Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cream Pies De-mystifed - How to Make Great Cream Pies from Chocolate, to Butterscotch to Coconut

So you want to make a cream pie - it is a lot easier than you think - and what about making your very own amazing chocolate cream pie, butterscotch cream pie, a fruit cream pie like banana cream pie or a fave of mine, a coconut cream pie? It is a snap to make any of these cream pies. Starting with a basic cream pie recipe from scratch, you can easily and quickly make many other types of cream pies with simple and small changes and additions to the original recipe.

There is a difference between a custard pie and a cream pie in case you are wondering. Your basic custard pie recipe does not call for cornstarch and requires more milk and eggs and bakes longer in the oven. Your basic cream pie recipe calls for cornstarch which is used to thicken your filling to the likes of a pudding and calls for 3 egg yolks, milk and a little more sugar than a custard pie.

I will share with you today the best, easiest and basic recipe for making a great cream pie, that afterwards you will not only learn how to make a cream pie but other cream pies such as butterscotch cream pie, a chocolate cream pie, a coconut cream pie.

Before you go off and make your first cream pie, take note of the following basic tips in making successful and extra tasty cream pies:
  • Follow the easy steps provided, and cook for the said time, since if you bake a cream or even a custard pie too long it will create cracks on the top, it may separate itself from the crust (doesn't look pretty) and could even become dry - yuck.
  • Cream Pies do not freeze well. They taste the best when served the same day that they were made.
  • Your choice of crust can vary - many like a graham cracker crust since it's a no bake deal, but other crust choices can be a chocolate cookie crust to my favorite, a standard pie crust recipe. (You can cheat is you want to and buy a pre-made crust of your choosing- I won't tell a soul)
  • For best results, you will be using a double boiler. You need the egg mixture to cook over simmering water - trying to cook the filling in a soup pot will simply create an over cooked filled that ends up being dry.
  • Choices for the cream pie toppings can be either whipped cream (freshly made or pre-made) or meringue.
Cream Pie Basic Recipe: Ingredients:
1 - 9" baked pastry shell - your choice, graham cracker, chocolate cookie or a standard pie crust shell.
2/3 cups white sugar
3/-1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch OR 5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups of cold whole milk
3 egg yolks - slightly beaten (if eggs are small, use 4 eggs) - save the whites in you are making meringue.
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Equipment Needed:
Double boiler, with water simmering but not touching bowl that sits on top of it. Whisk and lid for double boiler.

  • In double boiler bowl, add sugar, cornstarch or flour (I prefer to use cornstarch for my cream pies) and salt. Stir with whisk so that all ingredients are combined. Put bowl on your double boiler pot and over your boiling water.
  • Stir in the cold milk.
  • Stirring constantly and gently making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of your bowl, cook the mixture over boiling water until mixture gets thick.
  • Cover with lid and set time and cook for 15 minutes. (you can of course stop stirring at this point)
  • In separate small bowl, hand beat your egg yolks.
  • Once 15 minutes are up, turn down the heat on your double boiler to allow the water to simmer not boil.
  • Temper your egg yolks at this point before adding egg yolks to mixture.
  • To temper egg yolks, add about 2 tablespoons of the hot thickened mixture to the egg yolks and stir - this will bring up the temperature of the egg yolks so that when you add them to the still hot cream mixture, you won't scramble the egg yolks.
  • Now that your egg yolks are tempered, add all of the egg yolks into the hot mixture - stirring constantly and cook for an additional 2 minutes over hot not boiling water.
  • Once complete, take bowl off of hot water, using a trivet, let mixture cool on your counter top and remove lid or place lid at an angle to allow hot steam to escape.
  • Once cool, add your pure vanilla extract and stir it in.
  • Preheat oven for 325 degrees.
  • Pour cooled mixture into your baked pie shell.
  • At this point if you are using meringue, add your meringue topping. If not skip this part (but you will still have to bake your pie for 15 minutes without a meringue topping).
  • Put pie with cooled mixture into the oven and allow to bake for 15 minutes. This will help 'set' your cream pie.
  • Once pie is finished, let it cool before adding whipped cream. Once cooled after baking, you can put it in the fridge if you would like until ready to serve. Though I would suggest to add whipped cream at the last moment before serving especially if using freshly made whipped cream.

Ok, ok! I know, you want to learn how to make the other types of cream pies! All of the following can be made with the recipe as suggested above but with minor changes so take note.

Butterscotch Cream Pie:
  • substitute 1 cup dark brown sugar for the normally called for 2/3 cups white sugar, combine dark brown sugar with cornstarch or flour and salt and proceed with cooking as usual
  • then add 3 tablespoons butter to cooked mixture before cooling. Once cooled, then add your vanilla extract and pour into shell - my mom used to make this one...delish! if you want to go to heaven (or hell depending upon how you look at it) add toffee bits once cooled prior to pouring.
Chocolate Cream Pie:
  • Grate or cut up 3 squares of unsweetened chocolate
  • Add grated chocolate to sugar and milk mixture before cooking.
  • You can use semi-sweet or unsweetened - just make sure it's baking chocolate that you use.
  • Optional and oh so pretty factor, put shaved chocolate on top of whipped cream just before serving.
  • Add toasted shredded sweetened coconut to mixture once it has cooled to create a chocolate coconut cream pie - oh my! No one will expect this - it is like a mounds bar gone cream pie!
Coconut Cream Pie:
  • Stir 1/2 cup of shredded sweetened coconut to the cooled mixture before pouring into your pie shell.
  • Add 1/2 cup of shredded sweetened coconut to the meringue before baking.
Banana Cream Pie:
  • Slice up firm yet ripe bananas, and place a row of them on the bottom of the pie, then pour in filling.
  • Top filling with an additional layer. With the top layer, you may wish to first toss slices with just a little amount of fresh lemon juice to avoid oxidation of the bananas.
Glazed Cherry Cream Pie:
  • Using a number 2 can (2-1/2 cups) of pitted sour red cherries, drain and reserve 'juices to make a glaze.
  • Place cherries at bottom of pie shell, cover with cream pie filling.
  • Then pour glaze on top of filling, put into fridge to allow all to set before serving with whipped cream.
  • To make glaze, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and stir in 2/3 cups of the juice from the canned cherries (add water to create 2/3 cups of liquid if there isn't enough cherry juice) - bring this to a boil and cook till clear and thickened stirring constantly.
  • Cool, then pour of pie - then into the fridge it goes to set.
Hope you enjoyed reading and when you get the chance, you can try one of these cream pie recipes! Feel free to leave your comments, ask questions and share your ideas. I look forward to hearing from you! -Divaliscious (aka Leah Quinn).

Leah Quinn is a writer specializing on food, health, well being and entertainment and is a multi-media artist living in New York. Stop by her food site to learn many more healthy and interesting recipes at and to find links to her other sites and blogs.

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