One night in the early days of Petee’s, I was chatting with a regular customer who had gone to culinary school. She coyly asked me whether I used real scotch whisky in our Butterscotch Cream Pie, and I told her that I didn’t use any liquor at all. She nodded in approval—it was a trick question, and I had passed her test. Butterscotch is a caramel made with butter and brown sugar or a touch of molasses instead of plain white sugar, which gives it a more complex flavor. Whether the etymology can be attributed to scotch as a deviation from the word scorch or if it refers to a Scottish origin is unknown. Regardless, the caramelized molasses flavor that is the foundation of this recipe is sure to hit the spot.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and egg yolks until smooth. Whisk in the whole egg until well combined. Whisk in the milk in a thin stream.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the sugar, molasses, and salt until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is bubbling.
- Remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the cream in a thin stream. The butterscotch will bubble wildly.
- Remove 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the butterscotch from the saucepan and add it to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk until smooth.
- Add the butterscotch-egg mixture to the saucepan, whisking to combine. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until thickened. Remove from the heat. Add the vanilla and stir well.
- Pour the hot butterscotch pudding into the blind-baked crust, making sure to scrape the entire contents from the sides of the pan into the pie. Use the spatula to ease the pudding up the sides of the shell, leaving about 1⁄2 inch (12 mm) of the crust exposed on the outer edge.
- Make sure the egg whites are completely free of any yolk and that your bowl and mixer attachments are completely clean and nongreasy. Otherwise, the egg whites will not whip properly.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high until they are white and foamy and hold soft peaks.
- Meanwhile, in a saucepan, stir ¼ cup (60 ml) water and the sugar over high heat until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup reaches a strong boil. The temperature on a candy thermometer should read 240°F (116°C). Remove from the heat.
- With the mixer running, pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream into the foamy egg whites. Continue beating until the meringue holds the pattern of the whisk or beater as it spins. The texture should be voluminous but still silky.
- Add the vanilla and salt and beat just until combined.
- Use the meringue immediately to assemble a meringue pie according to the instructions in the recipe, or use as a pie sundae topping.
- Pile the meringue on top of the pudding, using the back of a hot, wet spoon or an offset spatula to spread the meringue over the pie for a simple presentation, or create a wavy texture with peaks and valleys. Alternatively, transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a fluted or round tip and pipe it on, starting at the outer edge and working your way to the center.
- Set the oven rack so that when the pie is on it, the very top of the pie is 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 12 cm) from the heating element.
- Turn the broiler on high. When the heat is in full effect, place the pie under the broiler and set a timer for 1 minute. Broiler heat varies wildly from oven to oven, so keep a close eye on the pie for the entire time it is under the broiler. Heat until the peaks of the meringue turn golden brown, anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes, depending on your oven.
- Transfer the pie to the fridge for 4 hours or until cooled completely. To serve, slice with a hot, wet knife in order to avoid dragging the meringue.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream, vanilla, and salt. Sift in the confectioners’ sugar. Using a hand-held mixer or the whisk attachment, beat on high until the cream is voluminous and still holds its shape but is smooth.
- Chill the pie in the fridge for 1 hour, or until the surface of the pudding is cool to the touch.
- Transfer the whipped cream to a pastry bag with a round tip, and pipe the whipped cream onto the pudding, starting at the outer edge and working your way to the center. Refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.
- The pie is best eaten the same day, but it will keep for up to 3 days, covered, in the fridge.
Reprinted from PIE FOR EVERYONE: Recipes and Stories from Petee's Pie, New York's Best Pie Shop by Petra Paradez. Photos copyright © 2020 by Victor Garzon. Published by ABRAMS.