You probably haven’t noticed, but I used to be a bit of a one trick pony when it came to pie. They were almost always double crusted, and always had some sort of fancy border made from a braid or pie stamps. Now I’ve blown my own cover I can explain why - I was scared of crimping. The crimp is the fancy pattern you make around the border of a pie - either to seal the top and bottom crust, or to provide a pretty pattern for a single crusted pie. And until recently, I was pretty scared of it. So if you go back and look, there are hardly any single crust pies around here, which is 1. a huge shame because they are delicious and I love them, but also 2. going to change because I’m not scared of crimping dough anymore. And I promise to tell you everything I learnt, so we can be not scared together!
To overcome my fear, I did the same thing I usually do when I want to teach myself something new - just do it a whole heap of times until I’m happy with it. So I made 10 batches of pie dough, and crimped and crimped and crimped until I was happy with my efforts. I strategically timed it with the testing of this pie, which took a zillion tests anyway, so the crusts were getting used.
The other thing I usually do is ask my friend Erin 12,000 questions. I’ve written about Erin on here before, but she is an amazing, amazing baker food stylist, and all around wizard, and an even more amazing friend. She gave me a crash course in crimping when I went to stay with her for our Pie extravaganza, and I managed to video most of it, and saved it to my highlights so it is always accessible. She drops way more pie tips in her amazing book, which coincidentally where this recipe for Earl Grey Sugar pie is adapted from.
If you haven’t had a sugar pie before, now is the time for that to change. They are a custard pie, but, instead of being egg set like a pumpkin pie (and therefore very susceptible to cracking), a sugar pie is flour set, meaning that it bakes up silky smooth and flat every time, and you don’t have to worry about overbaking and running the risk of cracking. It’s super easy to make - you literally just whisk everything up and pour it into your parbaked pie shell. Erin’s version in her book is delicately spiced with nutmeg, but I had to test out my Earl Grey theory (if you can infuse it, you can add earl grey) on the recipe, and it turned out amazingly. Fragrant Earl grey custard is spiked with vanilla bean, and finished with a hefty dusting of powdered sugar. To me, it is perfect.
I finished the pie off with a new obsession of mine - a stencil. I got Richard to cut these ones out on the laser cutter for me out of some thin plastic, but you can definitely make your own shapes out of card or plastic, or use a material such as lace to add a pattern. You can also just give it a quick dust of powdered sugar without a stencil. You do you here.
A few wee tips:
The Earl grey in this is on the strong ish side, so feel free to drop the amount by 5g if you like. I used In Pursuit of Tea Earl Grey, which is my very very fave to both drink and bake with.
A new pie dough trick I learnt from Erin that is now firmly in my repertoire : After you mix the dough and shape it into discs, rest it in the fridge for about an hour, and then roll it out on a floured surface into a rectangle, fold it in thirds like a letter, then roll again and repeat the folding. Then you shape it into a disc by folding the edges under, rewrap tightly in plastic, and rest for at least two hours before using. What this step does is make the dough homogenous and therefore easy to work with, but also adds layers through the rolling and folding - the same way puff pastry is laminated. It is definitely an optional step but from my experience it makes the world of difference when it comes to rolling out the dough and getting a nice even crimp or lattice work.
You want to make sure that this pie is completely cool before you dust it with powdered sugar and slice, in order to get the cleanest slice possible.
I like to infuse the tea while the crust is par baking or cooling, so it is ready to go.
This is amazing served with a little whipped cream!
When you are par baking your pie crust, chill your crust in the fridge rather than the freezer if you can - according to Erin, a longer chill in the fridge is preferable to a short chill in the freezer.
The pie dough recipe makes a double crust - so enough for two pies. You might as well make the extra while you are at it in my opinion - pie dough freezes well, tightly wrapped, for at least a few months, or lasts a few days in the fridge. Defrost overnight if using from frozen.
Earl Grey Sugar Pie
- Makes one 9” pie -
Recipe adapted from ‘The Fearless Baker’
2 1/2 cups (375g) Flour
Pinch of Salt
2 tsp (8g) sugar
225g (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup (240ml) cold water
1 cup ice
1/4 cup (60ml) Apple cider vinegar
240g whole milk
300g heavy cream
25g loose leaf earl grey tea
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
50g brown sugar
60g all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
Egg wash - 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water
- PROCESS -
Place flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Cut butter into chunks, and add to the flour. Toss lightly to coat. Working quickly, using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture until there are only large pea-sized chunks left. You want a few lumps of butter remaining to keep the pastry nice and tender.
Combine ice, water and cider vinegar in a bowl. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the ice water into the flour and butter mixture, and using a stiff spatula or your hands, mix in well. Continue adding water a tablespoon at a time ( I normally need about 8-10 tbsp) until you have a dough that holds together well, but is not too wet. Squeeze together with your fingertips to make a homogenous dough. Shape into two discs, one slightly larger than the other, and wrap in plastic wrap. Rest in the fridge for at least two hours, or preferably overnight. (See notes for rolling out dough during resting period)
Once the dough has rested, unwrap and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to 1/4” (6mm) in thickness, turning the dough 45˚ often as you are rolling to keep it even. You want the circle to be slightly larger than your pie tin. Transfer to a 9” pie tin, and arrange to ensure that the dough is well settled.
Trim the dough using scissors or a sharp knife, leaving about one inch excess around the edges. Gently tuck the dough under and onto itself, to give you a neat folded edge. Chill in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the fridge and crimp as desired. Dock all over with the tines of a fork, then chill for a further 30 minutes, or freeze for 20 minutes or until solid.
While the crust is in the fridge, preheat the oven to 425˚f / 220˚c. Cut a piece of parchment slightly larger than the pie dish. Brush the crimped edge with egg wash, then line with the parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans, filling right to the bottom of the crimps.
Place the pie tin on a baking sheet, and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden brown. Remove from the oven, remove the parchment paper and beans, and bake for a further 4-6 minutes or until the crust looks set and is beginning to turn golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 375˚f / 190˚c.
Place the milk and cream in a small pot. Heat over medium heat until just shy of a simmer - you want to see bubbles around the edge of the milk. Remove from the heat, and add the tea. Cover, and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
Strain the tea from the milk mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl, pressing down to extract as much as possible. Weigh the infused milk mixture, and top up to 540g using equal parts cream and milk. Add vanilla and mix to combine. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, flour and salt. Add the milk mixture and mix to combine - do not over whisk as you want the mixture as bubble free as possible. Tap the bowl a few times on the work surface to remove any bubbles in the mix.
Place the pie tin on a baking sheet, then pour the filling into the cooled pie crust, popping any large bubbles with a toothpick, or very very briefly running the flame of a blow torch over the surface.
Bake the pie at 375˚f /190˚c for 30 to 35 minutes until the edges of the filling are set, but the pie is ever so slightly wobbly still in the centre. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Dust with powdered sugar before serving.