Humble Pie {a.k.a. Sugar-Cream Pie}

Humble Pie TextWhat else could I post for the inaugural recipe at Baking Humble Pie?

Old-fashioned Sugar-Cream Pie is as humble as they make ’em. Also known as Finger Pie in some places because the cream was stirred into the sugar with the baker’s finger, it’s the dessert desperate farmers’ wives threw together in the dead of winter when they’d run out of apples, but you don’t have to be desperate to enjoy it.

Call it Hoosier Pie, Quaker Pie, or Amish Sugar Pie: Humble Pie is just plain good.

Humble PieHumble PieHumble Pie

Many modern recipes have departed somewhat from the pie’s unassuming roots, adding butter or egg yolks and precooking both crust and filling so that you’re basically pouring a fully-made custard into a fully-finished shell. While this is, in itself delicious, it’s a lot of unnecessary extra work (not to mention dishes to clean!) I’ve returned to the more rustic roots of this recipe, hence the updated moniker.

This humble{r} pie will give you equally good results in a fraction of the time. Bonus: apart from the pie dish itself, all you have to wash is a single measuring cup!

oatmeal cookie crustHumble Pie fillingvanilla powderHumble Pie fillingYou won’t be spending much active time in the kitchen with this recipe, but you will need to factor in the dough’s freezing time and the pie’s cooling time, as well as the optional chilling time if you want a firmer custard (see recipe notes below). All of these steps can be done ahead.

You can use a standard single-crust pie shell, but I’ve made things even easier with a press-in oatmeal cookie crust. While I adore a nice buttery, flaky pie crust piled to the brim with creamy filling as much as the next girl, there’s something special about cookies-and-cream.

The crust is also my {very} humble nod to Momofuku Milk Bar’s wildly popular “Crack Pie,” which features a wildly elaborate oat cookie crust with a decadent, creamy filling. (Delicious, but definitely far from humble.)

Whichever shell you choose, there’s no need to chill the dough before putting it in the pie plate, as you’ll be freezing it before adding the filling.humble pie, unadorned

Humble PieThis recipe is naturally gluten-free if you use a gluten-free crust. (To make the oatmeal cookie crust gluten-free, simply substitute your favorite gluten-free flour blend for the flour and be sure to use certified gluten-free oats.) It is also egg- and soy-free. For a corn-free option, replace the cornstarch in the filling with arrowroot powder.

You could make a dairy-free version using full-fat coconut cream in place of the heavy cream, but obviously this would make the filling coconutty. (Personally, I consider this a win.)

Finish it all off with a flourish of confectioners’ sugar. As any sweet thing knows, a good appearance is half the story.

Humble PieHumble Pie {a.k.a. Sugar-Cream Pie}
The Humble Baker

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I realize vanilla powder is not quite as “humble” as good ol’ vanilla extract. However, this filling bakes itself, and the flavor of extract is diminished by heating. You can use extract in place of the powder, and your pie will still be delicious, but the vanilla will not be quite as pronounced. (Also, you won’t get those pretty little flecks, but it’s okay. The pie will be gone in a flash, and no one will be the wiser.) You can also substitute vanilla paste; add as much as you would for extract.

Please also notice: I use salted butter. This is basically because the delicious organic butter my COSTCO sells is salted. (Also, I love salt). If you prefer unsalted butter, feel free to add a pinch more salt to taste in both crust and filling.

Prep time: 5 minutes active, 35 minutes total (45 if you’re making pie crust)
Cook time: 50-60 minutes, plus 2-4+ hours cooling and (optional) chilling time
Yield: 1 pie or 8-10 servings

for the crust:

1 unbaked single pie crust


1 oatmeal cookie crust (see below)

for the filling:

4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder (or 1 teaspoon extract or paste)
2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9’’ pie dish. If using standard pie dough, roll out and place in prepared dish. If using the sugar cookie crust, press into prepared pie plate using the base of a 1 cup measuring cup to help you spread it evenly. Whatever crust you use, flute the edges. (It’s pretty.) Freeze for 30 minutes.

Combine the cornstarch, brown sugar, and salt directly in the frozen pie crust using your hands. Gently stir in the heavy cream and vanilla using a wooden spoon (or your finger if you want to be all historic) and taking care not to tear the dough.

Bake the pie for 25 to 35 minutes, until the center is boiling vigorously in the center and sluggishly at the edges. The pie will not be set when it comes out of the oven. It’s okay, breathe. This pie is your leap of faith that easy can still be good.

(Check the oven periodically during baking to ensure your curst doesn’t burn. If it’s getting too brown, put an aluminum foil collar around the edge.)

When pie is “done,” pull it out and place on a cooling rack. Let cool to room temperature. You can serve it at this point, but it will firm up even more if you place it in the refrigerator for 2 hours or more.

for the optional oatmeal cookie crust:

1 cup salted butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until oats are coarsely chopped and mixture is well combined.

Pie can be made up to 2 days ahead, refrigerated. For a different sort of treat, you can also freeze it, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, for up to 3 months and enjoy your slices frozen!

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