I could never pick a favorite dessert to make or to eat, but one of my favorites in both categories is definitely pie. It’s so versatile, from the many ways to make a pie crust to the limitless filling types. Single crust or double crust? Fruit or chocolate?
Any pie book worth it’s weight in butter (yes, butter!) will feature a nice range of pies perfect for any season, and The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book fits the bill. I made a couple pies from the book last Thanksgiving, and was excited to try some of the seasonal Spring pies recently.
I made a lovely, fresh and tart Lemon Sour Cream Pie and a great twist on a spring favorite, Rhubarb Custard Pie. I decided to share the recipe for the latter since it’s a bit more unique combining a sweet rhubarb filling with the creamy texture of a custard.
This Rhubarb Custard Pie begins with a rustic oat crumble crust. It’s delicious and a great base for this pie, but beware, in the past I have made this pie in a Pyrex pie plate, and it stuck pretty badly to the pie dish since it says not to grease it and yet you’re pressing it quite firmly to the dish to get it to even out. I made it again in a ceramic pie plate (and lightly greased only the bottom just to be safe) and it did a lot better in terms of not sticking, but it took longer to bake than it did in the Pyrex.
The rhubarb filling is so delicious! It’s thick, sweet, and just a bit tart. It’s so colorful and peeks out between the crust and custard when you slice up pieces. The rich and creamy custard atop the rhubarb filling kind of sandwiches it into the center of the pie. It’s really such a lovely surprise, especially for unsuspecting diners.
I definitely plan on making this pie again (and perhaps even soon). Rhubarb season may be winding down, but I will happily find any excuse to make this pie for another occasion, and I recommend you do too.
*Update 5/7/17* Photos, and notes on cooking time and crust technique updated above and in recipe below.
Rhubard Custard Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie (serves 8 to 10)
(From The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book)
Oat Crumble Crust:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, at room temperature
1 pound fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sour cream
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste (Nielsen-Massey makes a readily available one)
2 large eggs
To make the crust: Stir together the ingredients except the butter in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the butter pieces and toss to coat. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is chunky but not homogeneous.
Press evenly into the bottom and sides (it’s a bit sticky, you may want to lightly wet your fingers before you press the crust into the pan) of an ungreased, preferable metal 9-inch pie pan. Freeze until solid, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake on the middle oven rack for 18 to 20 minutes. If the crust slumps or cracks while baking, gently push the crumble back into place, while hot, with a clean, folded kitchen towel. Cool completely before filling. The crust will keep refrigerated for 5 days or frozen for 1 month.
To make the pie: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the prebaked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet.
In a medium saucepan, combine the rhubarb, 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat until the rhubarb is cooked down into a thick sauce, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool while preparing the custard.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, heavy and sour creams, nutmeg, and vanilla paste, and mix until smooth. Stir in the eggs one at a time and mix well.
Spread the rhubarb mixture evenly in the prebaked crust, strain the cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve directly over the rhubarb. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes (mine baked nearly twice as long, about 60 minutes! This could have been because I used a ceramic pie dish instead of metal, but just keep an eye on it and check for signs of doneness instead of relying solely on the timer), rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, about 15 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 curdle and 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.