This Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie has a creamy, smooth filling that is the perfect combination of tangy and sweet. Bake it up in a hearty Spelt Pie Crust with decorative maple leaves for a festive look.
Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie
This is the pie everyone asks for if they know I'm making pies for Thanksgiving. This Maple Buttermilk Pie presents as both sweet and tangy, as the amber maple syrup mixes with the buttermilk. This magical combination is perfect in an earthy Spelt Pie Crust and looks so festive garnished with the maple leaves; however, the leaves are totally optional.
Maple Buttermilk Custard Ingredients
- Spelt Pie Crust: This is my preferred pie crust to use with this pie. A great alternative would be to use a sweet Pâte Sucrée. Or, you can just go ahead and use your favorite pie crust for custard pies.
- Maple Syrup: The darker the color, the more flavor the maple syrup has. Try to buy grade B if it's available.
- Maple Sugar: Don't be intimated by this ingredient. It's just maple syrup that has been cooked down until all the water has been evaporated out and the maple syrup turns to sugar crystals. It's packed with maple flavor, and super delicious. You can find it at some grocery stores, and on Amazon. If you really wanted to skip it, you can substitute brown sugar; however, you'll loose out on a lot of maple flavor. If you can find maple extract, that will make up for it.
- Natural Maple Extract: I used to buy this all the time, but in recent months, I've been having trouble finding it in stores. I'm leaving it as an optional ingredient because, though I typically have used it in this pie recipe (I've been making this one for years) I have not been able to find it as of recently. The maple sugar and maple syrup do a great job providing for the maple flavor, but if you can find this extract, grab it! You won't regret it.
- Buttermilk: Don't forget to shake this well before use. Either the full-fat or the low-fat version works here.
- Heavy Cream: This is used to give the pie an extra richness that keeps the filling feeling smooth and creamy.
- Cornstarch: This pie needs a boost to help thicken it up because of the liquid nature of the maple syrup, so cornstarch (or alternatively, flour) is used to get the correct texture.
- Vanilla Extract
Decorative Pie Crust Tips
Given that this is a Maple Buttermilk Pie, it makes sense to garnish the pie with decorative maple leaf pie crust cut-outs. Obviously, these can't be baked along with the pie, as they'd sink right into the filling, so they're baked separately. In fact, whenever I make decorative pie crust cut-outs, I often bake them separately because they come out so much prettier than when they are baked directly on the pie. It's definitely worth the extra step.
The spelt pie crust recipe yields a large enough batch for you to cut off about ⅕th of the dough and roll it out for the crust cut-outs. How many decorative pie crust cut-outs you yield will completely depend on what cutter you are using, and how thin you roll your dough.
To bake these decorative pieces, place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush with egg wash and raw sugar for a glossy and sparkly finished look. Being efficient with your time, bake for 15 minutes, while also blind baking the pie crust at 375ºF.
How to Not Spill a the Filling When Placing it in the Oven
This may not seem like an important tip, but if you’ve ever tried to move an unbaked pie with an almost-liquid filling into the oven--without spilling it--you know it isn’t easy! While some bakers opt to place their pastry into the oven first and then pour the filling inside, I prefer the opposite. I’ve found that with the heat of the oven, I’m more likely to spill it or burn myself when I do it that way.
Instead, I’ll offer you one tip for a successful transfer of an unbaked custard pie into the oven: never take your eye off the filling. Before picking up the pie, open the oven and make sure your oven rack is in the right spot (which should be right in the middle). Then, pick up your pie and keep your eye on the filling the entire time. It’s only when you take your eye off the wobbly filling that you are at risk for spilling. Eye on the custard prize!
How to Tell if a Custard Pie is Done
When a custard style pie is properly baked, it should be just barely set. If you overcook it, you are essentially “boiling” or curdling the eggs. This can, in some cases, lead to a taste of overcooked eggs. It can also make the pie feel tough, or spongy, and more commonly, leads to cracked or separated pies. A properly cooked custard is set (and safe to eat) between 170º – 180º. I often use a thermometer to check the temperature of the pie, to be sure. Though of course, this can leave a small hole in the middle of your pretty pie, so it's good to check for these other signs that the custard is done if you prefer the surface to be completely blemish-free.
Look at the outer edges and see if they have begun to “soufflé”, or puff up. Look for the soufflé effect to go in about 2″ from the outer edge, and for the center of the pie to still be a bit wobbly. It should not be watery looking though. It should have a soft wooble to it, but not feel like complete liquid. Once it's set on the outside softly set in the middle, take your pie out of the oven, and place it at room temperature to cool.
Once it’s fully cool, move it to the refrigerator to cool for at least 6 hours, or until it is fully set.
Tips for Making It
- Bake the pie pastry well: It’s crucial to bake the pastry fully before pouring in the filling, and to brush it with a whisked egg white while it is still hot. Custards are baked at a low temperature, so it would be impossible for the crust to actually bake with the filling inside. The brushed on egg white helps create a barrier between the filling and the crust. This helps keep the pie crust crisp after the custard has been baked. However, your crust can still take on a bit of moisture, depending on how long the baked custard sits, since this is a wet filling.
- Strain the filling: Sometimes, some of the bits of eggs don't thoroughly get whisked together with the ingredients, and they can surface on the custard as separate bits of cooked eggs. To prevent this, strain your filling (right before you add in the butt,ermilk). In the strainer you'll see anything left behind that didn't get fully whisked together.
- Add the buttermilk last: This is a strange one, but I've found that the buttermilk filling can break when the buttermilk is added too early in the whisking process. Adding the buttermilk at the very end (after the custard has been strained), right before putting it in the oven has prevented that from happening.
- Pre-cook the custard: This custard needs to be quickly warmed up together on the stovetop to ensure it doesn't "break". This is an update on this recipe, as I found the recipe could be inconsistent with how smooth the custard bakes up. I've added this step to ensure it always turns out as a smooth custard pie.
- Don’t overcook it: Be sure to read the above text on using a thermometer and checking for doneness.
- Let it cool before slicing: Custard pies finish setting and firming while they cool. If you try to cut it before it has completely set up, you’ll end up with custard soup. To check if it's set up, give the pie a wiggle, and you'll be able to see!
How to Serve this Pie
Serve this pie at room temperature or chilled, as is or with whipped cream. This pie can be made up to 1 day ahead of time. Store the pie in the refrigerator.
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