How About Another Piece of Pie

Thanksgiving, along with the Fourth of July, is one of the most quintessentially American holidays we celebrate each year. It’s about giving thanks for what we have, and the day is marked by gatherings of family and friends, watching football on television, and eating enough food to cause a postprandial torpor that takes a good 24 hours to recover from.

Each year at this time, with a week to go, folks are busily finalizing menus for the big day. And if you’re like me, that planning includes not only what recipes I’m going to make, but the foods I plan to eat as well. But every year it’s a toss up: should I go with the tried-and-true favorites of Thanksgivings past or branch out and try something new? Go for the old bird or throw caution to the wind and make something totally unexpected? Linguini with clams, anyone? 

The one constant about Thanksgiving at my house is that it must include pie, and lots and lots of it. In fact, without a doubt, my family thinks that pie should be its own food group. Apple, pecan, pumpkin, blueberry, peach … we never met a pie we didn’t like.

But our hands-down favorite—and a Thanksgiving specialty—is Brown Sugar Pie. A variation on the classic chess pie, Brown Sugar Pie is a Southern specialty, and Jean Anderson has one of the best versions of it in her James Beard award-winning cookbook, My Love Affair with Southern Cooking. Delicious and easy to make, here is her recipe, with a few helpful hints to make it extra special.

Brown Sugar Pie
8 servings

  • 1 pound light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • One 9-inch unbaked pie shell

Make sure there’s an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 325°F. Add a heavy baking sheet to preheat along with the oven.

In a large mixing bowl, blend the brown sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth, then add the butter in a slow stream, beating all the while.

Pour the filling into the pie shell and slide the pie onto the preheated baking sheet. Bake on the middle oven rack for 50 to 60 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature before cutting. The filling will fall slightly—all chess pies do as they cool. Serve as is or top with whipped cream.

Some helpful hints from Jean Anderson:
On using melted butter: “After melting the butter, let it brown slightly.”

About pie crusts: “If you are still make your own pastry, good for you. Many people are too busy to do so today, and I occasionally plead guilty myself.  Some frozen pie crusts are excellent; find a brand that you like and stick with it.

Note: If you use a frozen pie shell, choose a deep-dish one and re-crimp the crust to make a high, fluted edge. This will minimize spillovers, which so often happen with pies. Re-crimping is easy: Simply move around the edge of the crust making a zigzag pattern by pinching the dough between the thumb of one hand and the index finger and thumb of the other. Takes less than a minute. Also, before you fill the pie shell, set it—still in its flimsy aluminum tin—inside a standard 9-inch pie pan; this is for added support.

Tip: Also now available at many supermarkets: unroll-and-use pastry circles; look for them near the refrigerated biscuits. I find these especially good for pies larger or smaller than 9 inches—the diameter of most frozen pie shells. These pastry circles are also the ones to use when you’re making a two-crust pie.

Note: If you are using a frozen or other prepared pie crust and a recipe calls for a fully baked pie shell, bake according to package directions.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

2 Responses to “How About Another Piece of Pie”
  1. Bruno says:

    Ruthanne, I am so thankful that you are doing voides now :)I love reading your blog and then come over here and watch your voides 🙂 and yes I agree with you I think this lemon pie will be refreshing for the summer 🙂 And something to share with a friend,too. I love love love today’s post its so refreshing 🙂 God bless you and your family, Ruthanne! -Jessica

  2. Cassie says:

    This pie is completely up my alley. Thanks for posting!

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