Monday, December 8, 2014

Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie

This is a lovely seasonal pie featuring a tangy, creamy filling sweetened with maple, and a toothsome crust speckled with crunchy cornmeal.

It's unusual compared to most holiday pies (think pumpkin, pecan, apple, etc) but it still truly reflects the flavors of the season. Although it can be a little sweet and a little rich, the essence of the buttermilk and sour cream really offset the sweetness.

The crust is fantastic, mirroring a traditional pie crust but with some cornmeal in the mix to add some much needed texture to compliment the silky smooth filling. One thing I really love about making custard-based pie filling is the ease.

No need to peel/slice/chop fruit. Just whisk together some basic ingredients and pour it into a partially baked crust and then finish it in the oven for about an hour (that's how long this baked in my ceramic pie dish).

I actually made this pie this year for Thanksgiving, but it would be excellent on any other holiday table. I'm happy to share the recipe just in time for Christmas in case you're looking for something outside of the box that still features seasonal flavors. This is an excellent choice!

Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie, Serves 8 to 10
(From The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book)

Cornmeal Crust:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup ice

1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon stone-ground white cornmeal
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
1 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1 cup buttermilk

To make the crust: Stir the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl.

Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a spatula. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).

Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated.

Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.

Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.

Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow.

Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

Once dough has been chilled in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, roll out and shape into a 9-inch pie plate. Use a fork to prick all over the bottom and sides, 15 to 20 times. Place the crust in the freezer. Position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack, and preheat the oven to 425°F.

When the crust is frozen solid (about 10 minutes), line it tightly with a piece or two of aluminum foil. Make sure the edges are completely covered and there are no gaps between the foil and the crust.

Pour pie weights or beans into the pan and spread them so they are concentrated more around the edge of the shell than in the center. Place the pan on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until crimped edges are set but not browned.

Remove the pan and the baking sheet from the oven, lift out the foil and pie weights, and let the crust cool for a minute. Use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides with a thin layer of egg white glaze (1 egg white whisked with 1 teaspoon of water) to moisture-proof the crust. Return the pan, on the baking sheet, to the oven’s middle rack and continue baking for 3 more minutes. Remove and cool completely before filling.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the partially prebaked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Add the vanilla paste (or vanilla extract) and the sour cream and stir until smooth. Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the maple syrup and buttermilk and mix everything together.

Strain the filling through a fine-mesh sieve directly into the pie shell, or strain it into a separate bowl and then pour it into the shell.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, 30 to 35 minutes through baking.

The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is no longer liquid but still quite wobbly. Be careful not to overbake or the custard can separate; the filling will continue to cook and set after the pie is removed from the oven. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or cool.

The pie will keep refrigerated for 2 days or at room temperature for 1 day.


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