Tarte au sucre (sugar pie) is a classic French Canadian dessert staple, and it's easy to see why. It's so delicious, and the brown sugar develops sweet, caramelized and complex flavor (it really reminds me of the topping on crème brulee). Get ready, because once you make this, you may never go back to pumpkin pie again (I said what I said).
Perfect for fall tables at Thanksgiving and Christmas, this sugar pie uses few ingredients for the filling, but they have a big impact: brown sugar, heavy cream, egg, maple extract and just a hint of cornstarch and flour for a thick, creamy custard-like texture.
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Tarte au sucre showcases complex flavor with simple ingredients that you already have in your pantry. It's rustic and gorgeous in the best way possible.
Why you're Going to Love this Recipe:
- It tastes like creme brulee pie. Seriously.
- The sugar caramelizes during the cooking process, and gives it a crackly, thin crust on the top.
- The filling is so easy (and you can definitely use store-bought crust if you want).
- It's the perfect way to switch it up at your holiday table if you're looking for an alternative to pumpkin pie.
- Your friends are going to be asking you for the recipe.
- The taste is surprisingly complex, thanks to the caramelized sugar.
- The texture is silky smooth, almost like a custard.
What is Tart au Sucre?
Tarte au Sucre (or French Canadian sugar pie), hails from the province of Quebec, Canada. Like many of the foods from Quebec, it was brought over with colonists from France. Brown sugar was very difficult to come by back in the day, so the original version contained maple syrup (tarte au sucre d'erable). I've included maple extract flavoring in this recipe (which I love) as a nod to the original.
While maple is a flavor we commonly associate with fall and winter seasons, it's actually harvested in the spring, when the first thaw arrives. That's when the sap starts flowing. Many Quebecois family use it as a celebration of the arrival of spring, and the first harvest of the year.
Frequently Asked Questions
The sugar in tarte au sucre is brown sugar, and it deeply caramelizes while it cooks. This definitely gives it a caramel, vanilla flavor (sort of like crème brulee).
Yes, it can keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Quite literally, sugar pie.
The most common way is to serve it with a dollop of whipped cream on top. You can serve it either cold, or at room temperature.
For the Crust:
- Flour: the structure for all good pastries.
- Butter: the flavor and the flake maker (not to mention keeping the crust tender). This crust contains some serious butter flavor, and I love it, especially with the hint of caramel and maple in the pie.
- Salt: always.
- Egg: the binder.
- Ice water: it's so important that it's ice water! We need to keep the butter cold as much as we can, as this is what forms the flakes in the crust.
- Vodka: this helps stop the crust from forming gluten, which causes a tough dough. And trust me, it definitely does not taste like vodka.
For the Filling:
- Dark brown sugar: this is going to be our main flavor base, so if you can find dark brown sugar, definitely get it. Regular brown sugar also works just fine!
- Whipping cream: this is going add body and the creamy custard texture to our pie. Definitely do not substitute for something lighter - it won't be the same.
- Butter - this keeps things tender.
- Egg: this is going to hold everything together in the filling.
- Cornstarch and flour: Will thicken the filling to just the right amount for a perfect texture.
- Maple extract: this is optional, but I think it takes the flavor of the filling up to the next level, and I highly recommend it!
How to Make Tart au Sucre
For the Crust
I'm not going to lie, pie crust was something I've struggle with over the years. I've tried many different recipes, but I feel a little like Goldilocks: too sweet, too salty, too bland, to tough, etc. etc. This one hits the mark for me, but you can absolutely feel free to swap in your favorite recipe - I'm fairly sure every baker has their own methods!
Note: the one think that bakers agree on is that the butter and the liquid in the pie crust MUST be cold when it hits the oven. This is what gives you that flaky texture we're all looking for.
For this recipe, we're going to start by cubing our cold butter, and adding it to the flour. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter in until it's around the size of peas.
In a separate bowl, we're going to mix the ice water, the egg, the vodka, and some salt. Pour it into your butter/flour mixture and mix with a fork. Once it's mixed, use your hands to knead it until the crust is BARELY coming together (it will look flaky and shaggy). At this point, put it in some plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for about an hour.
Take it out of the fridge, and let it warm up for about 5 minutes. If you need to knead it again with your hands to make it come together, you can do that, but remember we're trying to handle the dough as little as possible. Roll it out with a rolling pin and plenty of flour so it doesn't stick. Once it gets to about ¼" thick, transfer it to a prepared pie plate.
Now it's back in the fridge for another half an hour (this is a great time to make the filling!)
For the Tarte au Sucre Filling
In medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch, and flour.
Heat the cream and butter together in a medium saucepan until the butter is melted completely. Once it's melted, pour into the brown sugar mixture, and whisk for about 30 seconds, or until everything is well combined.
In a separate, small bowl, mix the egg and maple extract. Add the egg mixture to the brown sugar mixture, and whisk.
Pour the filling into your chilled pie crust. Place it in the oven on top of a baking sheet. Cook it for 35-45 minutes. The filling should be a caramel color, bubbling in the center, and jiggle just slightly in the middle when shaken.
Allow to cool on the counter to fully set (you can also place it in the fridge to speed this up, or to serve chilled).
Serve alongside a healthy dollop of whipped cream, and you're good to go!
More Awesome Fall Flavors
Tarte Au Sucre
- 1 pie plate
- 1 pastry cutter
For the Crust
- 2.5 C flour
- 1 C butter cubed
- 1 egg
- ¼ C ice water
- 1 tablespoon vodka
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the Filling
- 1¼ C brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoon flour
- 1 C whipping cream
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon maple extract
For the Crust
- Combine the flour and butter in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter and flour together, until the butter is about pea-sized. Set aside.
- Combine the egg, water, vodka and salt in a bowl. Add to the flour mixture, and mix with a fork. Using your hands, knead the dough until it just starts to come together. It should be flaky and shaggy. Form into a ball or a thick disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Take the dough out of the frige and place on a floured countertop. Let it stand for 5 minutes to warm up. Roll with a rolling pin until it's about ¼" thick, turning the dough often to make sure it doesn't stick, and it's an even circle. Place the dough in a prepared pie plate and trim the edges. Put it back in the frige for another 30 seconds. Meanwhile, make your filling.
For the Filling
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Heat the heavy cream and butter together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted.
- Whisk brown sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the butter and cream mixture, and whisk for 30 seconds, or until smooth.
- In a separate, small bowl, lightly beat the egg and the maple extract together. Whisk into the cream/brown sugar mixture until smooth.
- Take the pie crust out of the frige, and pour the filling into it.
- Place the pie on top of a baking sheet, and place in the oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is deeply caramelized, and the middle jiggles slightly when shaken.
- Let the pie cool for several hours, either on the stove or in the frige. It can be served at room temperature, or cold.
- Serve with whipped cream.