Erin McDowell - Butterscotch Apple Pie

Erin McDowell - Butterscotch Apple Pie
Erin McDowell literally wrote the book on pie and shows us how to make a delicious Butterscotch Apple Pie.
Butterscotch Apple Pie
One 9-Inch/23-cm Pie
Another two-fer pie, with a sweet spiced apple pie filling that’s baked to bubbly perfection, cooled, and then topped with a layer of creamy butterscotch pudding. I love the combination of creamy with a fairly traditional apple pie filling—it’s sort of like eating an à la mode pie but without any ice cream at all.
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling


  • 28 g / 1 ounce / 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 397 g / 14 ounces peeled and diced apples such as honeycrisp, jonagold, or gala (about 3 medium)
  • 5 g / 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 107 g / 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 5 g / 11/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 g / 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 g / 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 37 g / 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 15 g / 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • One 9-inch / 23-cm pie crust (see below), parbaked, brushed with egg wash, and cooled completely


  • 340 g / 11/2 cups whole milk
  • 118 g / 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 106 g / 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 g / 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 28 g / 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 43 g / 2 large egg yolks
  • 14 g / 1/2 ounce / 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 10 g / 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • 235 g / 1 cup heavy cream
  • 50 g / 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 g / 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)


  • 150 g / 11/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 g / 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 113 g / 4 ounces / 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch / 13-mm cubes
  • 60 g / 1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed


  • 298 g / 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 81 g / ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 57 g / ¼ cup water
  • ½ vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, or 7 g / 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 113 g / 4 ounces / 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 118 g / ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 g / ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste


  1. Make the apple filling: in a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apples, tossing to coat with the butter. Add the vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, stir to combine, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the apples start to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the granulated sugar and flour to combine. Stir into the apple mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the filling cool completely (you can speed up this process by spreading it into an even layer on a baking sheet).
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 205°c with a rack in the lower third (preferably with a baking steel or stone on it).
  4. Place the parbaked pie crust on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pour in the cooled apple filling and spread into an even layer. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely.
  5. When the pie is cool, make the pudding: in a medium pot, bring the milk and cream to a simmer over medium heat.
  6. Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the brown sugar, salt, and cornstarch together to combine.
  7. When the milk mixture is simmering, whisk the egg yolks into the sugar mixture and whisk well to combine. Pour in about one quarter of the hot milk mixture to temper the yolks, whisking constantly. Return this mixture to the pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula, until it is very thick and large bubbles break the surface, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.
  8. Strain the pudding through a fine-mesh sieve onto the cooled apple filling and spread into an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap placed directly against the surface and refrigerate until set, at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours).
  9. When ready to serve, spread, spoon, or pipe the whipped cream on top of the pie. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.


The pie can be made up to 24 hours ahead and kept refrigerated, covered tightly with plastic wrap. Add the whipped cream topping just before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


  • Vanilla bean–nutmeg pie dough
  • Chocolate all-buttah pie dough
  • Basic nut crust


  • Salted caramel sauce or caramelized white chocolate drippy glaze for drizzling


Makes: One 9-inch / 23-cm Crust
Difficulty: Medium

This is my go-to pie dough: all buttah, all the time. Butter can be harder for beginners to work with, because it has a lower melting point than fats such as shortening, but the flavor can’t be beat. And once you know how to handle the dough, it’s easy. The key? Colder is always better when pie dough is involved. When in doubt, toss everything (the ingredients, the bowl, and maybe even the half-mixed dough) into the fridge before proceeding. The recipe can easily be increased to make up to a quadruple batch of dough (see making big batches using a stand mixer).

  1. Prepare the dough using your desired mixing method.
  2. Form the dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using. This dough is best baked at 425°F / 220°c. Parbake, blind-bake, or fill and bake as directed in the recipe of your choice.


Chocolate all-buttah pie dough: replace 30 g / 1/4 cup of the all-purpose flour with 28 g / 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (any kind, but dark or black cocoa powder makes a particularly intense crust; see resources). Take care not to overbake the crust—look for a dry, matte appearance all over.


The tightly wrapped disk of dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Wrapped in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil, the dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using.


Makes: 141, 283, OR 422 G / 1, 3, OR 4 cups, depending on the batch you choose difficulty
Difficulty: Easy

It’s never a bad idea to serve pie with plenty of whipped cream. Think your pie is sweet enough? You can leave the sugar out—ain’t nothin’ wrong with plain ol’ whipped cream. For a luxurious twist, try the mascarpone variation below.


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the cream on medium-low speed until it begins to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and add the sugar in a slow, steady stream, then continue to whip to medium peaks. Add the vanilla, if using, and mix to combine.


Mascarpone whipped cream: reduce the cream by half. For a half batch, use 75 g / 1/3 cup mascarpone; for a full batch, 113 g / 1/2 cup; and for a mile-high batch, 170 g / 3/4 cup. Place the mascarpone and sugar in the mixer bowl and whip on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl well, then reduce the speed to medium-low and add the cream in a slow, steady stream. Raise the speed to medium-high and whip until the mixture is smooth and reaches medium peaks. Add the vanilla, if using, and mix to combine.


Plain whipped cream is best made just before it is used, but you can intentionally under-whip the cream (to just under soft peaks), then finish by whipping by hand when you’re ready to serve. It will hold this way for up to 4 hours. The mascarpone variation can be made up to 6 hours ahead and held in the refrigerator. Whip a few times gently to refresh before using.


Makes: 420 g / 1¾ cups
Difficulty: Medium

My classic salted caramel, enriched with butter and a touch of cream for a thick, smooth sauce, is perfect as a pie topping, or served alongside à la mode slices.

  1. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan. If using the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from it and add the seeds and pod to the pan (if using extract, you will add it later). Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. You can stir the mixture before it comes to a boil to help dissolve the sugar but stop stirring the moment it starts to boil. Then continue to boil the syrup until it becomes a medium amber color. Once the syrup starts to color, tilt the pan occasionally—it’s easier to see the true color of the caramel when you’re looking at less of it (otherwise it may seem darker than it really is).
  2. As soon as the caramel is close to medium amber, turn off the heat—the caramel will retain heat and continue to cook, so you want to allow for the carry-over cooking. Add the butter and stir gently to combine. Stir in the cream (be careful—the caramel is likely to bubble up and steam a lot; just keep stirring and it will die down). The sauce should be smooth and creamy. If it seized up and you see chunks of caramel, return the pan to low heat and stir occasionally until the sauce is smooth, then remove from the heat.
  3. Stir in the salt and the vanilla extract, if using. Let cool to room temperature. The sauce may firm up as it sits. If necessary, rewarm the sauce in 15-second bursts in the microwave to make it more fluid.


The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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