YEAR AFTER YEAR—ESPECIALLY AROUND CHRISTMASTIME—I always find myself thinking about my grandmother’s sugar pie and how superior it was. Maybe it was the quality of the lard that she used in the pastry that made it so tender and flaky. Or maybe her filling included some of the maple syrup that my grandfather made himself. I’ll never know for sure because she never wrote down the recipe. I loved watching her put it all together by instinct, feel and logic. I’ve never completely succeeded in matching my memory of the taste of my grandmother’s tarte au sucre, but this recipe is close enough. It is sweet, rich and decadent, and hopefully will blow you away too. — J.C.P.
- 240 g (11⁄2 cups) flour
- 180 g (3⁄4 cup) cold butter, cubed
- 48 g (3 tbsp) ice water
- 75 g (1⁄3 cup) butter
- 50 g (1⁄3 cup) cornstarch
- 45 g (1⁄4 cup) flour
- 750 ml (3 cups) heavy cream
- 600 g (3 cups) brown sugar
- 75 ml (1⁄3 cup) maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp cream, combined
Combine flour, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the butter is incor- porated, but do not over-mix (it should look like wet sand with small pieces of butter visible). Pulse again while adding 50 ml (scant 1⁄4 cup) ice-cold water in a stream until dough forms a ball. Remove, form into a ball and cover in plastic wrap. Let rest in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).
Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat, add the corn- starch and flour, and whisk for 2 minutes. Whisk in the cream and simmer until the mixture thickens—about 10 minutes. Add the brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt. Whisk together, cook for 5 minutes and set aside to cool.
On a floured work surface roll the pastry into 2 disks approximately 30 mm (1/8 inch) thick. Lay the first disk of dough in a buttered round cake pan. Trim the perimeter and brush it with the egg mixture. Pour in the filling. Cut the remaining dough into 2.5-cm (1-inch) strips, brush the top side with egg mixture, and arrange in a lattice on top of the filling. Trim and flute the perimeter. Bake on middle rack of the oven until pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling— about 45 minutes. Set aside to cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature, preferably with a dollop of Chantilly cream.