A lattice or braided crust makes a beautiful topping for brown sugar pie.Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
This brown sugar pie recipe is an adaptation of the French-Canadian comfort-food classic tarte au sucre. It’s a buttery delight, with a double crust and sweet, custardy filling (think of it as a pecan pie without the pecans). We first published this recipe in the January 1990 issue of Yankee, in a story about Huguette Davis, an accomplished home cook who grew up making meals for crowds in Maine lumber camps and who mastered many iconic Acadian recipes, such as creton (pork spread), tourtière (meat pie), and brown sugar pie.
Some tarte au sucre recipes — particularly those coming from sugarbush country in Maine and Quebec —call for maple syrup or maple sugar. But Davis’s recipe is called brown sugar pie for a reason: She didn’t use any maple products in her filling, just plain brown sugar. And in this way, her recipe is much closer to the original French tarte au sucre that you can still enjoy in parts of northern France and Belgium. This makes sense, as many immigrants to Canada (then known as Nouvelle-France) came from these regions. But while the European pies feature white sugar, brown sugar pie gets an extra layer of flavor from the small bit of molasses that gives the sugar its distinct color. However, if you love the flavor of maple, you can replace half or even all the brown sugar with maple sugar.
Pastry for a double-crust pie
2 cups brown sugar (light or dark) or 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup maple sugar
1/2 cup light cream, plus more for brushing the crust
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) salted butter, softened
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Whipped cream and tart berries (such as raspberries or red currants), for serving
Preheat the oven to 375° and set a rack to the lower position.
Take the larger disk of pie dough out of the refrigerator and place it in the center of a large sheet of parchment paper. Cover with a second piece of parchment. Dust your counter with flour and roll the dough out, working from the center, to a 13-inch circle. Peel off the top piece of parchment and transfer dough, peeled side down, to a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Peel off the remaining parchment and press crust into the plate, draping any excess over the sides. Let this crust chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cream, butter, flour, egg, vanilla, and salt. It should be mostly smooth with a few lumps of butter remaining. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust and return to the refrigerator.
Remove the second disk of dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on the floured counter into a square about 12 inches across and 1/4-inch thick. Using a ruler and pizza cutter (or knife), cut the dough into even strips about 1 centimeter wide. Remove the prepared pie from the refrigerator, then braid the strips in groups of three and lay them across the top of the pie, trimming as needed, or work them into a lattice pattern over the pie.
Brush the edges of the crust with the extra cream and crimp the edges to seal. Bake until the crust is nicely browned and the center is still slightly wiggly (it’ll firm up as it cools), about 40 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool for at least 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably with whipped cream and tart berries, such as raspberries or red currants.