Bonjour! After a week of strolling through the Louvre and binging on crepes and croissants, I’m back in good ol’ Davidson, North Carolina. As much as I wish that I were still leisurely munching on pastries and shopping at H&M on the Champs-Elysees, it is best for both my health and my bank account that I am home. Interestingly enough, the one thing that I was craving the most during my time in France was fruit. Unfortunately, the travel company that we were traveling with did not cater very much to the healthy-food seeking crowd, though I was lucky enough to find some packaged pineapple at a supermarket and devour it on the train ride from Paris to Nice. Our tour guide noticed me enjoying the juicy fruit and bluntly smiled and stated to me: “Oh it’s so nice to see an American eating fruit!” I thought it was pretty ironic that “the American” had been craving any sort of fruit on the French trip where there was little to no fruit to be found. Seeking to quench my fruit-thirst when I got home last night, I scarfed down two slightly green bananas (just how I like them) in no time flat. This morning I had another. My brothers both managed to sleep until just about 11 AM (5:00 PM France time), however my own screwed up internal body alarm went off at 6:43 AM. So with time to burn, I did a little unpacking, caught up on a bit of Facebooking, and decided to give my brothers and myself an official welcome back to the south by baking a pie. You know it’s southern cuisine when the recipe is called “Aunt Helen’s Brown Sugar Pie.”
In case you were wondering, no, I actually do not have an aunt named Helen (my grandma’s name is Helen, but everyone calls her Wendy). I found Aunt Helen’s Brown Sugar Pie recipe as I was flipping through the Our State: North Carolina magazine. The second I saw the super short and simple recipe in a clean box bordered with dotted red lines on page 198, I knew that it would be the recipe of the day. Check it out:
Aunt Helen’s Brown Sugar Pie
Source: Helen Wilkes, Our State: North Carolina Magazine
Ingredients: 1 cup light brown sugar, ½ cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, dash salt, 2 eggs beaten, ½ teaspoon butter flavoring, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2/3 cup milk, 1 piecrust, unbaked.
Directions: Mix all ingredients until creamy. Pour into piecrust. Bake at 300º for 30 minutes or until set.
I made a few changes to the recipe due to my addiction to homemade piecrusts, the contents of our kitchen, and the wonky behavior of our oven. I definitely recommend whipping up your own crust, because it’s simple and oh so yummy. Here are some instructions for a homey homemade piecrust:
Crust Instructions (Source: Willow Bird Baking): Pulse 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt together to combine. Add cubes of ¼ cup shortening and pulse until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Add in ½ cup of butter cubed and pulse until butter pieces are no larger than small peas, about 10 pulses. Add 4 tablespoons water and pulse on low. If dough remains crumbly and doesn’t come together, add another tablespoon of water. Add as little as is required to enable the dough to be rolled into a ball. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes (if you’re in a hurry, chill in the freezer for about 10 minutes). Roll disk of dough out to around ¼ inch thick.
Also, there was no butter flavoring to be found in the Weir Family kitchen, so I substituted it with ½ teaspoon Vanilla Nut and Butter flavoring. The pie turned out to be edible and quite tasty despite the change, so I’m concluding that this was a safe and savory substitution. Though, I also had a little complication that may have affected the pie more so than the change to Vanilla Nut and Butter flavoring. Unfortunately, my oven started to misbehave while in the middle of baking the pie. When the timer began to chime (yes, our new oven chimes) after the 30 minutes of baking at 300º, I pulled out the rack to realize that the filling was still completely 100% in liquid form. My heart dropped a little bit seeing this unforeseen complication, but it was a relatively easy fix. It turned out that the oven was only about 200º (even though it read 300º–how deceiving…), so I cranked up the heat and monitored the pie religiously until it set. It finally finished baking after around 55 minutes, and then it was set and ready to go.
Let me tell you, even though it took a little bit longer than expected, this pie was well worth the wait. It may not have been the prettiest pie ever (note to self: in the future use a shallower pie plate so the pie is not excessively taller than the filling), but the happily flaky and simple crust balancing the sweet brown-sugary filling was surely satisfying. So even though I really should have been lying off the carbs and hitting the gym after my crepe-croissant-binge, this brown sugar pie was a quaint and southern little welcome home. On that note, I’m going to go eat a piece of pie and then justify my pie-eating by taking a power walk with my mom. Bon appetit!