Cookbook Review & Recipe: First Prize Pies Salty Caramel Pie

Let me start by saying that I am more of a cook than a baker, and a cook that desperately needs a recipe to follow. With clear instructions I feel fairly confident in the kitchen, but I'm not the cook who looks into my pantry and just throws together an impromptu meal with a flick of the wrist. I've been known to make a birthday cake or two (even the occasional cheesecake) but never a pie.  So with my sister's birthday approaching, and the First Prize Pies book in my possession, I thought why not give it a whirl.  

My sister and I basically have the exact same taste in food. Often we sneak away to restaurants together that our significant others aren't interested in trying.  So after browsing through the book and spotting the crunchy sea salt atop the Salted Caramel Pie, I knew I had a winner.  

The instructions looked a bit daunting at first...  Making crust from scratch?  Scalding cream?  But I followed this recipe to the letter and it was actually very simple.  For each technique used in the recipe, there is reference material throughout the book to give a more in-depth tutorial on the process.  

The other thing I love about this recipe is that you can make it in stages.  Not everyone has two hours to mess around in the kitchen. I made the brown butter one day, crust the next and refrigerated overnight in between each step. The next day I enlisted the help of my fiancee to make the caramel filling.  (It can easily be made by one person, but remember I am trying to document this process!  Caramel must not go unstirred for any length of time.)  Finally, on the day of the birthday gathering, I made the chocolate topping and chilled the entire pie until party time.

I am very happy to report that the final product was very well received!  This is a very rich, dense pie so half of the normal serving size will suffice.  Served with a glass of pinot noir (my personal favorite), this dessert was the perfect ending to a lovely celebration.

Samantha Bee's Salty Caramel Pie: First Prize Pies by Allison Kave

Pretzel Crust

  • 8 ounces pretzels (pick your favorite kind)
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons (85 to 115 g) unsalted butter, melted (pretzels can be very dry, so you may need more)


  • 1 1⁄2 cups (300 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) honey
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick/115 g) brown butter
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 


  • 1/4 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 4 ounces (115 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Make the crust: Grind the pretzels in a food processor until finely ground or seal them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Pour in the butter and mix (hands are best for this) until the texture is that of wet sand. You may need more or less butter, depending on the texture of the pretzels. Firmly press the crumbs into a 9-inch (23-cm) pie pan. Chill the crust in the freezer or fridge.  (For a less crumbly crust: Once chilled through, bake the crust in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.)

Make the filling: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together 1/2 cup (120 ml) water, the sugar, and honey until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Cook over medium-high heat, moving the pan around occasionally, until the caramel has turned dark amber and reached 340°F (170°C) on a candy thermometer.

Remove the caramel from the heat and slowly pour the cream down the side of the pan, whisking constantly. Be very careful here: The caramel will start to bubble violently and release a lot of hot steam. Whisk in the butter, then the mascarpone, then the vanilla and salt. Pour the filling into your prepared pie shell, and refrigerate it, uncovered, until fully set—at least 5 hours.

Make the topping: Heat the cream until scalded, and then pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then whisk until glossy. Spread or drizzle the ganache over the filling, allow it to set, and serve. This pie can be refrigerated for up to 1 week, covered well in plastic wrap. Allow it to come to room temperature before serving. For easier slicing, run your knife under hot water first to prevent the caramel from sticking to the blade.