When I was not in boarding school, one of my fondest memories growing up in Quebec was eating my mom’s heavenly pies. She was not your typical 1960’s housewife, but baking pies was her moment of glory in the kitchen and her best-kept secret.
To this day, I have a very sweet tooth and crave sugary desserts. The image I provide is a recent sugar pie I baked last month (Tarte ‘o’ sucre ‘a’ creme, in French-Quebecois). My mother finally shared this simple delight’s ingredients in 1990. It contains five elements: using three for the crust and three for the filling.
For 2 pie crusts:
- 2 cups of regular white flour
- 2/3 cup plain lard
- 1/4 cup icy cold water
- 2 cups 10% pure cream (with no additives if possible)
- 1 cup loosely filled medium brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon regular white flour
The time needed: pastry crusts 1 hour, filling 15 minutes, baking 50 minutes.
In a large bowl, measure and pour flour and cut lard, use fingers to break and mix together till evenly textured with pea-size bits of lard. Add some icy water, use a fork to moisten the whole mixture, then use hands to smooth evenly by folding over gently, incorporating dry and wet components. Do not overwork, this will result in a tough dough. The faster you can do this the better.
Shape in a disc and cover with plastic wrap, let cool in the fridge about 40 minutes. In a medium pan at low heat, simmer cream and sugar till sugar is melted and evenly glossy, about 10 minutes. Cool on the stove.
Take the cold dough disc out of the fridge and cut in half. Roll out the half in a circle between 2 layers of wax paper on the table with a rolling pin, make sure it is the same thickness all around. Carefully peel the wax paper off the top, place a hand under and flip into the pie plate, peel other layers off slowly while making sure dough is laying flat against the 9-inch plate. Add flour to filling, whisk briskly and pour into dough in pie plate.
Roll out the second half in the same way as the first but in a smaller diameter. Peel the top wax paper off. Using a butter knife, cut long narrow strips about half an inch in width. Starting in the middle of the pie plate use the longest strips of dough and place on top of the filling, from top to bottom and from side to side, interweave and gently interlace more strips by gently lifting and placing back. When done all the way to the edges, fold the bottom dough over top layer of the top strips end, evening out thickness as you go around the edge of the pie plate. Crimp up edge of dough with three finger tips.
Place on the middle rack of the oven at a 375 degree Fahrenheit temperature. The pie will bake while the filling thickens, the dough becoming a dark golden brown. After 50 minutes, if filling is bubbling up in center, it should be ready. I find no need to place anything underneath plate while cooking.
These simple ingredients should be as fresh as possible with the least amount of additives or other chemicals. The taste depends on this. It is a very subtle sweet light fudge sensation with the crunch of two plain flaky pastry layers to balance the sugar. Like a good stew, the flavor deepens and improves over time. Keep the pie loosely covered and leave on your counter or shelf. Do not refrigerate. You can freeze for a future occasion if needed.