Old-fashioned custard pies seem to have gone the way of Sunday suppers and country roads, but if you want to learn what you're missing, it only takes only a piece of this fabulous walnut-raisin pie from Patty Pinner's cookbook "Sweety Pies: An Uncommon Collection of Womanish Observations, With Pie." She starts with a wonderful pecan pie-like custard base, but instead of going with the more traditional nut, Pinner folds walnuts and raisins into the filling and spices the pie with orange zest and nutmeg. Top it with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes plus chilling time
Servings: 8 to 10
Note: Adapted from "Sweety Pies: An Uncommon Collection of Womanish Observations, With Pie" by Patty Pinner. Pinner suggests serving the pie with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Flaky pie crust
1 1/3 cups flour, plus additional for dusting
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled vegetable shortening
3 to 4 tablespoons ice-cold heavy cream or evaporated milk
1. In a medium-to-large bowl, sift the flour, sugar and salt together. Using a pastry blender, a big serving fork or the tips of your fingers, cut in or pinch or squeeze the shortening until the mixture resembles a bowl of sweet peas. Tossing the mixture quickly and lightly with a fork, sprinkle in the cream or milk 1 tablespoon at a time until 3 tablespoons are added to the dough. If the dough is still dry and won't come together, add the remaining tablespoon. (It's better to err on the side of not having enough liquid than to have too much; you don't want a soupy crust.) Continue tossing until the dough holds together when lightly pressed.
2. With lightly floured hands, loosely gather up the dough into a flat ball, place it in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until you are ready to roll out the crust, at least 30 minutes but no longer than overnight.
3. Prepare a clean surfacefor rolling out the dough. Sift enough flour over the surface to prevent the dough from sticking to it. Lightly flour your hands and a rolling pin. Place the chilled dough on the surface and roll the dough into a circle, working from the center to the edges. Starting at the center, roll straight up to the edge, turn the dough slightly and roll straight up to the edge. Repeat the process -- turning the dough and rolling -- until the dough has formed a circle that's slightly larger than the pie dish (make a 12-inch circle for a 9-inch dish). Be careful to keep the dough as even as possible, between one-fourth- and one-eighth-inch thick.
4. Place the pie plate upside-down over the rolled out dough. Using a small knife, cut a circle around the plate, leaving a 1-inch border of dough around the plate. Set aside the scraps. Remove the pie plate. Gently fold the crust in half, then gently into quarters. Delicately pick up the crust and place it in the pie plate so the center point of the crust is positioned in the center of the plate. Unfold the dough and press it firmly into position in the plate. Trim the excess dough from the edge, except for a half-inch flap of dough around the edge. Crimp the edge of the pie, then place the prepared pie crust in the refrigerator until needed.
Filling and assembly
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt