Wednesday April 03, 2013 | 01:00 AM

Call it the last gasp of winter baking before all of our local berries and fruits appear in summer pies.   But custard pies remain a good baking staple, an easy dessert that can be made fairly quickly.  My favorite is buttermilk custard pie.  It’s similar to chess pie--that peculiarly named southern sweet that  earned its name because the pies were kept in a pie chest.  Well, that’s one explanation.

Buttermilk pie for dessert  that I served at Easter Dinner

We’re fortunate to have some very good locally made buttermilk.  Whole Foods carries Smiling Hill brand as well as an excellent one from Vermont’s Butterworks FarmKate’s is also a  good local buttermilk, which most supermarkets carry.

But my favorite comes from a small dairy farm in Pittsfield, Balfour Farm, run by husband and wife, Doug and Heather Donahue. 

They sell their milk at various farmers’ markets and it’s  also available at Rosemont’s Brighton Ave. location.  On Wednesdays you can also see Doug Donahue on Monument Square where he sets up for the day with most of the dairy’s cheese, milk, eggs, buttermilk and butter.

To prepare the pic, you can use a store-bought pastry shell but making your own is easy and  much better.  Here is the food-processor method for the pastry.

All-butter pastry
One 9-inch pie, prebaked

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of sea salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold and cut into cubes
About ¼ cup water

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
Put the flour, sugar and salt into the work bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to mix the ingredients together. 

Add the butter cubes and pulse about 8 times until you have pieces the size of small peas.  Add the water gradually, pulsing each time until the dough comes together and is slightly moist, adding more water if necessary, drop by drop, if it's still too dry.

Form the dough into a ball and then flatten lightly; use a well floured work surface

Leave a one inch overhang when you fit the dough into the pie plate and fold under and pinch with thumb and forefinger to make an attractively crimped border

Remove to a well floured work surface and form into a ball and flatten lightly.  Wrap in waxed paper and chill for at least 1 hour.  Roll out to fit an 8 or 9-inch pie plate, preferably glass.  Trim the edges so that the overhang is about an inch in length.  Fold under, and crimp the edges with thumb and forefinger.  Refrigerate until needed or prebake here as directed. 

For pre-baking, prick the bottom of the pie with a fork and chill for at least one hour; if you don't need a pre-baked shell this can be filled immediately

To prebake (see Tips), cover the pie with buttered foil and weigh it down with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, carefully remove the foil and continue to bake for a few minutes more or until the dough is  very lightly brown.

Tips to prevent shrinkage.  When fixing the dough in the pie plate flute the edge so that it overlaps the rim slightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or put in the freezer for 15 minutes.  This will relax the dough and minimize any shrinkage as it prebakes.

Buttermilk custard pie
Serves 8

1 prebaked 9-inch pie shell
8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled for 5 minutes
3 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Beat the eggs and butter together until well mixed.  Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. 
Sift the flour and sugar together into a small bowl and stir gently into egg mixture.  Pour into the prebaked pie shell, put the pie on a rimmed baking sheet  and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until pie is set and lightly browned.  If the middle is still too jiggly, put on your convection function or raise the temperature by 25 degrees and continue to bake for about 3 to5  minutes or until the center firms up a little more.  The pie will puff up as it bakes and sink as it cools and the middle will be firm and set.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with a dollop of whipped cream. 







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About the Author

John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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