Foolproof Silky Custard Pie

  • Serves: Makes one 9-inch pie
  • Baking Temp (degrees F): 375
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Variations: Foolproof Silky Lemon Custard Pie; Foolproof Silky Orange Custard Pie
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You can make a custard pie by prebaking the crust, adding a hot filling, and then finishing the baking in the oven. However, because egg proteins coagulate and set much more quickly than the crust bakes, the two are often baked separately, with the cooled filling being placed in the cooled shell right before serving. But problems can occur with this preferred method; for example, the filling separates from the crust causing it to slide from it when serving the pie. Find out how I solve this problem.  


In this recipe, to prevent the custard from separating from its crust, I have you bake the pie shell ahead of time with the custard filling made separately. Then the crust is heated in a 375-degree oven until hot, about 5 minutes, before the custard filling is poured into it. This way, the hot filling will adhere to the pastry crust and will not separate when cooled.
Or, another technique is to bake the pie shell and make the pie in one continuous process; begin heating the milk and cream for the custard when the foil and pie weights are removed from blind-baking the crust; the filling should be ready at the same time as the shell is ready to be filled. Then fill the hot crust and bake both at 375 degrees F.

1 recipe How to Roll, Flute, and Prebake Pie Crust using Kelly's Food Processor Pie Crust for a 9-inch standard or 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie; bake and cool crust if make ahead (if just baked, no need to cool)

2 cups whole milk; do not substitute
1 cup heavy cream; do not substitute
3 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-third of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Cover and set aside.

3. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine milk and cream over medium heat, stirring frequently, until steaming, about 6 to 8 minutes.

4. In a small bowl, pour about 1 cup egg mixture. Whisk some steaming milk and cream into egg mixture in slow, steady stream to warm it. Return this to the main egg mixture bowl and whisk. Continue to add in the remaining steaming milk and cream in a slow, steady stream until incorporated. This is called tempering.

5. Return egg and milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. Make sure you scrape the bottom of pan so the mixture won't burn, until custard begins to thicken and forms a ridge on tip of spoon when bottom of pan is scraped and spoon is lifted. This takes about 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour into a heat-proof measuring cup or pitcher with a pourable spout, prewarmed with hot water and dried.

6. Meanwhile, place the prebaked pie shell on a foil-lined baking sheet, and heat it in the preheated oven until hot, about 5 minutes.
NOTE: Skip this step if the pie crust is still hot from baking.

7. Leaving pie plate on the oven rack, immediately pour the hot custard into hot pie shell. Try not to pull out the oven shelf all the way. Take care because the oven is hot.

8. Bake until the custard has set around edges but jiggles slightly in the center when tapped on the side with a wooden spoon, 12 to 15 minutes.
Do NOT pierce with a knife or toothpick to check if done because you can cause cracking.

9. Remove to a wire cake rack. Cool to room temperature, 2 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Custard pies are perishable and must remain refrigerated. They will keep for a few days. Custard does not freeze well.

Foolproof Silky Lemon Custard Pie
Decrease vanilla to 1 teaspoon, substituting 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest for the nutmeg. Whisk in 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice into egg and cornstarch mixture.

Foolproof Silky Orange Custard Pie
Decrease vanilla to 1 teaspoon, substituting 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest for the nutmeg. Whisk in 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice into egg and cornstarch mixture.

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