I’m kind of ashamed to say that sugar cream pie came into my life relatively recently. I can’t help but look back and think what a wasteland my existence has been without it. For the uninitiated, it’s basically a light custard that’s thickened with cornstarch (sometimes flour) instead of eggs. It’s clear to me that I have a sweet tooth (commonly referred to as an addiction). Sugar cream pie is my fix. I mean, sugar is 33% of the title!
I had always thought – for no real reason at all – that Sugar Cream Pie was an American creation. Maybe because I know the Amish make them, maybe because it sounds so fat. Turns out, this one is a Frenchie! Popular in France and Belgium, sugar pie as it’s known across the drink (or even “finger pie” – which doesn’t really make think of food per se…), is a significant “foundation pie” in which I mean it has lots of roots to other pies in the pie-o-verse. Pecan pie (my best-ever recipe), transparent pie, shoofly pie and maple pie (to name a few) are all close relatives. While not 100% ‘merican in lineage, sugar cream pie still has strong roots in the Quaker, Amish and Midwest tradition and has been a part of our country’s sugary family tree since the early 1800’s.
I’ll include the pie dough recipe and method in the card, but to keep my recipe ever streamlined for better baking, the general method can be found here
Speaking of pie dough, sugar cream pie filling only spend a few minutes setting in the oven, so the pie crust will have to be fully baked prior to filling it. I use cheese cloth filled with rice to par or blind bake my dough, the rice does a great job of settling into the shape of the pan and applying firm, even pressure to the dough. I also like to wrap the exposed edge of the pie dough loosely with tin foil before putting it in the oven. This helps to keep the exposed dough from browning to much while the dough under the rice (which is insulated and bakes slower) is cooking.
I tend to blind bake my dough at a slightly lower temp than if it was filled. I’ve found 350F/176C usually works. Don’t be too surprised if the pie dough takes quite a long time to fully bake. In my new (and unfortunately less powerful) electric oven, it took me nearly 1hr 45min. to fully bake the dough.
In terms of the filling, the only thing to be careful of it the high sugar content of the liquid while cooking it over the stove. Heat the mixture on medium-low heat to begin, and stir as constantly as possible. This will help fully dissolve the sugar so that it doesn’t settle on the bottom of the pan and burn. If you do happen to get some burned bits in your thickened filling, simply pass it through a fine mesh strainer as you fill your pie shell.
sugar cream pie
250g pastry flour
225g butter unsalted
60g water ice cold
Cut your butter into 1/2” pieces and keep it in the cooler until you need it. If it’s especially hot in your kitchen, keep the butter in the freezer.
Get some ice water prepped, and keep that in the cooler too.
Combine the pastry flour, sugar and salt in a stand mixer mixing bowl with a paddle attachment. If you don’t have a stand mixer then a regular mixing bowl is fine.
Start mixing the dry ingredients together on low speed. Add your cold butter chunks to the dry ingredients while mixing. Again, if you don’t have a mixer you can “cut” the butter in with a pastry cutter or even a fork.
Once the butter starts to break down and flatten into chunks the size of pecans or large beans, add the ice water and mix until the dough comes together.
Don’t over mix the dough! If needed finish bringing it together by hand, then wrap it up in plastic wrap and chill it or at least 30min. Even better, let it sit in the fridge overnight. This will allow the starch in the flour to absorb water.
sugar cream pie filling
315g whole milk
315g heavy cream
43g butter unsalted
Combine the cornstarch and sugar, mixing well.
Combine the whole milk, heavy cream, butter, and vanilla in a sauce pot.
Rain the cornstarch mixture into the remaining ingredients, while whisking.
Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking continuously, especially as it begins to thicken. Let the mixture boil for 1min., while whisking.
Remove the filling from the heat and pour into the baked pie shell.
Bake at 450F/232C for 5-10min. or until the surface of the filling begins to bubble and just slightly brown.
Place a loose dome of tinfoil over the pie with a hole punched in the center of the foil. Plastic wrap applied to the surface of the pie may stick and pull up the top crust. Leaving the pie uncovered will cause it to dry out and create a skin top.
Let the pie cool fully, ideal setting overnight, before cutting and serving. Topping the pie with cinnamon is traditional, but optional.