There really are some desserts that needn’t be changed or adorned; they are delicious just as they are. Old-fashioned pies certainly qualify as a sort of simplistic perfection, and what better pie than an egg custard? It falls into the category of desserts that have survived, basically unchanged, for generations. My grandmother used to reminisce about her grandmother’s egg custards, and they probably didn’t even need measurements and directions to make their family recipe. I remember
my grandmother sharing recipes with me that said to add a “pinch” of this or a “handful” of that. I never could get it quite right; their cooking was an art and an exercise in repetition—a tried and true means of perfecting each dish.
|Photo by Maggie Kapustin|
Things changed a bit in the 1950s, from what I’ve learned. About then, the T.V. dinner came along and impacted American kitchens forever. I like to think, had I lived then, that I would have resisted the idea of frozen, processed dinners, but the truth is, I probably would have found them as exciting as everyone else.
Also in the 1950s, in an attempt to bring America full circle again, the late, great, Julia Child brought a scientific approach back into the process of cooking. She was trying her best to help women remember the advantage of authentically delicious food, straight from the bourgeois kitchen. With her technical understanding of the cooking process, Julia Child ensured the success of every single recipe in her guide, if followed exactly. It was foolproof, essentially, and helped to restore confidence in the kitchen. As an aside, wouldn’t you have liked—no, **loved!**—to have known her? To have shared just one meal in her kitchen? Oh my goodness, every time I reread My Life in France, I picture being her friend.
At any rate, I don’t know exactly when, but it seems like something was lost between the introduction of heavily processed, packaged foods and today. Madame Julia’s attempts were successful, for sure, and her recipe book is a tome of knowledge that so many of us enjoy reading and using, still. Nonetheless, that T.V. dinner business gave families a taste of quick and easy, and despite the mediocre flavor, we can probably all remember a favorite boxed dinner combo that our parents bought for us at the grocery store each week.
Taking this idea of the lost art of cooking full circle, today’s recipe is meant to transport us back to the idea—or the memory, for some—of simple desserts presented around a table of friends and family. This particular pie is a new recipe for me, but I’ll definitely make it again. It is rich and creamy, and the perfect finish to a Sunday dinner or evening meal. I searched and tested several recipes that I found, looking for something simple, smooth, and luxurious that also used traditional ingredients like buttermilk, cream, eggs, and butter.
Interestingly, the reason I began craving an egg custard, specifically, was a recent book I enjoyed by my very dear friend—and my daughter’s grandfather—Thomas Fowler. His book is Southside: Virginia’s Last Hope in the Civil War and it is a literary masterpiece. As I read it, I reveled in local history, feeling engaged with the characters through their hardships unimaginable. Despite the raging war, there remained a sense that life was simpler and that people appreciated what really mattered—God, family, fellowship, and sacrifice. The book’s focus is, as the title suggests, the lives of those who lived in Southern Virginia during the Civil War. Having grown up there myself, I felt right at home reading the book, and I couldn’t help but to picture families sharing buttermilk, cornbread, biscuits, and classic pies. Egg custard seemed like the best pie choice as I finished the book.
So, this recipe and today’s entry are dedicated to the history of friends and families breaking bread together in fellowship, to Julia Child’s grand kitchen revival, and, most importantly, to an outstanding author, mentor, grandfather, servant of Christ, and true friend to me, Thomas Fowler. I’m so glad he finally published one of his many outstanding stories. Buy a copy of Southside soon, and buy one for a friend.
Making this pie to enjoy while you read is pretty good idea, too, I’d say.
Oh, and if you’d like to own a copy of Southside: Virginia’s Last Hope in the Civil War, check out this link http://www.amazon.com/Southside-Virginias-Last-Hope-Civil/dp/1493654470/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1426556248&sr=8-2&keywords=southside+fowler .
Buttermilk and Brown Sugar Custard Pie
- 9 inch deep dish crust (store bought or your favorite recipe)
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3 tbs. flour
3 large eggs
I large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups buttermilk
3 tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Position rack to center of oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Bake crust until pale golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.
Blend brown sugar and flour in processor. Add eggs, yolk and vanilla and process until blended. Add buttermilk and melted butter and process just to blend. Pour mixture into cooled crust.
Bake pie until filling puffs and is almost set but center still moves slightly when pan is shaken, about 45-55 minutes. Cool pie on rack to room temperature. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to one day.