Caramel pies are basically pecan pies without the pecans. It’s all of the gooey goodness in a pecan pie for people with a nut allergy. This recipe is old school, southern. When I say ‘old school’ I mean, we are using crisco/lard and corn syrup and we are not apologizing for it. This is the pie for the person in your life with the sweetest sweet tooth.
Anytime I follow an Edna Lewis recipe, I find myself using less gadgets when I bake. Don’t get me wrong, I love good kitchen technology — scales, thermometers, Alexa, stand mixers, parchment paper, slip mat, baker’s joy– you know all of the things. I often wonder if my grandmother what my grandmother would think about the sheer number of gadgets I’ve acquired over the last couple of years, just to bake. I recall baking with my grandmother and beating eggs with one of those hand beaters. Not a hand mixer. An Egg Beater. Technology has come a long way.
Baking with Edna Lewis is like baking with my grandmother. Why? Because there is an entire section of her cookbook trash talking a particular brand of baking powder that did not meet her standards. Baking powder shade aside, this book is about legit country cooking. Not shiplap and fake farmhouses decor. This is farm to table before it was hip. It’s about making what you have/what you’ve grown. The recipes are seasonal and resourceful. However, I will say that the instructions require experience in deciphering old country recipe instructions. Since I spent so much time with my grandmother in her kitchen it all makes sense to me.
For this recipe all you need is a large mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, a small mixing bowl, a whisk, 6 small tart pans or 1 9-inch pie pan. You are going to whip egg whites to soft peaks. You can do it without the machine. I promise. Sometimes it’s nice to rely less on technology, I was certainly impressed with my egg whisking skills.
For the pastry you’re going to need cold Crisco. I personally keep a stick of Crisco and a stick of butter in my freezer because you never when the need to make a flaky pie crust might crop up and waiting around for cold ingredients is a drag. When you make an all butter pie crust, everything needs to stay as cold as possible, but Crisco is a bit more forgiving. You don’t have to move quite a efficiently to end up with a nice flaky crust. The all-butter contingent of the baking world might disagree– but if you think about the context of the time period — crisco/lard makes sense. Butter wasn’t as readily available and never was air conditioning.
According to Edna, the Brown Sugar Caramel pie was a favorite of Freetown, Virginia for over 150 years. From the book:
“One neighbor was very proud of her talent, whenever we visited her she would bring out a pie or tart and say “Taste it! It will melt in your mouth!”
She wasn’t lying. That caramel is like nothing I’ve ever had before. A small slice of this tart with a cup of strong black coffee is the very best way to end a meal.
Edna Lewis Caramel Pie
A brown sugar caramel pie, that was a classic favorite of Freetown, Virginia.
- 1 ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 egg (separated)
- 1 tbsp butter (melted)
- 2 tbsp dark Karo syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup milk (room temperature)
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup vegetable shortening
- ¼ cup cold water
Make the pastry
- Sift the flour into a large bowl. Stir in the salt.
- Cut in the butter, either using two forks, pastry cutter or your hands. The dough should have have a meal-y consistency with flour/crisco no larger than the size of a pea. Stir in the water to make a crumbly dough. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Gently pat the dough in to a round disk and cover in plastic wrap and put the dough in the refrigerator. Chill the dough for at least 15 minutes. Press the dough into 6 4 ½ inch tart pans or 1 9 inch pie pan and return to the refrigerator to chill.
- Preheat the oven to 350
Make the filling:
- In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, flour and salt. Add the beaten egg yolk, melted butter, dark brown sugar, vanilla extract and milk. Whisk together until the brown sugar begins to dissolve.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg white until it reaches “soft peaks”. The egg white should be quite frothy, but should not quite hold a peak when the whisk is turned upside down.
- Fold the egg white into the filling and then pour the filling in the tart pans.
- Bake. 23-25 minutes for tart pans; 35-40 minutes for 9 inch pie pan.
- Serve warm garnished with powdered sugar.