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Pudding Pi

Mar 11, 2021

2021 seems like the best year to celebrate the little things, to recognize happiness wherever we find it. Most of us have been through a lot and need joy.

Nobody is better at finding the best silly ways to celebrate than the food obsessed. Every day of the year represents some kind of made-up food holiday. Just in the last few months alone, we have had National Ranch Dressing Day, National Spaghetti Day, National Margarita Day and World Nutella Day. Not to mention entire months dedicated to Oatmeal, Potato Lovers and Celery. The message is clear: food should be fun and appreciated.

Of course, those of us grasping for any reason to celebrate have embraced March 14. 3-14 is recognized worldwide as Pi Day in honor of the mathematical constant and has been lovingly hijacked with its homonym pie. Who doesn’t want to eat pie on Pi Day?

This year, as I look to Pi Day, I am also acknowledging my husband’s love of pudding pies. While I may think of pie as vehicle to highlight amazing seasonal fruit, pudding pies are always his first request. Homemade butterscotch may be tops for him, and when I saw that Martha Stewart paired this luscious amber dessert with a pecan shortbread crust, I was sold. Garnished with candied pecans, this Butterscotch Pie with Pecan Shortbread Crust brings joy to any Pi Day celebration.


Butterscotch Pie with Pecan Shortbread Crust

(adapted from Martha Stewart)


March 14 (3-14) is known as Pi Day in honor of the mathematical constant. Pie lovers celebrate too. A favorite of Fran Hill's is Butterscotch Pie with Pecan Shortbread Crust.


1 cup pecan halves

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg yolk



1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 large egg yolks

1 2/3 cups whole milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter


Sugared Pecan Garnish:

48 pecan halves (This is roughly how many you will need to ring the tart pan, but the egg white mixture can easily coat a few more. Do it for snacks and salads.)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg white


Crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet until fragrant and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes, then finely grind in a food processor. Add flour and salt to food processor and pulse just to combine. Add the softened butter and sugar to the food processor and pulse a few more times. Add the egg yolk and process to thoroughly incorporate. Mixture will have a fine crumb texture and hold together when pressed between fingers. Press evenly into bottom and up sides of a round 11-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.

Freeze pan 15 minutes, then transfer to oven and bake until set and deep golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. (Watch the crust near the end of baking. Mine was probably done at 20 minutes, but I failed to check on it and have a more toasted result … still tasty but would probably have been better with a few less minutes in the oven.) Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool 15 minutes.

Filling: (Don’t be me. Don’t get ahead of yourself and make the pudding while the crust is chilling. Wait until the crust is baked and cooling. Otherwise, you will be constantly whisking the pudding until the crust is ready to keep it from setting up. Learn from my mistakes.) While the crust is cooling, in a saucepan, whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk egg yolks into the milk and whisk this mixture into the dry ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in butter. Pour filling into crust and let cool.

Sugared Pecans: Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Whisk sugar, salt and egg white together. Stir in pecans. Spread nuts in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake, stirring once (being careful to keep nuts separate and not clump together), until golden brown and crunchy, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely. Garnish pie with sugared pecans. (Extra pecans can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.) Refrigerate pie until pudding is set, at least 4 hours, but up to 2 days.

To serve pie, remove sides of pan, transfer pie to a platter. Slice and serve. May offer whipped cream with each portion, if desired. It is delicious without, though. (Serves 10-12)


Fran Hill has been blogging about food at On My Plate since October of 2006. She, her husband and their three dogs ranch near Colome.


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