This Christmas was the first I’ve celebrated while also having my own child able to really see and articulate the wonder and delight surrounding the season. Watching her watch sparkling lights, try special holiday foods, search for new “decorations” around our neighborhood, and express real gratitude for the gifts she received has been extremely lovely. Now that she fancies herself a ballerina, she’s learned about the Nutcracker and pretends to be Clara often; sometimes I’m the sugarplum fairy. Good deal.
Now, there is no Sugarplum Pie among the many recipes in Ken Haedrich’s Pie collection. (Italian Prune Plum, yes, which is on a short list of pies I’ve started called THE HIGHLY ELUSIVE ONES. Marionberry is on there too. And Balaton cherry. Anybody got any leads?!) But, there is a Sugar Pie; more formally known as Tarte au Sucre. As the name might give away, this pie is of French Canadian origin. In fact, I was first introduced to this dessert about five years ago at the home of some wonderful friends of ours who dwell in Quebec; it was April, but very snowy, and I remember it as one of the coziest moments – we had a double pie meal, a French Canadian style meat pie first, followed by Tarte au Sucre.
P.S. This is what I miss the most right now.
Tarte au Sucre stars one of the tastiest forms of sugar – maple syrup. I baked one for our Christmas Day 2020, and since this pie isn’t terribly well known (at least, outside of Canada), I’ll go into some detail about how it comes together!
Essentially, after making and pre-baking a single crust pastry, two separate components of the filling are prepared: crumbs and syrup. For the crumbs, flour, light brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter are combined much in the way you’d make a crumb topping for a fruit pie. The syrup mixture contains warmed maple syrup, baking soda, an egg, an egg yolk, and vanilla, whisked together. The pie is then assembled in three layers: crumbs, syrup, more crumbs. It’s quite a simple process, but I moved through the steps slowly and deliberately because a) the method was fairly foreign to me and b) I recently made a fruit pie that I forgot to put any cornstarch in until the pie was in the oven for ten minutes, so my confidence is a little on the rocks but I’m gonna be okay thanks for asking.
While I’m confessing past pie foibles I may as well bring up the Shoofly Pie I made 8 1/2 years ago (Have I really been doing this for that long?!) Shoofly Pie is made in a similar manner to Tarte au Sucre; I’d call the two each others’ Southern and Northern cousins. I never tasted the Shoofly Pie, as I sent it off to a bake sale. (Side note: I’ve learned enough in the past 8 1/2 years to know that that’s really NOT the kind of pie to send to a bake sale. Too unusual, too gooey. Has “fly” in the name.) In Ken’s book, the filling of the Shoofly and Tarte au Sucre only bake for 30-35 minutes. In my version of history, the Shoofly Pie was sent to that bake sale after perfectly following the recipe; nevertheless, it was underbaked. My friends were kind enough to not tell me that expressly, but, well, there were some veiled comments about it being difficult to cut and serve. I’m telling you, I know in my heart that it needed ten more minutes. And when I was baking this tender little Sugar Pie, I vowed to learn from the past.
Pie said, “Don’t be tempted to bake the pie much more than 30 minutes, even if the filling seems loose.”
Jessica Gelineau said, “I’m baking this puppy for a full 45.”
Truly, this was a yummy treat. Gooey, almost cookie like in flavor and consistency, with a real emphasis on the maple flavor. Let’s all take a quick moment to note that I’ve begun making more of an effort to crimp the edges on my single crust pies. I attended a virtual Pie Academy with Ken Haedrich in November (which was fantastic – more to come on that in a future post!) and basically was just inspired after watching his fluting technique to give my own pies a bit more oomph in the visual department.
(Note for the nerdiest pie nerds amongst you: This particular crust got a bit too brown and also didn’t hold its fluting perfectly, as you can see. This was a situation where my little silicone pie crust shields should have been employed.)
Now, back to that Christmas wonder and joy I was talking about earlier. One of my written goals for this year, before any of us knew what 2020 would bring, was, “Foster a sense of wonder and delight in my little girl”. The credit isn’t mine to take, but that wonder and delight is growing in her every day. One of Levi’s Christmas presents to me was a book called Awaking Wonder: Opening Your Child’s Heart to the Beauty of Learning, by Sally Clarkson. I’m so excited to read it! Book club, anyone?
One of my gifts to Pippa was a child-size rolling pin. ❤
Did you have a favorite moment of Christmas Day this year? Here are a few of mine: Levi reading to Pippa about Jesus’ birth, Pippa pretending to be baby Jesus (yes, all those stuffed animals are the ones in the manger…the lamb is a little more accurate than Paddington Bear…), and Pippa enjoying the trains and Christmas villages at her great-grandparents’ house.
I’ll be back in a few days to share the rest of 2020’s pies. Hasta luego. xox