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Our Essential Tips for Perfect Custard and Pumpkin Pies

Rich and satisfying custard pies come in many flavors, including vanilla, chocolate, pumpkin, sweet potato, and coconut. Because they all start with a base of sugar, butter, eggs, and cream, there are a few essential tricks to ensure the custard comes out smooth and creamy with a crisp, never soggy, crust. Here are our essential tips for perfect pumpkin and custard pies, like this one.

Pumpkin Custard Pie

Pumpkin Custard Pie II

Photo by The Log Home

1. Pre-Bake the Crust

Custard pies are usually baked at a lower temperature than fruit pies to prevent the filling from curdling. But at low temperatures, the crust won't crisp up thoroughly. The solution is to pre-bake, or blind bake, the pie before adding the filling. Be sure to follow the directions for moisture-sealing the crust with an egg wash to further prevent a soggy bottom.

  • Any pastry pie crust recipe can be pre-baked for a custard pie.
  • Crumb pie crust recipes are also pre-baked; the crumbs add delicious crunch, and also absorb extra moisture in the finished pie.
  • When pre-baking a pie crust, sometime the crust can crack. Plan ahead when rolling out the dough and reserve any scraps. Use these to patch the cracks before pouring in the filling; this keeps the custard from leaking through. VIDEO: How to Fix a Soggy Pie Bottom

Pre-baked blind baked pie crust

Pre-Baked Pie Crust | Photo by Meredith

2. Warm Crust, Warm Filling

To help the custard set and prevent the crust from getting soggy, the crust and the filling should be warm rather than chilled before baking.

  • Heat the pre-baked crust in the oven for a few minutes while you make the custard.
  • If you've made the custard ahead of time, bring it just to room temperature before pouring it into the warm crust.

3. Bake In A Water Bath

Like cheesecakes, custard pies crack when they're over-baked. Why? Because the edges finish cooking before the center has set; as the pie filling cools, it shrinks, forming cracks. You can prevent the cracks by baking at a moderate temperature. Even better, you can bake your custard pies in a water bath. This prevents the outer layer of custard from baking too fast.

  • To make a water bath, choose a baking pan that's larger than your pie pan, and place it in the heated oven. 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.
  • Place the pie pan in the larger pan, and add the custard.
  • 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 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.

4. Store It Correctly

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.

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