Could This Be the Pie We’re Looking For?

It might be!

So, this pie is an altered version of Martha Stewart’s Rum Cream Pie recipe. For one thing, as one commenter noted, it’s a recipe that’s susceptible to any number of interesting variations. For another, of the three pies I made last week, this is the one that my entire family referred to as “the good pie.” (Lipton’s chocolate tea custard came in second, and the sweet tea pie came in under “No Award” here in the Leckie household, despite its popularity at the local singing.)

Here’s how I altered Martha’s recipe:

  • I used a pre-bought graham cracker crust
  • I did not add any vanilla
  • I used a half cup of sugar instead of a full cup
  • I omitted the rum from the custard
  • I replaced the rum in the whipped cream with a tablespoon of tea
  • I replaced the milk with very strong oolong tea
  • That last one is the essential alteration. I was a bit worried as to how that substitution would come out. Cooking is chemistry–in particular when you’re not just warming something up, but when things have to thicken, or when, say, dough or batter has to turn into bread or cake or whatever. This is why baking is much harder to improvise, and why often you can’t just halve or double a baking recipe.

    Anyway. Quiche is a sort of custard, and I knew from my quiche experiences that the amount of fat in the milk you use changes the texture of the custard fairly dramatically. I’ll be up front and tell you that while I often do make quiche with very thick powdered milk (I got my quiche recipe from Amy Dacyzn and her Cheapskate Gazette compilations) or sometimes a can of evaporated milk, and it’s perfectly cromulent, and while I have made quiche with whole milk and it is, again, perfectly cromulent, my ideal quiche is made with heavy cream. They all have different textures depending on what sort of milk I use.

    What this means is, using tea instead of whole milk might very well have serious implications for the custard in this pie, and I feared it might lead to Custard Fail.

    Readers, it did not. The custard was, however, noticeably thinner. It does mostly hold together in the pie, but if you’re making it yourself you might want to add a bit more cornstarch. Not a lot, understand. Just a bit. Leaving it as it is, there is still enough integrity to hold together when you slice the pie, it’s just not as firm as the recipe with milk.

    The flavor is also noticeably…thinner. Or maybe it’s the mouthfeel. But when I tasted the custard before the pie went into the fridge (it’s a pity to waste the stuff you can’t scrape out of the pan into the pie shell!) there was a noticeable taste of Republic of Tea’s Milk Oolong. Less so when, hours later, I topped that puppy with whipped cream and had a slice. Still. I think this is the best of the tea pies so far, and the very basic-ness of the recipe makes it amenable to nearly any sort of tea you like. I imagine this would be good with a very strong green tea, for instance, or an earl grey. Or something heavily jasmine, or really anything.

    Stirred custard can be a bit tricky, but if you follow Martha’s directions carefully (that step where you cook the milk/tea and sugar and cornstarch for about two minutes after it reaches the boil? Important. Don’t skip it. And for Mithras’ sake, stir constantly when she tells you to. Do. Not. Stop. Stirring. You might want to look up “tempering eggs” so you understand what’s up when she wants you to add the milk mixture “in a slow, steady stream” to the egg yolks, if you don’t already know about that, because that’s a moment of maximum potential for Custard Fail) you should come out fine. Its a skill worth having, and a pie that’s simple enough to hold up to any number of fun alterations. Like making it with your favorite tea instead of milk!

    Also, quite frankly, the idea that one might make custard with tea instead of milk opens up a number of interesting possibilities. Maybe people who can’t have milk have already figured this bit out, I don’t know, but what else could you make custard with? Would the acid in fruit juice mess things up too much, or would there be some way to balance that and have a lovely apple juice custard? Once you get to “replace the milk with any sort of other liquid” the possibilities are more or less endless, though they might not all be successful.

    Anyway! People of the internet, I give you, Ancillary Sword Pie:



    I probably didn’t whip the cream quite enough. I’m always leery of it turning into butter, which I know from experience can happen quite suddenly, and so I tend not to whip as long as I ought to. I guess I just need more practice.

    Delicious practice.

    (And yes, those are Swedish fish on the pie. For thematic reasons.)

    4 thoughts on “Could This Be the Pie We’re Looking For?

    1. Paul (@princejvstin) says:

      Mmm. Pie!

    2. n
      nm says:

      a) That is awesome.
      b) I always thought that the important element of milk/cream for custards was the protein. It sounds like that’s not actually true, based on your experience. But based on that fallacy, I have made remarkably tasty custards using eggs and chicken broth together.

    3. G
      Gorman Ghaste says:

      I ran across a tea cake recipe that has loose tea steeped in melted butter. Wonder if that would affect the strength of the flavor?

      1. Ann says:

        That sounds interesting! I wonder, too!

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