This Salted Maple Pie Needs to Be on Your Holiday Menu
Maple syrup isn’t just for breakfast.
Maple syrup has long been a breakfast staple, warmed up and drizzled over pancakes and waffles. But maple syrup is having a moment, moving from the breakfast table to the bar to your coffee cup and even the drive-thru. It’s becoming a pretty sexy hobby, too, as people are putting down the knitting needles and tapping maple trees in their backyards.
And as we head into winter, maple has reached the final frontier in your Thanksgiving feast—the pie, more precisely. No longer a topping but a primary ingredient, maple syrup needs to be at the top of your shopping list this holiday season.
“I love that maple syrup’s distinct flavor changes from region to region,” says Lisa Ludwinski, author of cookbook Sister Pie and owner of Sister Pie bakery in Detroit. While we grew up assuming that Grade A syrup is good and Grade B is bad, Ludwinski explains it isn’t that black and white. “Grade A offers a more straightforward sugary flavor, while Grade B packs a punch of maple.”
Her salted maple pie—which she bakes with Grade B maple syrup, for what it’s worth—is an homage to the chess pies of her past. Before opening Sister Pie, she worked at Momofuku’s Milk Bar and Four & Twenty Blackbirds in New York. “Each of these bakeries had their own version of the classic Southern chess pie,” she explains. “The Milk Bar pie has a distinctive brown sugar-cornmeal-oat vibe going on, while Four & Twenty’s salty honey pie is a bold take on sweet-and-salty dessert.”
When it came time to open her own bakery, she created a version all her own, using maple syrup at the star. Along with the maple syrup, Ludwinski uses local heavy cream, eggs, stone-ground yellow cornmeal, and light brown sugar. If you visit Sister Pie on Saturdays, you may even find applewood-smoked bacon paired with each slice. “It’s a match made in pancake breakfast heaven,” she says.
If you’re not in the area, you can try making the pie yourself. First-timers should heed Ludwinski’s advice: “Be patient and follow all the instructions for pauses, rests, and breaks,” she notes. “Maybe that’s good life advice too.”
Perhaps you want to really make the pie from scratch and channel those pandemic hobbyists and tap your own tree. Gerald Nelson of Nelson Maple Products in Imlay, Michigan supplies Lisa with her maple syrup, and after 30 years in the business, he knows what he’s talking about.
Just like these hobbyists, Gerald started small with just 15 taps and a wood-burning stove. Today, he has a nationwide business with 2,000 taps that deliver 800 to 1,000 gallons of syrup per year. While he has a tubing system that runs from his trees to a central location for sugaring, he says you don’t need a sophisticated set-up to get started.
“My first piece of advice is to keep it fun,” says Gerald. “Don’t overdo it. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup and there’s a lot more work involved than meets the eye.” Nelson recommends getting to know the different species of maple. Seek out hard maple trees, since their sap is 2% sugar, whereas soft maple is only 1%. “With some very simple math, it takes twice the sap to make a gallon of syrup if you’re working with soft maple.”
Starting ideally when your nights are freezing and days are about 50 degrees, put a pole about an inch-and-a-half deep into your tree, insert the tap, and put a bucket below it. “From there, Mother Nature takes over,” says Gerald.
Gerald has noticed an uptick in demand for maple syrup over the past few years. He attributes it to the fact that more people are after all-natural sweeteners. “Someone told me they thought it was regulating their blood sugar, though I’m no dietician,” he says.
Neither are we—which is why we’re not counting calories and excited to pour one full cup of maple syrup into the Salted Maple Pie recipe below.
Salted Maple Pie Recipe
Makes one 9-inch pie
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 cup Grade B maple syrup
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup fine yellow cornmeal
- Heaping ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- ¾ cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- 1¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- One 9-inch All Butter Pie Crust (see below)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling on top
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
2. Make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter and maple syrup. Whisk in the brown sugar, cornmeal, and kosher salt.
3. Crack the eggs and yolk into another medium bowl. Add the cream and vanilla and whisk until combined.
4. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the maple mixture and whisk just until combined.
5. Place the blind-baked shell on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the crimped edge with the beaten egg. Pour the maple filling into the pie shell until it reaches the bottom of the crimps.
6. Transfer the baking sheet with the pie on it to the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the edges are puffed and the center jiggles only slightly when shaken. It will continue to set as it cools.
7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for 4 to 6 hours. Once fully cooled and at room temperature, sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt, slice into 6-8 pieces, and serve.
8. Store leftover pie, well wrapped in plastic wrap or under a pie dome, at room temperature for up to 3 days.
All Butter Pie Crust Recipe
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
- ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1. Pulse salt, sugar, and 1¼ cups flour in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until the largest pieces are pea-size. Transfer to a medium bowl and freeze for about 5 minutes.
2. Combine vinegar and 3 tablespoons of ice water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the flour mixture; toss with a fork to incorporate. Knead until dough comes together with just a few dry spots remaining. Flatten into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill for at least 2 hours.
3. Let dough sit at room temperature for 5 minutes to soften. Roll out on a lightly floured surface, rotating often and dusting with more flour as needed to prevent sticking to a 12” round. Fold dough in half and transfer to a glass 9” pie dish. Lift up the edges and allow the dough to slump down into the dish. You should have about a 1” overhang. Fold edges under and crimp. Place the pie dish on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and freeze for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly coat a sheet of foil with nonstick spray and place in pie crust, coated side down, pressing into bottom and sides. Fill with pie weights and bake until the edge is pale golden, 15-20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and pie weights and bake crust until bottom is light golden for a fruit pie, 7-12 minutes, or golden for a custard pie, 12-18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
5. Note: Dough can be made 3 days ahead, or frozen up to 1 month. Crust can be baked 1 day ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.
Reprinted with permission from Sister Pie: The Recipes & Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit by Lisa Ludwinski, copyright © 2018. Published by Lorena Jones Books, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Images copyright © by E.E. Berger.