A very simple custard of eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla (or some other flavoring) that is cooked on the stovetop or baked in small ramekins in the oven is the first thing that most of us think of when we think of a custard. A custard is a cooked mixture that is thickened with eggs, and while that simple custard may be the first thing that comes to mind, all kinds of other mixtures are custards as well. Custard pies are pies that are filled with a custard base – eggs, some type of liquid and sweeteners – and baked until the mixture is set. While that basic custard mixture can make a nice pie filling itself, pumpkin pies, sweet potato pies, buttermilk pies, chess pies and even pecan pies are all custard-based pies.
All custard pies need to be handled with care to get the best results. Here are a few tips that might come in handy when baking them, whether you’re doing a pumpkin pie for the holidays or a classic custard pie for another occasion:
- Place your pie on a baking sheet and put it on the rack in the oven, then pour the filling from a large mixing cup to prevent spillage.
- Custard pies should be baked until they jiggle slightly. Residual heat will help them firm up even more once they come out of the oven, but overbaking can cause cracking.
- The easiest way to test for doneness is to insert a sharp knife into the center; the knife should come out clean, even though the pie still jiggles slightly.
- Custard pies cut more easily with a smooth, hot knife. Run your knife under hot water and dry it off before cutting your pie.
- Pies are at their best within a couple of days of baking, when the filling is at its most tender.