Chai Caramel Butternut Pie | CUESA

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Returns March 17, 2022

Chai Caramel Butternut Pie


Raymundus Butarbutar, Pie Contest Winner

This pie won third prize in CUESA’s Harvest Festival Pie Contest on October 26, 2013.
All-Butter Pie Crust
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes 2 pie crust shells


2½ cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
5 tablespoons ice water
5 tablespoons ice-cold vodka


1.    Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and set aside. If time permits, place the flour mixture along with the cubed butter in the freezer for 15 minutes.

2.    Remove the bowl and butter from the freezer. Toss the butter in the flour mixture and separate each cube. Using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it becomes somewhat sandy, but leave a couple chunks of butter throughout the dough. 

3.    Mix the ice water and vodka, and add 7 tablespoons of the liquid into the flour-butter mixture all at once. Combine them until the dough begins to barely hold together. If (and only if) necessary, add 2 to 3 tablespoons more of the liquid to the dough.

4.    Turn the dough onto a large floured work surface and, with the heel of your palm, push the dough across your work surface. Gather the mixture back together and repeat this process 2 to 3 more times. This technique, known as fraisage, will ensure that the dough will be flaky.

5.    Divide the dough in half and form each half into a 1-inch thick disk. Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Streusel Topping
Adapted from Aki Kamozawa & H. Alexander Talbot


½ cup (75 grams) all-purpose flour
½ cup (75 grams) whole-wheat flour
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 stick butter, room temperature


1.    Combine all the ingredients and (as you did with the pie crust) use the tips of your fingers to rub the butter into the dry mixture until it becomes somewhat sandy, but leave a couple chunks of butter throughout the dough. 

2.    Use immediately or refrigerate until needed

Butternut Squash Filling


1 large butternut squash, quartered, seeds and pulp removed
1½ cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon whole chai masala spices, crushed
2 teaspoons loose leaf black tea
¼ cup evaporated cane juice (or regular cane sugar)
¼ to ½ cup grade B maple syrup
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vodka


1.    Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2.    Roast the squash in a baking pan for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a knife can pierce through the flesh easily. Scoop the flesh out and place in a food processor. Process until smooth. Measure 4 cups of puréed squash and set aside to cool completely.

3.    Place the cream in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the chai masala and tea. Simmer for about 15 minutes and take off the heat to infuse for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely.

4.    With the cane juice, make a dark caramel (dry) and add the spiced cream. Set aside.

5.    Once the butternut has cooled down, whisk the caramel, maple syrup (start with ¼ cup and gradually add as necessary, depending on the sweetness of your squash), and orange zest into the squash mixture.

6.    In a separate bowl, mix the spices, salt, and tapioca starch. Add a bit of the butternut mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until completely smooth and combined. Then pour the spice mixture into the butternut mixture and whisk.

7.    Whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl and mix into the butternut mixture. Finally, add the vodka to the batter.

Pie Assembly


1 All-Butter Pie Crust (see above)
Butternut Squash Filling (see above)
1 cup Streusel Topping (see above)
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup hazelnuts, roasted
1 teaspoon candied ginger, chopped into small pieces


1.    Preheat the oven to 350°F. (Optional: Place either a baking stone or a cast iron pan that will fit a 9-inch pie dish in the oven.)

2.    On a floured surface, roll out your dough and place in a 9-inch pie dish.

3.    To pre-bake the pastry shell, crumple a sheet of parchment paper and open it again. Line the pie shell with the parchment, then fill it with inexpensive beans. Place in the oven (if using a baking stone or pan, place the pie dish on top) and bake for around 15 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and beans and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. The shell should have spots of golden color throughout.

4.    Pour the butternut custard mixture into the pie shell and bake the pie for about 20 minutes (rotate the pan after 10 minutes). Open the oven and gently sprinkle about 1 cup of the streusel on top of the pie. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes (again, rotating halfway), until the streusel is golden brown and the center of the pie slightly jiggles.

5.    Let the pie cool overnight.

6.    With the sugar, make another dark caramel (dry) and toss in the roasted hazelnuts. Pour the mixture into a baking tray lined with parchment and let cool. Process the hardened caramel in a food processor into rough chunks. Sprinkle judiciously on top of the pie along with the chopped candied ginger.


CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to growing thriving communities through the power and joy of local food. Learn More »