Imagine a tiny, little town in the middle of Illinois where the fourth of July is a really big deal and where on that day the park is filled with food stands and carnival rides and a dunk tank and the night-time fireworks show draws a crowd larger than the town’s population, and I grew up there. The fourth of July holiday was the highlight of the summer. Those food stands sold everything from fried fish sandwiches to pulled pork to soup, and pie was always served for dessert. All, or most, of the ladies in town baked pies for the various stands, and the proceeds benefitted local churches and charities. Not much has changed over the years about the celebration, but I don’t make the trip to attend very often anymore. Instead, I check in with my Mom to find out what kind of pies she’s baking and how big of a crowd is expected. She went with peach pies this year. When the day arrives, I always wish I had traveled north to join the fun. The one thing that makes it seem almost like I’m there is baking a pie, and this year’s pie is one I spotted in the March issue of Living magazine. It was presented as a raspberry custard pie, but I found local, organic blueberries and used those instead.
First, the crust was blind baked and allowed to cool. I followed the pate brisee recipe that’s included in the article, and that happens to be the pie crust recipe I use most of the time. Then, flour, sugar, an egg, and cream were whisked together. The blueberries were tossed with sugar and a small bit of salt. The berries were placed in the baked and cooled crust, and the custard was poured over top. The pie went back into the oven for 45 minutes. Once removed from the oven, it was allowed to cool on a rack, and then it was refrigerated overnight. It was simple as far as pies go. I always feel like a pie is easier than it could be when there’s no top crust.
The custard was cold, smooth, and not too rich. The berries were sweetened just enough by the sugar and custard but retained their fresh flavor. Thinking back to all those different kinds of pies at the park, I remember how they were cut into equal-sized pieces and placed on small paper plates with a plastic fork sitting right on the plate. There would be a whole long table full of pieces of various kinds of pie. There were double-crust, lattice-topped, open-faced, chocolate-cream, fruit combinations, rhubarb-studded, you name it, but I don’t recall seeing many custard pies. I told my Mom about the blueberry custard pie I baked, and she commented that it sounded great except for the blueberries. I somehow went my whole life until last weekend before learning that Mom doesn’t like blueberries. That could explain why her pies are always apple, peach, or cherry, but I think I might be able to change her mind about blueberries with this pie.