Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sugar Cream Pie: The Evolution of a Recipe

When Tyler and I met and he started bringing me home to his parent's house, it was a bit awkward. That very first time started with us sitting down to a pot roast with potatoes, carrots and some dessert. I don't think it was sugar cream pie, but it might have been since his family is where I learned about this fantastic decadence filled pie shell.

Before Tyler and I moved out West, we used to go to his parent's house every Sunday, where his mom would make a pot roast or chicken and dumplings (noodle style) or some other easy to prepare, Sunday-day-of-rest appropriate dinner. The meal would be followed with football or rodeo or other Sunday-day-of-rest appropriate TV show. We would NOT talk about politics or religion. No good could come from those conversations. But those were wonderful visits that I remember and miss.

To this day I'm not sure if anything beats a Wick's Sugar Cream Pie. Those things were addictive and worth gluttonous onslaughts. I would sneak a small sliver for myself before the rest was served so I could get two portions, and even then, I would cut a big piece for my real serving. They are good, and I am willing to say they are the best store bought pie I have ever had - and possibly better than any homemade sugar cream pie I have ever had. Yes - big claims!

But, there is no Wick's in New Mexico. In fact, not one single customer had heard of this type of pie when I sold them this year. They would ask what it was and I would just say in a very slow, deliberate manner, "They have sugar (pause) and cream (pause). That's about it."

Tyler asked his mom for her recipe, which was an evolution of her mom's recipe. I'll provide both below. Grandma Meeks' recipe calls for the cream, sugar and flour to be mixed together, poured in a pie shell and sprinkled with nutmeg. That's all. But, about one out of three pies wouldn't set up. The flour would settle near the bottom causing a runny pie - still, a very good runny pie.

So Tyler's mom tapped into more modern techniques. She added some half-n-half to the recipe for more moisture, then microwaved the mixture prior to pouring into the pan, to give the liquid a head start since it needs to come to a boil in order to set up. This is the pie I know and love.

But I'm a gourmet store owner. I sold Tyler's mom's version, and people loved it. But for our personal Thanksgiving, I wanted to add some flavor depth and complexity. Enter my evolution.

I had two thoughts. First, white sugar is pretty linear in its flavor profile. But, caramelizing that sugar would add the flavors I sought, and would not effect the structure. Second, I have access to palm sugar which is just the cow's meow. So here are the three recipes:

Grandma Meeks' Sugar Cream Pie
Oven to 425F
2 C. Heavy Cream
1/2 C. Sugar
5 T. Flour
Pinch of Salt

Combine all three ingredients, pour in unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn oven to 350F. Cook until set. Expect pie to boil over.

Margie Connor's Sugar Cream Pie
Oven to 425F
2 C. Heavy Cream
1/2 C. Half-n-Half
1/2 C. Sugar
5 T. Flour
Pinch of Salt

Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl or large measuring cup. Microwave in one minute blasts on high until liquid becomes hot, but not boiling. Pour into baked pie shell. Sprinkle with nutmeg and bake for 5-10 minutes, then lower to 350F. Bake until set.

My Sugar Cream Pie (Tyler called it a Dulce de Leche Pie)
2 C. Heavy Cream
1/2 C. Whole Milk
1/4 C. Sugar
1/4 C. Muscovado (or dark brown sugar)
4 T. Palm Sugar (I used coconut palm sugar)
5 T. Flour
Pinch of Salt

Put the three sugars in a small sauce pan with just a couple of tablespoons of the cream. Heat until melted and starting to caramelize. Don't take this much further than it starting to darken. On the heat, whisk the remaining cream and milk into the caramel, and continue whisking until it is all melted and combined - it should hav ea nice caramel color at this point. Combine remaining ingredients with the caramel milk. Microwave in one minute blasts on high until liquid becomes hot and slightly thickened, but not boiling, whisking after each increment. Pour into baked pie shell. Sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg and bake for 5 minutes, then lower to 350F. Bake until set.

So that's the evolution of the Meeks/Connor/Connoley Sugar Cream Pie recipe. It may continue to evolve throughout the season. Tyler very much liked the tamer sweetness of my version, but didn't consider it a sugar cream. I liked the sweetness of his mom's recipe, but the complexity of my own. In the end, I'm sure none is as good as Grandma Meeks' version, but we all are thankful for her recipe.

Hooiser Sugar Cream Pie (Dulce de Leche Pie)

This is my evolution of the classic Sugar Cream pie ...

See Hooiser Sugar Cream Pie (Dulce de Leche Pie) on Key Ingredient.


Manggy said...

Thank you so much for the recipe, Rob-- I'm sure Grandma Meeks would've been very proud :) I didn't know Tyler's mom was also quite a whiz in the kitchen-- good call with the microwave :)

Gfron1 said...

Eeegad! I forgot a key step in my recipe - the caramel. Its now fixed in the original post.

Ilana Bar-Hai said...

yum! I just may put it in a bonbon and call it Gfron!!
Of coursether ecipe may get another generation added!!

Gfron1 said...

Hi Lior! Great to see you over in the blog world. I would love to see that as a bon bon in with very dark chocolate.

Sophie said...

I haven't tried any version of this recipe before :D, it looks creamy and perfectly sweetened. I'd love to include your version of the recipe on our blog. Please let me know if you're interested. Thanks!

Sophie, Key Ingredient Chief Blogger

Gfron1 said...

Hi Sophie,

I tried emailing you but it bounced. Please feel free to use the recipe however you wish. Thanks.

Tri2Cook said...

Thanks for adding a few more pounds I'll have to work off in the spring when cycling season starts up again... 'cause I'm going to have to try this one.