I’m a big believer in a homemade pie crust. Pate brisee, in fact, is one of my favorite phrases to say aloud. Try it: pate brisee. Pate brisee! PATE BRISEE. See? And it’s not just that. It’s the magic that is made of butter, plus flour, plus salt, plus water, plus heat. That magic is flaky and rich, and is a wonderfully accommodating receptacle for all kinds of delicious. Apples, peeled and chunked, cinnamon-spiked and saucy, for instance. Or, for another, dizzying trails of pecans atop a super-sweet, salt-cut chocolate base. And don’t forget the classic: a silky, burnt orange pumpkin custard.
I’ll happily try to convince anyone who’ll listen that the homemade pie crust is nowhere near as tricky a feat as some will have you believe. Sure—it takes a couple tries to get the hang of it. Mainly, you need to learn not to have too heavy or too light a hand when it comes to adding water to the flour-butter-salt base. And it helps tremendously to work very quickly and to keep your ingredients cold. Beyond that, I swear, pate brisee (pate brisee, pate brisee, pate brisee—sorry (but not really)) is a snap. Not to mention incredibly worth it.
What’s more—one of my favorite early eating memories involves pie crust. Or, rather, the scraps that were trimmed from a round of dough after it had been fitted into a tin. My grandma’s pie tin, to be exact. The crust was to be filled with sugared, just-picked wild blueberries—plunked, one-by-one, into the tin pails that my grandpa tossed into the bed of his pick-up while we made the short drive up Palisade Head, where we plucked the tiny blue fruit, with a sweeping view of the great sparkling blue beauty that is Lake Superior. But it was those scraps of pie dough—tossed in sugar and cinnamon, rolled and baked—that I remember best. If memory serves, my grandparents called them Washington Cakes and I loved them.
So, with all of this in mind, it surprises no one more than me that I’ve become so enamored of the simple, humble graham cracker pie crust. I blame the pudding. You see, it’s the pudding-y pie fillings that pair so perfectly with a cinnamony, crumbly, just sweet graham cracker crust. First, it was chocolate cream. And then it was peanut butter pudding.
Now, though, it’s butterscotch pudding. Topped with bourbon-laced, softly-whipped cream. Oh, yes, I blame the pudding.
Butterscotch-Bourbon Cream Pie
Adapted from Gourmet & Bon Appetit
For the Crust:
1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Pudding:
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract