Works of Art
Silky custard pies are delicately delicious.
Tricks of the Trade
If you can, prepare the custard ahead of time, and store it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight before baking. This allows the ingredients to blend thoroughly and may help prevent "weeping," or the release of extra moisture, once the pie has been chilled.
- A layer of cookie crumbs in the bottom of a pre-baked crust adds delicious flavor--and the crumbs can also absorb extra moisture in the finished pie. Try crushed gingersnaps in the bottom of your pumpkin pie.
- Sometimes, when pre-baking a pie crust, the crust cracks. Plan ahead when rolling out the dough and reserve any scraps. Use these to patch the crust before pouring in the filling: this will keep the custard from leaking through the cracks.
Pre-bake the Crust
To avoid a soggy, still-raw bottom crust, bake the crust before pouring in the filling.
- Line the pie crust with aluminum foil or parchment paper and enough dry beans, rice or pie weights to come most of the way up the sides.
- Bake at 450 degrees F (220 degrees C) until the edges are lightly browned and the walls of the crust have lost their raw look, from eight to twenty minutes, depending upon the thickness of the crust.
- Remove the pie shell from the oven, and carefully remove the paper or foil full of beans.
- Prick with fork to avoid air bubbles.
- Use an egg wash to create a seal: lightly beat an egg with a tablespoon of cold water or milk, and brush the sides and bottom of the crust with the egg wash.
- Return the crust to the oven and bake an additional two to three minutes, until the egg wash is dry and golden.
Cracking, Weeping, and Other Pie Problems
Like cheesecakes, custard pies crack when they're over-baked. Why? Because the edges finish cooking before the center has set: and as the pie cools, it shrinks, forming cracks. Here are some things to keep in mind to side-step these and any other baking issues:
- Prevent cracks by baking the pie at a moderate temperature, and--even better--bake custard pies in a water bath. This prevents the outer layer of custard from baking too fast.
- To avoid burns or dropped pies, only use heavy-duty aluminum, glass or ceramic pie pans: disposable foil pans are too shallow, are hard to grip, and can buckle when you try to remove them from a water bath.
- Use a rimmed baking sheet or glass baking pan big enough to hold the pie.
- Place the baked crust in the pan, add the custard, and carefully transfer the pan to the oven.
- Use a teakettle of hot water to pour in a depth of about half an inch; you can always add more water later, as it evaporates.
- Remove the pie from the oven when the edges are set but the center still has a little "wiggle." If the filling has started to puff up and soufflé, you've waited too long!
- If you're using a water bath, take extra care. If your pie plate has handles or a deep rim, you can remove it from the water bath in the oven, leaving the water to cool before discarding. Otherwise, bring the whole pan out of the oven very slowly and steadily.
- Remove the pie from the water bath to cool on a rack.
Think Outside the Pumpkin
Besides pumpkin, butternut, acorn, turban, delicata and dumpling squash make terrific pies. The process of preparing winter squash for pies is a bit time-consuming, but well worth the effort.
Custard Pie Safety Tip
Once the pie has cooled enough to hold the pan in your hands, transfer it from the counter to the fridge. Always store custard pies in the refrigerator: the eggs and milk in the custard can encourage bacterial growth that can be hazardous to your health.