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 top tips to make perfect custard and pumpkin pies, like this one:
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.
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.
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. Because they're made with eggs and milk, always store custard pies in the refrigerator.
Some Top-Rated Custard and Pumpkin Pie Recipes
Here's a top-rated cream pie loaded with bananas and a creamy homemade pudding mixture. It’s simple to make! This ambrosial banana cream pie needs just 15 minutes in the oven.
This key lime pie is creamy, tart, and delicious. It takes mere minutes to prepare, including baking time. Chill it well, and serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
A sweet and tangy lemon meringue pie that's simple and fun to make -- just the way grandma likes it. The key is to thicken the lemon filling with cornstarch and a bit of flour. Baked for just 10 minutes, the pie comes out of the oven nice and lemony, not too sweet, with a beautiful, golden-brown meringue.
"After many years of experimentation, I've finally perfected what I think is the ideal formula for a rich pumpkin pie that's also much less likely to crack on top," says Chef John. Serve garnished with whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg."
"This pie is a chocolate coconut lover's dream, very rich and delicious," says HOKU3.
Check out our collection of Custard and Cream Pie Recipes.
- First pie crust? Learn how to make a pie crust, step by step.
- Run into trouble? Let us troubleshoot your pie problems away.
- Want to try your hand at baking with fresh instead of canned pumpkin? Here are some useful tips and tricks.