Custard Pie: the Answer to Family Pie Wars

When you travel for Thanksgiving, there are no yummy leftovers in the fridge, a sad state of affairs. Cooking a second Thanksgiving feast was the answer. We whipped ours up Tuesday night, once all our suitcases were put away. But when it came time to make a pie for dessert, a war broke out in the kitchen. I wanted pecan. Juju wanted apple. And Bella wanted chocolate brownie pie, which while good, is not really pie. Custard Pie brought peace again, in the most delicious way.

Custard Pie

Not familiar with custard pie? Imagine if a slice of flan was nestled in a crumbly butter crust. What’s not to like about this vanilla butter combination?

Sophie Pie BossPretty pie crusts are not my strength. I don’t have the patience to chill the dough and roll it out. I’d rather roll it half-hazardly and finish the job with my fingertips. The resulting crust won’t win any blue ribbons on looks, but are strong contenders on taste. This year, my pie helper Sophie took over and became a pie boss, booting me out of the process altogether. We threw any notion of perfection out of the window and focused on fun. Her pie prettying skills matched mine – let’s hope they improve when she’s my age!

Empty Pie CrustTo make this pie, you’ll need to start with your crust that pre-bakes in the oven as you make the custard. If you mise en place all your ingredients before you start, you could have this pie on the table in 45 minutes. Custard pie is delicious hot and cold, but eating it hot most likely will make you moan out loud.

You’ve been warned.

Custard Pie: the Answer to Family Pie Wars
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: serves 8
  • For the Crust:
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp baking powder
  • 8 tbsps (1 stick) of butter
  • 2 to 3 tbsps cold water
  • For the Custard:
  • 1½ cups of 2% Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup of granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons of vanilla paste (or 4 teaspoons of vanilla extract if that's all you have)
  1. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse 2 or 3 times quickly to mix.
  2. Cut the butter into 1 tbsp pieces and add to food processor. Pulse over and over again very quickly until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. You should not be able to see any more large pieces of butter.
  3. Scatter 1 tablespoon of tap water on the butter and flour mixture and pulse 5 to 6 times. The dough should begin to hold together. If the mixture still appears dry and crumbly, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
  4. Remove the dough from the food processor. In your hands, roll it into a uniform ball. Place it on a piece of plastic wrap. Press it down into a 6-inch disk and cover with another piece of plastic wrap.
  5. Grease a 9 inch pie dish.
  6. Roll a rolling pin over the plastic wrap to come close to fitting a 9-inch pie dish. Lay the dough on the bottom and using a smooth glass and your fingers, push and pinch to make the dough fit. Crimp the edge of the pie in a pretty pattern to overcome this messy pie rolling out. I didn't promise this would be pretty!
  7. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  8. Cover the bottom of the pie with pie weights like the necklace in the picture, or a circle of aluminum foil topped with dry beans. Cook the pie for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Remove the pie from the oven and remove the weights. Set aside until the custard is ready.
  9. Lower the oven heat to 400° F.
  10. As soon as the pie crust has started cooking, begin making your custard. Add the vanilla and the butter to the milk and bring just to a low boil. Stir a few times and turn off the heat.
  11. In a medium mixing bowl, blend the eggs and the sugar with a hand mixer for 10 minutes, until the eggs are light, thick and frothy. Add a ladle of the hot milk mixture and blend. Add another ladle and blend some more. Now the eggs should be warm enough to be folded into the milk mixture. Combine the two and stir to incorporate.
  12. Pour the custard into the pre-baked pie crust. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350° F. Bake for another 20 minutes, or until the custard doesn't jiggle when you move it.
  13. Serve warm or cold.



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