two
- 1 single pie crust, see Recipe Notes
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, cold (2 oz, 57g)
- ¾ cup brown sugar, (5-3/4 oz, 160g)
- ¼ tsp sea salt flakes, plus more to taste
- ⅓ cup heavy cream, cold (2-3/4 oz, 75g)
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract, or to taste
- Heat oven to 400°F.
- Freeze the crust for 15 minutes while you make the filling. When it's solid, 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 the shell 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, pour in the filling. Bake for 10 minutes at 400°F, and then reduce heat to 300°F and bake 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).