I suppose it was finally time for me to clean out my stove. This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection, Buttermilk Pie (with a Hint of Maple Syrup), from Baked Explorations, provided me with no other choice than to do just that – or risk an inevitable oven fire!
Buttermilk pie starts out fairly easy. Make a half batch of Baked’s simple pie dough (you only need enough for a single-crust pie). Roll your pie dough out – you want to refrigerate it until well-chilled, for about an hour – fit it to your pan, cut off the excess, tuck the ends under and crimp, and keep it in the freezer while stirring together your filling ingredients. Mix eggs, brown sugar and granulated sugar, flour, buttermilk, melted butter, and maple syrup together in a bowl. When you’re ready to bake the pie, take the crust out of the freezer, pour in your filling, and bake. ‘Easy as pie’, right?
My main error with the pie filling, which I sensed from the very start, was that I added the cooled, melted butter to the other ingredients while they were still fairly cold. You can probably guess what happened: the butter, when it hit the cold buttermilk mixture, immediately congealed back into solid clumps in the custard filling, and I feared that – while baking – the butter would not melt and combine harmoniously with the other ingredients. Sadly, I was right.
When I removed the pie from the oven, I found – to my dismay – that the top was basically a pool of bubbling grease/butter that, even after an hour baking, had simply refused to absorb into the custard filling. To add insult to injury, the all-butter pie crust just seemed to add even more of a greasy mess to the pie. In an attempt to salvage what I could, I quickly grabbed a bunch of paper towels and napkins and gently pressed them on top of the pie and into the crevices along the edges by the crust to sop the excess grease up, and it seemed to work. As I feel that scent is a huge precursor to taste, I bent down to inhale the scent of the pie and – wow – it smelled just like buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup (perhaps no big surprise)! I think “Pancake Pie” would be a cute alternative name for this warming, comfy custard pie.
Unfortunately, I may have saved my buttermilk pie, but the bottom of my oven was swimming with grease! A thorough stove cleaning was in order – luckily for me, I have a self-cleaning oven, but I first set to work on mopping up as much grease as I could to avoid a potential fire in the bargain!
Now, I’m going on the assumption that most of you bakers reading this are a hell of a lot smarter than I am and won’t have this happen to you when making this pie. However, to give you the long and short of it – if you tackle this recipe, make sure that:
A) Your eggs and buttermilk are at room temperature, or at least a close enough temperature to your cooled, melted butter, so that when you whisk all of your ingredients together, you obtain a nice homogenous mixture for your filling.
B) As a precaution, bake your pie on a foil-lined cookie sheet. This will prevent any potential excess grease from the crust or filling from spilling over and making your oven a complete, greasy mess. Trust me – the pie smells yummy when it’s pulled out of the oven, but that obnoxious burning grease smell that lingers in the air afterwards does not.
I was happy this pie came around when it did in the Baked Sunday Mornings schedule, as I just happened to have some buttermilk in the fridge, waiting to be used up. While I enjoy the inclusion of buttermilk as an ingredient in baked goods, I was skeptical of a pie built around it. I needn’t have been. The taste of this pie is wonderfully subtle and sublime. The buttermilk provides the right tang to the flavor, but doesn’t overpower the pie as a whole. Though the title of the recipe suggests a ‘hint’ of maple, the maple syrup really punches through on the first bite. While buttermilk pie has its origins in Texas, the maple twist on Baked’s recipe had me thinking of autumn in New England or Canada. The custard is smooth and its texture analogous to that of a pumpkin pie. They weren’t kidding in Baked Explorations when they said this pie would win no beauty pageants – it’s a very plain pie, indeed – but don’t be fooled by appearances. I almost want to liken it to mashed potatoes – very, very humble, nondescript, and almost completely white or pale in appearance, but delicious and comforting to taste. I would be curious to see this pie made as a tart – it has a sleekness all its own when you cut and serve a slice on a dessert plate… with a garnish of candied bacon, perhaps? Chic, indeed.
On the downside, I did find that the bottom crust was a touch soggy and under-baked, possibly due to 2 things: 1) according to the recipe, you just pour the filling into the unbaked shell and bake the whole thing, and 2) that crust was certainly soaking up a lot of the extra butter and grease while it was baking. I’m not sure if pre-baking the crust a touch, sans filling (with some pie weights), would make a huge difference or not. It didn’t take away from my overall happy experience with eating the pie, but I did feel it could have been a bit flakier or drier than it was.
Was it worth the greasy disaster? I’d say it was. I tried a new recipe I wouldn’t have given a second thought to, otherwise… and got a cleaner stove in the bargain.