Baked Custard Pie

Custard pie is one of those things that seems to have fallen out of fashion. It's more subtle than flashy, I guess, with the contrast of the smooth custard and crumbly crust, delicately flavoured with a little vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon; definitely not in the death-by-chocolate catagory. On the other hand,  that's what I like about it. Best served with a good cup of tea.

The technique for making the pastry is quite unorthodox. The result is not a typical flaky crust, but one with a delicate shortbread-like texture. I found it a bit difficult to roll thin enough; the crust wanted to break up as I transferred it to the pan. On the other hand, it was very easy to press it back together again, and I don't think overhandling is as big a problem as it is with regular pastry. I adapted the technique from a recipe by Jane Grigson.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes -- 30 minutes prep time

Make the Crust:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups soft unbleached (pastry) flour

Preheat the oven to 400°F

Melt the butter with the sugar and salt, over very low heat (or in the microwave). Mix in the flour, until it no longer shows any white, and a crumbly dough is formed.

Roll it out on a piece of parchment paper to fit a 9" pie plate, and transfer it to the pie plate. Be sure to roll it out as thinly as you can.

The dough is rather crumbly, so will likely need a bit of patching to go back together. Press it around the top to form a neat edge, and press any cracks sealed again. Prick it all over with a fork.

Bake the crust for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Make the Filling & Bake the Pie:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons soft unbleached (pastry) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
2 cups rich milk or light cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, mix the sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until very well blended.

Put the milk and butter into a small pot or microwave-proof bowl, and heat slowly and gently until the milk is steaming but not bubbling, and the butter is melted.

Whisk the eggs into the flour mixture, one at a time, until smoothly blended. Begin whisking in the milk, a few tablespoons at a time, until the mixture is smoothly liquid. Whisk in the remaining milk.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust. Put it into a shallow pan of water, and place both in the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake the pie for 50 to 55 minutes, until it will juggle slightly in the middle, but is set.

The pie should cool thoroughly and finish setting for at least several hours to overnight before serving.

- Jennifer Sanders, Seasonal Ontario Food

For more inspiring, local recipes visit Jennifer Sanders' blog, Seasonal Ontario Food.