My boyfriend and I were dining at the lovely Standard Foods – stuffed from small plates alone – when our server brought out the main entree: a whole fried catfish served with thin cornmeal crepes, shimmering and lightly dressed greens, and a tiny ramekin of hot (spicy) honey. We were instructed to make little tacos with the fish and greens and to drizzle the hot honey over top. I’ve been dreaming of that salty-sweet-spicy pocket of goodness ever since.
Now you may be asking – why in the world is this girl talking about fish in a pie post? Well, fret not, we’re tossing that fish back in the ocean (or lake?) and moving solidly to dessert now. This pie is my riff on the incredible Salty Honey Pie from the Four and Twenty Blackbirds cookbook. (Unsolicited plug: This book rekindled my love of baking and is the reason most of my friends wish I would just open a pie shop).
In my ode to that delicious entree, a cornmeal crust stands in for those tender crepes to cradle a spiced up version of that honey custard (with some browned butter for some extra nutty sweetness.) If you like your dessert to pack a punch and awaken your taste buds, this pie might just be for you.
- One 12-oz glass jar of honey (preferably local)
- 2 Fresno chilies
Wash and dry chilies. Put on some kitchen gloves. (Or, like me, use a random sandwich bag to protect fingers while cutting chilies. Forget to not touch chilies anyway. Take out contacts later that night. Scream bloody murder. Spend five minutes flushing your eyes out with saline). *For real tip, if you do touch chilies, scrub pads of fingers against half of a lemon or lime and then wash well with soap and water.
Okay, back to the chilies. Cut into thin slices. Discard stems and place slices plus seeds into small sauce pan. Add honey to sauce pan. Stir to disperse chilies. Turn heat to medium low. Bring to a simmer and continue at low simmer for 20 minutes. Keep an eye on this and stir occasionally. When heated, honey can over-boil quickly and leave a mess on your stove. But I’m not talking from experience. Nope, not at all.
After 20 minutes, remove from heat and pass honey through a strainer back into original glass container or a clean mason jar. Allow to cool and store in a cool, dry place like a pantry.
Note: You’ll have plenty of hot honey that won’t be used in the pie recipe below. Drizzle it over fried chicken and biscuits and never look back.
Cornmeal Crust (courtesy of Four and Twenty Blackbirds, with a few modifications)
- 1/4 cup coarse ground cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbs sugar
- 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- 1/2 cup cold water, mixed with 1 tbs apple cider vinegar and 3-4 ice cubes
Whisk dry ingredients together.
Add cold butter. Toss to coat butter with flour. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture, working quickly until mixture has butter chunks no larger than small peas.
Drizzle 4 tbs of cold water over flour and butter mixture. Cut in. Continue adding water a tbs at a time until dough just begins to hold together. Use hands to finish bringing dough together, shape into a flat disk and wrap in cling film. Press down on disk with rolling pin a few times to further bring dough together. The dough should have a marbled look with streaks of butter. Chill at least 1 hour or up to 3 days in the fridge.
Butter a pie tin. Roll out dough, place in tin. Trim and crimp edges as desired. Cover with cling film and freeze until ready to use. *Note: If you’re a seasoned pie baker, you might be wondering if you need to partially pre-bake this crust. Normally, I would say yes, but I’ve found that just freezing the shell before filling still yields a lovely, flaky crust after baking. And I’m all for avoiding the hassle of foil and pie weights!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farhenheit (190 Celsius).
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into tablespoon size chunks
- 2/3 cup raw sugar
- 2 tbs coarse cornmeal
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup hot honey (see recipe above)
- 1 1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp white vinegar
- Egg Wash (1 egg, whisked together with 1 tsp water)
- Flake sea salt (I like Maldon)
Place butter into a saucepan on medium high heat. Melt butter and watch the white foam emerge. Once the butter begins to brown and smell nutty, remove from heat and pour into a glass bowl. Be careful not to burn the butter here – brown and nutty = good, black and smoking = bad.
Add sugar and next 5 ingredients to glass bowl with browned butter. Whisk together to dissolve sugar and combine ingredients. Stir in whipping cream, followed by eggs, one at a time. Stir in vinegar. Once mixture comes together, pour through sieve into another bowl and then pour custard mixture into frozen pie shell.
Brush egg wash over visible pie crust.
Place pie on a baking sheet in middle rack of oven. Bake for 50 minutes until edges set and center does not wobble excessively (rotate halfway through cooking time). If crust starts to brown too much, use a metal pie ring or place foil on outer edges of crust to prevent further browning. Custard may puff up while baking, but it will settle back down once removed from oven.
Allow pie to cool on a wire rack for 2-3 hours. Sprinkle top generously with sea salt flakes and serve.
If desired, serve with a dollop of whipped cream or creme fraiche, or a shot of good quality agave tequila.