Topline Trends Tuesday: Butterscotch

November 10, 2009

butterscotchmeringue

Fancier. Butterier. As yummy as ever before but just more (deservingly) popular. Butterscotch is trending up and that can’t help but be good!

From butterscotch desserts appearing on more fine dining restaurant menus to a twitter chat I had with @finecooking a couple of weeks ago, it seems like I can’t pass the day without hearing a butterscotch reference.

It’s even on sitcoms: on a recent episode of How I Met Your Mother, it was declared that “Butterscotch is Canadian women’s chocolate.”

While I can’t speak for the entire Canadian female population, I can say that chocolate is my chocolate but butterscotch is my butterscotch. Confused? It’s the same as how silk is silk and wool is wool. Both are great but they’re different. And, like a wool sweater over a silk shirt, they’re often fantastic together!

That said, one of my favourite childhood desserts is Butterscotch Meringue Pie; it’s a study in soothing dessert goodness.

What about you? Butterscotch or chocolate? Canadian or American? Fess up!

Dana’s Definitive Butterscotch Meringue Pie

1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 mL) dark brown sugar
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) hot milk
4 eggs, separated
3 tbsp (45 mL) butter
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 pre-baked pie crust, 9-in (23 cm)
1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar

Stir the flour with the brown sugar in heavy saucepan. Slowly whisk in the milk until smooth. Cook, stirring almost constantly, over medium heat, for about 5 minutes or until thick and smooth; reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring often.

Beat the egg yolks and stir a little of the hot milk mixture into eggs. Pour the egg mixture into pan, stirring constantly and cook for 3 minutes longer. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour into pie shell. Cool completely.

Beat the egg whites until foamy; gradually beat in granulated sugar until soft peaks form. Mound on top of custard, spreading meringue out to edge of crust. Bake in 350°F (180°C) oven for 7 to 10 minutes or until golden.

Tips:
• Because this pie and topping are so sweet and rich, use a lard or shortening-based piecrust to ensure that the crust is a foil to the other elements.
• To pre-bake the piecrust, prick the raw shell all over with a fork; line with foil and pie weights or dried beans. Bake in a preheated, 400 F (200 C) oven for 20 minutes; remove foil and weights; bake for 10 minutes longer or until golden. Cool on rack.

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Scotch tasting and its connection to butterscotch

March 17, 2008

Scotch

If any of you could see me as I write this post, you’d think me a totally decadent sloth: on the table I have my laptop, a finger print smudged Bordeaux glass containing a few saved sips of cabernet sauvignon, a sturdy silver dessert spoon and an open carton of Hagen Daaz dulce de leche ice cream. I think I should get up, put away the ice cream and go for a brisk walk. Instead, I’m going to keep sitting here and tell you about my recent butterscotch epiphany.

As you can see from the picture above, we decided that since winter wouldn’t leave us alone, we’d just embrace indoor activities and have a scotch tasting. Although I’ve been to Scotland, toured distilleries and been served great quality scotch many times, I really don’t know much about it except that it is strong and expensive. So, I was pretty jazzed when Martin brought home five bottles of Macallan scotch varying in age from 10 to 25 years and suggested we host an educational afternoon of scotch tasting for a mixed crowd of Pangaea staff and neighbours.

Martin purposely chose scotch from one distillery so that we could truthfully evaluate the effects of not only age on whisky but also aging whisky in different kinds of wood. It was a useful (albeit expensive!) experiment. We gathered 14 people, printed out the tasting notes and spider diagrams for each bottle (the Macallan website is amazing) and set out dozens of glasses.

Interestingly, many of our tasters preferred the 15-year old scotch aged in fine oak to the vastly more expensive 25-year old scotch aged in sherry washed oak. For me, there was no contest. While I could appreciate certain things about the younger whisky, I loved the 25-year old because it resonated with me as a chef and a lover of butterscotch.

After just a sniff and a couple of sips of this scotch, I understood where the word ‘butterscotch’ might come from. The 25-year old scotch may have been as dark as maple syrup but it definitely had to be the inspiration for one of my favourite dessert flavours: so smooth and jammy this drink was buttery textured and super smooth. The aged scotch notes had a lot in common with caramel so that at last, it was 100 per cent obvious that butterscotch, the candy, could be related to scotch the super potent potable.