Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

Auntie Em’s Grandma Ballard’s Caramel Pie

You might wonder why I’m tagging marriage in this recipe post. It’s because “Speak your husband’s language” is one of Auntie Em’s rules. One of Mr X’s love languages is acts of service. And when I serve him by cooking, he has always been very appreciative. When I make his favorite pie, which is pretty easy to make now, but at first was time-consuming and complicated, it spells L-O-V-E to him! Be a student of your husband; find out how to speak his language, then speak often!

Now– on to the pie. It’s not as simple as some– It uses FOUR dishes besides the pie pan! But it’s worth it. You’ll love it! Grandma Ballard's Caramel Pie recipe

(You can see lots of trial and error here. One of my first times to make it was when we were visiting my brother- and sister-in-law; I made it without the recipe. He spent most of the night sick, and the whole family jokes about my bad pie…. however, when the truth came out, he ate most of it in one sitting, and I think THAT is why he was sick !)


  • Preheat your oven to 400 so you can bake the meringue when you’re all done.
  • Get out your food you’ll need: Flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs, cream of tartar, a cooked pie shell
  • Get out your dishes you’ll need: A heavy pan for mixing the dry ingredients and cooking the custard, a heavy skillet for caramelizing the sugar; a bowl for mixing the eggs and milk, and a bowl for beating the egg whites. Plus a whisk for stirring the custard, a knife to cut the butter, measuring spoons and cups, and a spatula for applying the meringue.

Start with a baked pie shell. (Video instructions for a homemade one are here. It’s not as hard as you think!)

homemade pie crust cooked separate eggs

Now mix your wet ingredients together and your dry ingredients together

  • 2 3/4 C milk and 4 egg yolks. You’ll have to separate your eggs; put the whites in another bowl so you can beat them.
  • 1 C sugar and 1/2 C flour.  The recipe says “4 heaping TBS but I hate the vagueness of “heaping,” so I measured. (Believe it or not.)   I mix this in the pan I cook the custard in. Mix together well so you won’t get blobs of flour. (So says the voice of experience)

Now stir the milk and egg mixture into the dry mixture in the heavy pan. Mix together with a whisk till it’s smooth. This is the custard mixture. Heat it over medium heat. You can take a shortcut and heat it on higher heat till it begins to get warm, but watch and stir! It can burn and curdle quickly.

Then put 1 C of sugar into a heavy skillet; shake it to spread it around evenly. Heat over medium heat. Same as with the custard, you can start the heat higher but turn it down for more control.

sugar and flour mixture caramelizing sugar in skillet

Now you wait. And stir the custard. And stir the custard. And wait. Don’t stir the sugar. Just wait. After 10 minutes it looked like this, just barely beginning to melt.

sugar beginning to melt caramelizing sugar

After another 10 it looked like this. All this time I’ve been stirring the custard. If it has thickened or begun to bubble, I turn down the heat until the sugar is melted.  (At this point you can add the vanilla and butter and use this custard for a wonderful banana pudding! No jello pudding at our house!) Granny says never stir the sugar, just shake it around, so that’s what I do.

melting sugar caramelizing sugar

Once all the sugar melts it’s time to be really careful. The custard has to be VERT hot, or else the caramelized sugar will cool and harden instead of blend in. When you pour it in, it will bubble up violently. Stir, stir, stir!

caramelized sugar caramelized sugar poured into custard

Till it looks like this.

caramel pie filling

At this point, remove it from the heat and stir in 1-2 TBS butter and 1 tsp vanilla till it’s all smooth.

Pour into your cooked pie shell. You’re almost done!

Now you have to make the meringue topping. A Kitchenaid stand mixer makes quick work! Add 1/2 tsp cream of tartar and mix the 4 egg whites on high. When “frothy” like the first picture, add 4-6 TBS sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Beat till stiff peaks form– that means when you lift the beater it sticks and the mixture in the bowl keeps its shape, like in the second picture.

frothy egg whites stiff peaks egg whites meringue

Now gently place blobs of meringue onto the hot pie filling. You don’t want to do a lot of stirring because that will get the filling all over the meringue plus get the air out of the meringue, which will cause it to deflate. That’s bad. Gently connect the blobs to form a solid surface, and press to the sides of the pie crust to seal.

meringe on pie meringue on pie

Now, cook the meringue till it’s as brown as you like, at 400 degrees. This was about 4 minutes.

Auntie Em's caramel pie with meringe topping

Here’s what was left: (It will be a hit at your house or church too!)

leftover pie

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage


Auntie Em’s Homemade Pie Crust


Auntie Em figured the only way to teach someone to “cut in flour” or “roll out a pie crust” is to SHOW THEM. So, Dearies, here is Auntie Em’s video debut. I was brave; it was kind of weird… Be brave and try the pie crust! And leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page, telling me how it turned out.

Homemade pie crust gets a bad rap for being difficult, but really, it’s not. And it’s one of those things that really impresses people; they think you are Martha Stewart or something! (And I don’t mind something that gets a lot of bang for the buck LOL!)

I start from “Nanny’s Good and Easy Pastry” from my Cotton Country Collection, published by the Junior League of Monroe, Louisiana. My mother had a copy and gave me mine for Christmas right after our first anniversary. (in 1981!)

Here’s the recipe.

Measurements in (parentheses) are for a double crust. Italics are my commentary.

1 (1 1/2 c) cup sifted flour (You know I don’t sift it!)

1/4 heaping tsp (1/2 heaping tsp) salt

1 pinch of sugar (big pinch), a must for a good pastry crust (I think this is so funny!)

1/3 c (1/2 c) shortening

3 T (4-5 T) cold water

This just never made enough, so like I said, I start here. I usually don’t measure, but I would use at least the double measurements for a single crust. I like it to hang off the edges of the pie plate to the counter, so I can trim it and evenly turn it under. Plus have leftovers for a cinnamon roll!

What to do:

Stir or sift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in shortening. Sprinkle in ice water and stir till it sticks together. Add water if necessary. Roll out on floured wax paper and shape into pie plate. For a precooked crust, bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. If you are cooking a pie, like pecan or pumpkin, you can “seal” the pie crust by diluting an egg white with a tablespoon of water, brush over the crust, and bake at 400 for about 5 minutes. This will prevent the liquid from soaking into the crust, which causes it to stick to the pan and tear up when you’re serving it. If you are cooking the crust, for a custard or other pre-cooked pie, poke holes with a fork into the bottom and sides of the uncooked crust, and weight it down with some dried beans. This prevents the crust from bubbling up, and keeps it flat.

Auntie Em shows how to cut in flour.

Auntie Em shows how to add water and roll out the crust. (For some reason I kept calling my wax paper “Paper towels.” I meant “wax paper.”)

Here’s what the crust looks like before it’s cooked.

homemade pie crust

Here’s after it’s cooked. Notice it’s not real brown.

homemade pie crust cooked

And here’s the pie I made– Grandma Ballard’s Caramel Pie!

meringe pie

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage


Mr X’s Pastry Cinnamon Roll

Pastry cinnamon roll

Any time I make a pie crust, I make enough so I’ll left some left over… because I would have a very sad husband if I didn’t make a cinnamon roll! My mother-in-law, Granny, (of Granny’s cornbread fame)  started this tradition, and it continues to this day. It’s really funny to watch Mr X and his sister fight over it! We live very close to Granny and PawPaw, go to church with them, and eat Sunday lunch together almost every week. Aunt Kathy lives in Houston so we don’t get to see her nearly as often. When Granny makes Mr X a cinnamon roll  (or peas, or some other favorite), he will text her a picture and goad her about being the favorite child! I don’t guess you ever outgrow sibling rivalry.

Okay– you’ve made your homemade pie crust. YAY YOU! Gather up any scraps you trimmed off, and any dough left in the bowl, and roll it out in an oval or rectangular form. You never want to mix and mash it any more than necessary; it will become tough. Smear with lots of butter– melted if you want. (I didn’t use enough in the video.) Then sprinkle cinnamon sugar all over it. I mix up cinnamon and sugar and keep it in a shaker. Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes.

Start your own family tradition of encouraging sibling rivalry!!

Auntie Em’s Video-How to make Mr X’s Pastry Cinnamon Roll

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage


Candid Diversions

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living... And whatever else grabs my attention!

Christie In A Year - Extended

All About Agatha Christie's Work and Her Legacies

Gourmet Quilter Blog

.....because quilting is delicious!

European Royal History

Exploring the History of European Royalty


my searches for health

Bag of Cupcakes

celebrate. reward. encourage.

the domestic fringe

making life extraordinary