Simplicity itself, this pie is an old-timer. I suspect it’s the great-aunt of the modern darling, pecan pie, though I thus far I have no documentation to support this guess of mine. You start this particular pie off in a 450 degree oven for a five-minute heat-blas; then ease it down to 350 and let it bake slowly to plush perfection. Located in Southern Pies‘ old-school chapter, “A Chess Pie Compendium”, Brown Sugar Pie follows the chess-pie theme of basic but luscious desserts, made from everyday home-kitchen ingredients. While the recipes in Southern Pies range in difficulty levels from simple to elaborate, this particular pie is just about as straightforward and speedy as any in the book. Brown sugar, eggs, softened butter, and vanilla, are stirred into a thick, silky brown mixture, and baked off in the time it takes to clean up the dishes, put away the brown sugar and vanilla, and read today’s poem from The Writer’s Almanac — this may be the very dessert that called forth the term, “Easy as pie!”
Nancie’s Daily Pie for October 2, 2010
Brown Sugar Pie
Unbaked piecrust for one 9-inch pie
1/2 cup butter, softened (one stick/4 ounces)
2 cups packed brown sugar, light or dark or a combination
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl, beat the butter with a whisk or a big wooden spoon, until it is soft and creamy. (I used my hand-held mixer, since the butter was very recently sprung from the fridge, and I wanted maximum help in combining all ingredients into a smooth filling).
Add the brown sugar and beat well, scraping the bowl often, until soft and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating very well after each addition. Add the vanilla, beat to mix everything well, and then pour all the filling into the ubaked piecrust, and smooth out the top.
Place the pie on the bottom shelf of the 450 degree oven and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and continue baking until the edges puff up, and the center is fairly firm when you gently shake the pan, 20 to 25 minutes. (The puffing-up is a phase — enjoy it, but don’t expect it to endure through eating time — chess pie’s job is to expand and then settle back down into a satisfying un-puffed up pie.) If the crust and pie are nicely browned and the pie needs a little more time for the filling to set, cover it loosely with a generous piece of aluminum foil to prevent further browning.
Set the pie on a cooling rack, or on a folded kitchen towel and let it cool to room temperature.
From Southern Pies: A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes, from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan by Nancie McDermott (Chronicle Books, October 2010)