Recipe summary

Hands-on time:
15 mins. to 25 mins.
Baking time:
45 mins. to 55 mins.
Total time:
60 mins. to 1 hrs 20 mins.
Yield:
9" pie, 8 to 12 servings.
Plain old custard pie? Well, this recipe may be old (as in classic, treasured, revered), but it's hardly "plain" — unless your definition of plain is a rich/tender filling of cream, eggs, and vanilla, with a hint of nutmeg, nestled in a buttery crust. It's just plain good!
Volume Ounces Grams

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, optional; for added flakiness
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening*
  • 1 teaspoon white or cider vinegar
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons ice water
  • *Can you substitute butter for shortening? Yes; your crust will be slightly less flaky.

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups milk (anything from skim to whole, your choice)
  • 1 cup cream (heavy, whipping, light, or half & half, your choice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

  1. 1) To make the crust: Whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
  2. 2) Add the shortening, mixing until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Add the butter, working it in until it's unevenly crumbly, with some larger chunks of butter remaining.
  3. 3) Sprinkle the vinegar and 3 tablespoons of the ice water over the dough while tossing with a fork. Add more water if the dough isn't coming together. Just as soon as the dough becomes cohesive (i.e., you can squeeze it into a ball easily), stop mixing; there should still be visible pieces of fat in the dough.
  4. 4) Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer; this resting period allows the flour to absorb the water, making the dough easier to roll out.
  5. 5) Roll the chilled crust into a 13" circle, and lay it in a lightly greased 9" pie pan. Make an upright (rather than flat) crimp around the edge, as pictured above; this will help keep the filling from sloshing out as you move the pie from counter to oven. Set the crust aside while you make the filling.
  6. 6) Preheat the oven to 325F, with one rack set on the lowest level, one in the middle.
  7. 7) To make the filling: Start by combining the milk, cream, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan or microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture until small bubbles form around the edges, and steam starts to wisp from the surface; this is how you "scald" milk, if you've ever seen that technique mentioned.
  8. 8) In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Pour 1/4 of the hot milk/cream over the egg mixture, stirring well. Pour the egg mixture into the remaining hot milk/cream, stirring well. Pour the custard through a sieve, to strain out any possible bits of cooked egg. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  9. 10) Pour the hot filling into the crust. Sprinkle the nutmeg evenly over the top.
  10. 11) Set the pie on a baking sheet; it'll be easier to move into the oven that way. Place the pie/baking sheet onto your oven's bottom rack. Bake for 20 minutes.
  11. 12) Transfer the pie to the middle rack of your oven, and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the custard is set at the edges but still a bit wobbly in the center. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the pie should read about 165F; if the mixture goes above 180F, you run the risk of the custard becoming watery.
  12. 13) Remove the pie from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool. When it's completely cool, refrigerate until you're ready to serve.
  13. Yield: 8 to 12 servings.

Tips from our bakers

  • Can you use skim milk and fat-free half & half? Sure; your pie simply won't taste as rich.