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Top Tips to Make 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 top tips to make perfect custard and pumpkin pies, like this one:

Pumpkin Custard Pie II

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.

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. Because they're made with eggs and milk, always store custard pies in the refrigerator.

Some Top-Rated Custard and Pumpkin Pie Recipes

Banana Cream Pie I

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.

Banana Cream Pie I

Photo by ReneePaj

Key Lime Pie VII

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.

Key Lime Pie VII

Photo by Starrett72

Grandma's Lemon Meringue Pie

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.

Grandma's Lemon Meringue Pie

Photo by Dianne

Chef John's Pumpkin Pie

"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."

Chef John's Pumpkin Pie

Photo by foodelicious

Coconut (Haupia) and Chocolate Pie

"This pie is a chocolate coconut lover's dream, very rich and delicious," says HOKU3.

Old Fashioned Coconut Cream Pie

Photo by abapplez

Check out our collection of Custard and Cream Pie Recipes.


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