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Sugar Cream Pie

RECIPE: Sugar Cream Pie
Riley Wofford
Cook Time:
1 hr 10 mins
Prep Time:
7 hrs
Servings:
8-10
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Chef notes

Sometimes known as Hoosier pie, sugar cream pie is a regional dessert that got its origin from Indiana’s Shaker and Amish communities in the 19th century. When fresh fruit was scarce toward the end of winter, bakers would use what was plentiful — dairy — to make a sweet cream pie. A rich, lightly-spiced custard is suspended in a tender flaky crust in this simple dessert. 

Blind baking the crust is probably the most important step for a picture-perfect pie  (not just with this recipe, but with pies in general). There is nothing more disappointing than cutting a slice of pie only to find that the bottom of the crust is soggy. Par-baking the crust before adding the filling solves this dilemma. This way, the crust will have plenty of time to crisp up and develop a golden brown color. 

Sugar cream pie is similar to chess pie, a British classic. Unlike chess pie, it doesn’t have any eggs. Instead, cornstarch is the main thickener. Just a few ingredients — heavy cream, granulated sugar, cornstarch and butter — simmer together to create a custard-like filling. It’s flavored further with vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Pour it into the blind baked crust and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes. The filling will be perfect when it is mostly set but still wobbles ever so slightly when you give it a nudge. It will firm up completely as it cools in the refrigerator. Traditionally, the pie is dusted with a little nutmeg or more cinnamon just before serving. 

Technique Tip: Since the custard is delicate, baking it at a low temperature will keep the mixture from breaking. 

 

Ingredients

Crust
  • cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 4-5 tablespoons cold water
Filling
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1⅔ cups heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly grated nutmeg, for dusting
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Preparation

Make the crust:

1.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and toss to coat in flour mixture. Press butter between your fingers to incorporate it into the dry ingredients, breaking up the butter into pea-size pieces. Drizzle with cold water and stir with a fork until mixture holds together when pinched between your fingers. If the dough feels too dry, add another tablespoon of cold water. Transfer to a surface and knead to bring together, then shape into a flat disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

2.

Preheat the oven to 375 F with a rack in the upper third position. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into an 11-inch circle. Center over a 9-inch pie plate and gently press dough into edges. Trim excess pie dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself and crimp edges as desired. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

3.

Line dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake until edges begin to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove parchment and pie weights and bake until golden brown and dry to the touch, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Make the filling:

1.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 F. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Add heavy cream and butter and whisk to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly. Continue to cook, whisking until smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, cinnamon and salt.

2.

Pour filling into cooled crust and spread into an even layer with an offset spatula. Bake until custard is set but still slightly wobbly in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour, then lightly dust the top with nutmeg (or more cinnamon). Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.