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Pretty-much-foolproof custard pie

When you're hankering for some home-made custard pie, might as well do it yourself. It's just better that way.

For weeks — weeks, I tell you — I’ve been craving custard. A custard pie, to be exact.

If I need one on the fly, a good alternative comes from Marie Callendar’s … but I have issues with the place. And those issues crop up when my wife and I visit. Each time we’ve gone into one, someone’s usually cleaning … with vinegar. I kid you not.

You know what a whiff of vinegar will do to your appetite? Whether you’re popping into one of these establishments to sit and dine or to simply pick up a dessert to go, a simple waft of the stuff is an instant hunger killer, that’s what.

So … what to do, what to do. Swing by a Marie Calendar’s and snag a pie with the hopeless hope I can complete a transaction while holding my breath?

Or quit being a slacker and just bake one?

I opted for the latter.

I have an old recipe. And since it’s been ages since I last pulled it out, it was about time I did so. (You can see the result of my effort above.)

The recipe itself is pretty fool proof and you most likely have all the ingredients sitting around in your kitchen anywho, so why not give it a whirl? I know you can do it. It really is a simple process. And isn’t it about time you did something other than poke your finger at a microwave to warm up that barely-tolerable apple pie?

Beside setting a timer so you don’t forget you have a pie in the oven, there are two relatively simple things to do: 1) Make life easy for yourself and, 2) Make certain your pie turns out spiffy.

1) For An Easy Life: If you’re not savvy at making your own crust (I prefer not to), there are a multitude of pre-made, uncooked pie crusts out there in the refrigerated section of your local grocer. Go buy one. There’s no shame in doing so. You’ll thank me. One less thing … you know?

2) For A Spiffy Pie: Scald the milk. Seriously. It’s not that hard. Here … I’ll prove it: Ever burn something? If you have, you can scald milk. Or at least fake it pretty easily. Scalded milk is nothing more than milk that’s been heated to around 180-185°F for a spell. Yeah, yeah, yeah … I know — no one scalds milk anymore. Wrong! You do. You know why? Because it will make your pie better, that’s why. Not only will it dissolve the ingredients more thoroughly (less work for you!), it will help your pie set up better, firmer. You don’t want a sloshy custard pie, do you? I didn’t think so.

Or — if you must take a short cut — you can always forgo the scalding and simply replace a 1/2 cup of the milk called for with condensed milk. But if I were you, I’d scald it. This is your pie we’re talkin’ about here and you want it done right. Besides … there’s just something about scorching food that gets your aggressions worked out … you know what I mean?

So … here’s how you scald milk:  Slowly warm the below noted amount in a pan until steaming. Use a whisk and stir it occasionally until the first wisps of steam begin to come off the surface. Then, continuously whisk it for about 5 minutes or so. Remove from stove. Voila! Scalded milk. (Use a double boiler if you’re a scaredy-cat and a’feared of scorching your pan.)

Now … ready to bake a custard pie? Hokay … here we go:

Michael’s Custard Pie

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  • 1 9″ pie crust (unbaked)
  • 2 1/2 cups scalded milk (or 2 cups of scalded milk and a can of condensed milk)
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I prefer cane sugar, but white sugar will work just fine, too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white (you can add the egg yolk from this egg to the 3 eggs above, if you like)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (Use freshly ground nutmeg if you can; it gives finished product extra *umph*. Use more or less to your preference.)

What to do with the ingredients:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Mix eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Slowly add scalded milk, stirring ingredients in well while doing so.
  3. Line a pie dish or pie pan with the unbaked crust and brush with egg white to help prevent sogginess. (I like to spritz a glass pie dish with a little cooking spray to assure ease of removal.)
  4. Slowly pour custard mixture into the pie crust.
  5. Sprinkle top with nutmeg.
  6. Bake for approximately 35 minutes. Insert knife or toothpick in the center of the pie. If your implement of choice comes out of the pie cleanly, the pie is done. Otherwise, give it 5 or so more minutes. Keep you eye on it if it needs a bit more time to cook.
  7. Cool to firmness.
  8. Slice a hunk and marvel at your accomplishment. Mmmm, mmmm good.

There you go. Deliciousness, courtesy of your very own fingertips. You’ll surprise your family, your friends and yourself.

See? I told you you could do it.

Photo Credit: Michael Noble

4 Responses to “Pretty-much-foolproof custard pie”

April 10, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Oh Michael, I am so proud! Good man.

April 14, 2011 at 7:33 PM

Nice recipe, pretty much foolproof like you’ve said, pretty amazing.

May 12, 2011 at 5:18 PM

Just wanted to mention: vinegar is often used as a cleaning agent when one is concerned with potential residues being left behind on a surface. It could just be that they are opposed to using caustic chemicals to clean so looked to vinegar as a solvent. I’ve heard it recommended for cleaning toilet bowls if you have pets that sneak drinks of toilet water.

Sorry, i love vinegar and feel the need to defend it. Can’t wait to try this recipe. i’ve been on a custard/flan kick for some time, and this looks great.

June 11, 2011 at 9:50 AM

. . . . .

I know this well, Ben.

It’s just the unappetizing whiff of the stuff when you’re dining is the thing that throws me for a loop …

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