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Old 05-30-2014, 11:43 AM   #1
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Custard Pie - Beginner questions

Hi all,

I love cooking and I'm usually not half bad at it, but when it comes to baking desserts I seem to fail more often than succeed. My latest disaster is a custard pie. I followed a recipe from allrecipes called "Grandma's Egg Custard Pie" which uses 3 eggs and 2.5c scalded milk, and has you cook the pie at 400° for 30-35 minutes. At 30 minutes it was still liquid, and at 40 minutes my pie crust was burning so I pulled it out, hoping it would "set" or some similarly magical mysterious thing would happen that would make it work out. The recipe is rated very highly, so I'm guessing the fault is somewhere in my court...

A top comment said I didn't need to scald the milk, so I didn't. Is that true? Can I add cold milk instead of heating it?
I used 1% milk. The recipe just said "milk", so I used what I have in the fridge. Could that be the problem?
The recipe says to "mix together" the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla, stirring well. I did that, but I'm wondering if I need to actually use a blender instead? I just whipped it around with a fork for a few minutes.
Does anyone have an idiot-proof recipe that they'd recommend instead?

Thanks for any help!

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Old 05-30-2014, 12:04 PM   #2
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Hello and welcome to DC.

I would have used whole milk and a mixer or whisk to better blend the custard ingredients.

Starting with hot milk would speed up the setting process and might solve your problem. Also, if the custard didn't set and the crust was beginning to burn, your oven may be running hot. Next try, drop your oven setting by 25ºF and try that. Another option would be to fashion a foil shield to cover the crust rim o it doesn't burn. You can also buy crust shields if you bake a lot of pies.
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Old 05-30-2014, 12:29 PM   #3
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custard(s) generally begin to congeal (aka "set") when the temp of the custard reach roughly 170'F

400'F meguesses is a bit on the high side for baking a custard pie.

and I concur with the above - a thorough mixing of the custard mix is essential.
a quick stir with a fork may not have been sufficient.

the timing will depend on the egg to milk ratio and very strongly on the starting temperature of the custard mix. warming/scalding the milk is a long accepted method of increasing the mix temp. before baking.

another method is to heat the custard mix in a heavy pan - with near constant stirring - to get it closer to the congeal temp. sometimes accompanied by blind baking the crust.

there are a few 'compounds' in milk that contribute to the congealing - but in relationship to the egg portion, they are rather minor.
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Old 05-30-2014, 12:52 PM   #4
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the reason for using scaled milk in most custard recipes is so that you can temper the egg yolks before adding them into the rest of the milk.

Tempering prevents the yolks from solidifying into lumps, rather than thickening the custard.

Here's how I would have approached your custard pie.

First, form you crust and brush with beaten egg white. Place into a 350' oven for 15 minutes to set the egg, with a pie-crust protector ring over the rim of the crust. Remove the crust and set aside. Place your milk in a pot and bring to a near boil (scalded). While the milk is heating, beat your egg yolks, sugar, and flavorings together in a bowl. Remove 1 cup of the hot milk and slowly whisk it into the yolk mixture, making sure that everything is well blended. Pour the yolk/milk mixture back into the pot and whisk until well mixed. Pour this into your pie crust and place into the pre-heated oven. Put the pie-ring back over the crust, taking care to not let it touch the custard. Bake as directed in your recipe.

To get an idea of what's going on with your custard, look at recipes for key lime pie, cheesecake, and pumpkin pies, even pecan pie.. They are all custard pies and use about the same technique as your vanilla custard pie. Compare the amount of egg yolk in those pies as in your recipe. In most recipes I've looked at, the eggs are separated, with 3 yolks used per cup of milk. Adjust the amount of eggs you use in your recipe. Also, in one recipe, the egg white was beaten to make stiff peaks, then folded into the milk/yolk mixture. I've used this technique and it creates a very light and airy custard.

So for your pie, here's what I'd do.

Make your pie dough, brush with egg white, blind bake, remove crust. Heat milk until it's just starting to bubble, then remove from heat. While the milk is heating, combine 4 egg yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a bowl, and whisk together until smooth. Add a cup of the hot milk to the yolks, again whisking together until smooth. Add the yolk mixture back into the hot milk. Whisk together. Pour into the pie shell and place the pie crust protector on the rim. Put the pie into the hot oven and bakeas directed.

When the baking time is done, turn off the oven, crack the oven door open, and let the pie cool with the oven. When cold, top with whipped cream, or a fruity pie filling, such as strawberry, blueberry, apple-cinnamon, or cherry. Chill and serve.

Seeeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
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Old 05-30-2014, 01:34 PM   #5
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Thank you all for the thoughtful replies, I'll give it another go. I really appreciate it!
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Old 05-30-2014, 04:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sanotehu View Post
Hi all,

I love cooking and I'm usually not half bad at it, but when it comes to baking desserts I seem to fail more often than succeed. My latest disaster is a custard pie. I followed a recipe from allrecipes called "Grandma's Egg Custard Pie" which uses 3 eggs and 2.5c scalded milk, and has you cook the pie at 400° for 30-35 minutes. At 30 minutes it was still liquid, and at 40 minutes my pie crust was burning so I pulled it out, hoping it would "set" or some similarly magical mysterious thing would happen that would make it work out. The recipe is rated very highly, so I'm guessing the fault is somewhere in my court...

A top comment said I didn't need to scald the milk, so I didn't. Is that true? Can I add cold milk instead of heating it?
I used 1% milk. The recipe just said "milk", so I used what I have in the fridge. Could that be the problem?
The recipe says to "mix together" the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla, stirring well. I did that, but I'm wondering if I need to actually use a blender instead? I just whipped it around with a fork for a few minutes.
Does anyone have an idiot-proof recipe that they'd recommend instead?

Thanks for any help!
Re scalding the milk - If it's an old recipe it may have preceded pasteurisation of milk. A lot of recipes from way-back-when suggested scalding milk. Obviously, if the milk is warm the tart will start to cook more quickly that if you start with cold milk. When I make a custard tart I don't scald the milk but I do warm it. If you add milk that is too hot to eggs they may cook into a stringy mess. I use full fat milk (ie not skimmed or semi-skimmed) but what makes really good custard tarts is Channel Islands milk from Jersey or Guernsey cows. I expect you have similar rich milk in the USA. I would think (a fairly wild guess) that if you use 1% milk you'd need to use more eggs (like when you make ice cream).

No need to use a blender. Just whisk everything together with a balloon whisk or even a fork.


Another thing that I do when making a custard tart is to "blind bake" the pastry case first and let it cool before adding the filling and cooking it. This isn't standard but it works better for me. You don't need to have the oven so hot if you do it this way and there is less chance of the filling boiling and spoiling the tart.

The filling should be a bit wobbly when you take it out of the oven and will set as it cools but it shouldn't be anywhere near liquid. At the correct wobbliness a knife inserted into the filling should come out more or less clean.

The following quote is from Paul Hollywood (The Great British Bake Off" judge)and suggests how you should judge the "cooked-ness" of the custard "IYou are looking for a very slight dome on the custard, indicating that it is baked. If the custard domes too much this indicates that you have over-cooked the custard, it will have boiled, and will sink back down leaving a big dip. If this does happen you can help rescue it by removing the tarts from the oven immediately and placing the tin in cold water on a cold surface.[/I]"

My grandmother grated a little nutmeg on top of her custard tarts before baking but I find this a bit of an acquired taste.

There are lots of recipes on the internet. I can't, I'm afraid, agree with the Chief when he suggests beating the egg whites separately and folding them in. That's not a proper egg custard tart! And I certainly wouldn't cook the custard in a saucepan first (per dcSaute). It also occurs to me - did you cook the tart in a metal tart tin (pan) or in glass or ceramic dish? Anything with pastry is better cooked in metal.
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Old 05-30-2014, 06:31 PM   #7
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Anyone who knows me knows that I can get food to do what I want it to do. I didn't say that you had to beat the egg white. I simply said that one of the custard pie recipes that I saw beat the egg whites, and then folded them into the custard mixture. I've also seen this done with cheesecake filling. I wasn't crazy about the completed texture, but if done well, it could make an interesting pie. I didn't like it in the cheesecake as for my taste, the filling was too eggy, or cusard like in texture, kind of like a soufle that wouldn't collapse. I like my cheesecake full of rich cream cheese, sour cream, and vanilla, with just enough egg to set the custard into creamy perfection.

Also, there is a difference between a tart and a pie. The OP stated that the problem was with a custard pie recipe.

Mad cook, the points you mention, and the procedures you describe in your posts are valid. But so are those of DCSaute, and my own advise. There are usually many ways to achieve a desired outcome. The flavors and textures may differ a bit in the end product. I have found in my thirty-plus years of cooking, that my favorite flavors, textures, and techniques aren't what many people prefer. They are what I prefer. I try to give as good advise as possible, so as to get the OP closest to what I understand them to want. If you give a procedure that's different than mine, and they like it better, I'm not harmed in the least. In fact, the new way of making whatever it is that's being made might allow me to improve my own skills. At the very least, I'm learning techniques.

It's said that taste is subjective. So too are texture, how much work we want to put into our cooking, and the pleasure we derive from eating the end product.

All posters are welcome to give their take on a recipe, even if their take is to use a Jello brand pudding to make the pie.

Seeeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
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Old 05-30-2014, 07:32 PM   #8
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I think making a good custard pie is one of the most difficult things for a beginner to master. If you overcook it or cook it at too high a temperature the custard will break and weep. A great custard pie should be smooth and silky. IMO the only way to get it right is to practice and keep adjusting your technique. I have been making it for years and only seem to get it right when no one else is around to help me eat it!

This is the recipe I use. It is an old recipe that makes a basic pie, nothing fancy.

Grammy’s Custard Pie
4 eggs slightly beaten
¼ t salt
½ cup granulated sugar
½ T almond extract
½ t vanilla extract
2 T soft or melted butter (you can melt the butter while heating the milk)
3 cups scalded milk
Nutmeg to taste

1 Unbaked pie crust

Combine all ingredients and pour into prepared crust and sprinkle with additional nutmeg.

Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes and reduce temperature to 325 degrees F and bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes, until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Notes:

½ cup of coconut can be added to this basic mixture.

My mother used to "paint" the inside of the crust with strawberry jam before pouring in the liquid custard, it made a nice change to the basic pie.

I usually do this using a blender and heat the milk in the microwave.
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Old 05-30-2014, 07:40 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aunt Bea View Post
I think making a good custard pie is one of the most difficult things for a beginner to master. If you overcook it or cook it at too high a temperature the custard will break and weep. A great custard pie should be smooth and silky. IMO the only way to get it right is to practice and keep adjusting your technique. I have been making it for years and only seem to get it right when no one else is around to help me eat it!

This is the recipe I use. It is an old recipe that makes a basic pie, nothing fancy.

Grammy’s Custard Pie
4 eggs slightly beaten
¼ t salt
½ cup granulated sugar
½ T almond extract
½ t vanilla extract
2 T soft or melted butter (you can melt the butter while heating the milk)
3 cups scalded milk
Nutmeg to taste

1 Unbaked pie crust

Combine all ingredients and pour into prepared crust and sprinkle with additional nutmeg.

Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes and reduce temperature to 325 degrees F and bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes, until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Notes:

½ cup of coconut can be added to this basic mixture.

My mother used to "paint" the inside of the crust with strawberry jam before pouring in the liquid custard, it made a nice change to the basic pie.

I usually do this using a blender and heat the milk in the microwave.
Absolutely rock-solid answer, Aunt Bea. I forgot about the cooking for 10 minutes in the hot oven, and then recducing the temp and cooking 40 more minutes. That's exactly what I do with my cheesecake, and key lime pie recipes. It's also what I do with my pumpkin pie. It's how you make custard pies.

Oh, and as I've mentioned in other threads, you can use the key lime pie recipe, and replace the key lime juice with lemon juice, or rhubarb juice, or blueberry juice, or apple juice, etc., and it comes out great.

Seeeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
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Old 05-31-2014, 10:32 AM   #10
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Now I really want a custard pie! Something special about custard pie, so simple yet so perfect. It's one of those things that is always better homemade.
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