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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:

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    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.)

    Pie Quest 3: Sweet Tea Pie

    Y’all. This pie. There’s just…it’s…I mean…

    Look at the recipe. I mean, really look at it. It calls for a cup of double strength tea, okay. So far so good. Two cups of sugar.

    You know that super sweet custard, for the Rum Cream pie? It took one whole cup of sugar. Right. On with today’s recipe.

    Which calls for eleven egg yolks. Criminey, why not just round it out at a dozen, huh? Also, I’m going to tell you that the instructions to “whisk” eleven egg yolks together with two cups of sugar are to laugh. That does not whisk. It does better when you add the tea and the lemon juice, of course, and then you get to the real WTF moment of this recipe, where you put this in a double boiler and proceed to melt two and a half sticks of butter into it.

    For those of you not in the US, or not into cooking, butter here is generally sold in 1lb packages of four individually wrapped sticks. Two sticks of butter is a half pound of butter.

    In one pie.

    Then you pour it, the recipe says, into a crust you’ve put in a ten inch pie pan. What they don’t tell you is, it had better be a ten inch deep dish pie pan. If you decide for whatever reason that you have some sort of urgent emotional or perhaps biological need to make this pie, I strongly advise you to purchase and have ready two deep dish pie shells. I had pulled out a regular one and discovered it didn’t even hold half of the filling. Fortunately, our love for pumpkin pie here at the Leckie household, and the convenience of quiche as a fairly easily made wintertime supper that might even use up some leftovers, means I nearly always have frozen deep dish pie shells in inventory. So I have one veeeeery full deep dish and one veeeery full regular.

    I’ve got nothing against deep dish pie, by the way. I just would have liked to have known in advance that this was going to be one.

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    That’s the “regular” pie shell, and you can see that it’s probably a bit overbaked. Not that it makes much of a difference generally. This came out rather like a pecan pie, without the pecans, but with a lemony edge to it. Or actually, what it really reminds me of is butter tarts, which I generally make without raisins or anything. I haven’t made those for ages! And butter tarts might be an appropriate Ancillary pie, hmm.

    Anyway. In what appears to be a general theme with these recipes, I could not taste any tea whatever. If I made this again, I would probably try using super-strong concentrated tea to see if any of it would actually come through. As it is, well, I love pecan pie. I am trying not to think about just how much butter is in even the small slice I just tasted.

    I probably won’t make this again–well, I might make it for the Missouri State Sacred Harp Convention, which involves a pot luck both days and this sort of dessert is an essential part of the experience. But it’s not the sort of thing you just up and make on a whim.

    I didn’t think it had any potential to be a suitable Ancillary Sword pie, honestly, but really once I saw the recipe I had to do it. You know, for Science.

    Oh, and I don’t have a picture of the deep dish one, because I took it to the regular local Sacred Harp singing and that was the end of that. So, yeah, I’ll probably make it for the convention.

    The Quest for Pie 2: Martha Stewart’s Rum Cream Pie

    So, this pie. It’s another custard pie, only stirred custard instead of baked.

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    Yes, I know, Martha called for a home-made pie crust, baked blind. I made pie crust from scratch once. I have the scars to prove it. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned the entire purpose of civilization is the easy availability of pre-made pie crusts, including graham cracker crusts for pies such as these.

    I replaced the rum with Republic of Tea’s Milk Ooolong. Not even the slightest trace of its flavor remains in the pie, nor in the whipped cream that tops it.

    The recipe made just a bit more custard than could fit in the crust, so I put some in a bowl in the fridge to try by itself. It turned out to be so sweet that it deformed the universe around it, and Sugar Creatures incomprehensible to the human mind broke through the breach it created in the fabric of reality. Please send mechas and Idris Elba. If I make this again, I will halve the sugar. No, I will probably quarter it. Though, truth be told the whipped cream is much less sweet, and an actual slice of pie wasn’t quite so excruciatingly sweet as the custard on its own.

    Actually, if I make this again, I will likely make some pretty radical changes to it, some of which might be radical enough to risk actual Pie Failure (or, more accurately, Custard Failure). I am brave.

    This might be really, really awesome with the rum the recipe calls for. As long as you don’t mind the Sugar Creatures. Incidentally, depending on how picky your tastebuds are and how much or little effort you like to put into cooking, well, “stirred custard” of this consistency is what us Americans call “pudding.” Yes. That’s what I’m saying. Store bought graham cracker crust, a box of vanilla flavored Jello Pudding, a can of squirty whipped cream and a bottle of rum. Or better, stir that tablespoon of rum into some Cool Whip. Now we’re talking!

    The Quest for Pie: Lipton Chocolate Tea Pie

    Perhaps you recall the events of last week, wherein I found myself obliged to find an Ancillary Sword Pie recipe.

    This week, I set out to test some pie recipes, and perhaps alter them to suit. And for my first experiment, I tried a recipe from Lipton they call “Luscious Chocolate Tea Pie.” Here’s the result:

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    Here you see demonstrated the reason I do not make my living as a photographer. Here also you see clearly that I did not get a chance to take a picture before the family got their hands on the pie.

    So. Lipton’s chocolate tea pie is actually very, very good. It’s a basic custard pie–I got through the instructions as far as putting it in the oven and went, “Oh, I’ve just made a quiche. With sugar, and half a bag of chocolate chips melted into the half-and-half.” Oh, and tea in the half-and-half. The recipe called for six bags of Lipton orange pekoe tea. I used loose-leaf Benefit instead, on the theory that the chocolate would probably drown out the tea anyway and the orange in the Benefit might be nice.

    The result–a very slightly orangey chocolate pie with very slightly orangey tea-infused whipped cream on top. Quite good, but I question the purpose of adding the tea to begin with. I am half considering making this again but without the chocolate. And a different kind of tea, since I used the last of the Benefit and cannot justify ordering more tea, even if I have to go without Benefit for a while.

    This is a perfectly nice chocolate pie. If you wanted to keep the tea in the recipe, I’d consider something strongly flavored–Earl Grey, or perhaps Rosepetal Black, or a very strong Jasmine. Or, ooh, maybe blackcurrant.

    Ancillary…Pie?

    So, yesterday I posted about the update to the Ancillary Sword pre-order thing now including access to the first three chapters. Except, I was in a hurry and wrote “Pre Order” instead of “Pre-order” and then this happened:

    To which, of course, I replied,

    And the general consensus was that, yes, I was now legally and morally obligated to do so.

    The following is not intended to be that pie recipe. It is mostly for my own reference, and hopefully for your amusement. I take no responsibility for the results if you decide to make any of these yourself.

    It turns out that if you plug “tea pie recipe” into Google you get…well, first you get a page and a half of links to various versions of something called “Sweet Tea Pie.” Which apparently involves not only tea and a couple of truckloads of sugar, but also eleven egg yolks and a double boiler. Eleven egg yolks. I’ll just let that sink in a bit.

    No, there is no meringue on this pie. What the heck are you supposed to do with eleven egg whites if there’s no meringue on your pie? Huh? And I’ve got to admit, this is kind of an intimidating recipe. (I did once make a lemon meringue pie entirely from scratch just because I wanted to know if I could. Once was enough.)

    Hannah Bowman suggested adapting a whiskey pie recipe. Wait, whiskey pie? Yeah, turns out that’s a thing. Oh, and there’s a recipe for Chess Pie with whiskey whipped cream.

    Here’s a chocolate tea pie recipe, from Lipton. I also ran across an earl grey french silk pie recipe. Hey, I didn’t realize french silk was just chocolate mousse! I am still thinking about how I feel about raw eggs. Even chocolatey ones.

    Then there’s this Earl Grey Cream Pie in a Sugar Cookie Crust. I know, right?

    But this one pretty much takes the, uh, cake. Bubble Tea Pie with a Fortune Cookie Crust. And for one brief, shining moment it looked like Wes Chu was going to step up and make it and tell us all about it, but his wife vetoed the project. I find this fundamentally unfair. I do not promise to make it myself, even though I do in fact have easy access to the ingredients, but I must confess myself intrigued.

    Of course, one might also adapt pie recipes that call for some strongly flavored liquid–like the whiskey pie recipe above–to use tea instead. So, apparently Rum Cream Pie used to be kind of a thing. I am eyeing that recipe with a great deal of interest.

    Also, it has just this morning occurred to me that any Ancillary themed pie actually should be a bunch of very small tarts in those adorable tiny fluted tart pans. I do not know if I am quite up for that, but it would be awesome.