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Pie or Pudding? The Custard Connection Inside Your Pumpkin Pie Explained

Pie or Pudding? The Custard Connection Inside Your Pumpkin Pie Explained

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If you’re new to baking, terms can be initially confusing. The different types of dishes can be overwhelming as well.

Is pumpkin pie a custard? This question may have popped up while you were going through some readings.

Simply put, a pumpkin pie is a combination of custard and spiced pumpkin puree that’s poured into a crust.

To shed more light on this topic, let’s look into what custard is and how it relates to a pumpkin pie.

What Is a Custard?

A custard is a mixture of eggs, milk or heavy cream, and sugar. It’s heated to achieve a desired texture and thickness that’s suitable for the intended use. This flexibility relies on the eggs in the recipe.

When heat is applied, the structure of the egg proteins change. The mixture will begin to coagulate and thicken at the right temperature.

However, how soon that happens will depend on the overall composition of the custard. Using more milk and sugar means it’ll take more time to thicken.

Additionally, the viscosity will continuously build up unless you remove the heat.

That said, custards can range from being runny to relatively firm. This versatility allows the use of custards in many applications.

What makes this possible is the use of various cooking techniques. On that note, two common custard varieties that differ in preparation are baked and stirred custards.

Let’s look at each variety more closely:

Baked Custard

A custard that’s under this category is baked until firm. You can place it in a tart shell, a pie, or in a dish that’s set in a water bath. Once cooked, it can be presented in its original container or unmolded in another.

Moreover, you can serve baked custards as stand-alone desserts. Yet, you can use them as fillings and bases for other dishes as well.

Common baked custards include custard pies and tarts, cheesecakes, creme brulee, and flan.

Stirred Custard

A stirred custard is usually cooked on a stovetop. It’s mixed until the preferred consistency and thickness are reached. Afterward, it’s poured into a pan, covered, and allowed to set.

It’s also worth noting that several stirred custards contain thickeners like cornstarch, flour, or gelatin. These lessen the need for too many eggs in the recipe. Classic examples of custard dishes with added thickeners are pastry cream and blancmange.

On the other hand, some dishes retain the basic components but with additional flavorings like vanilla or chocolate. Such is the case with Creme Anglaise and Cremeux.

Is Pumpkin Pie a Custard?

A pumpkin pie is a staple dish during Thanksgiving celebrations.

It’s made from a mixture of pumpkin puree, eggs, milk or heavy cream, and sugar. Spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger are also added.

The filling is then poured into a crust made of flour, salt, and water. Sometimes, butter, lard, or vegetable shortening is used too.

That said, a pumpkin pie is a dish with a custard base. The same goes for other delicacies like pecan, buttermilk, and sweet potato pies.

Nevertheless, the additional ingredients will require a different cooking approach from baking a regular custard.

Instead of immediately baking the filling in the oven, you’ll need to pre-cook it first. You can easily do this on a stovetop and will take up less than ten minutes of your time.

This essential step removes the extra moisture from the pumpkin puree. Doing so will lend your pumpkin pie more stability.

That’s because too much water can make the filling rise and fall. Once you take the pie out of the oven, you may observe undesirable cracks. A dense pie is another possibility in this scenario.

Additionally, pre-cooking provides a richer flavor and aroma. It also thickens the mixture.

Something else you need to do is to blind-bake the crust. Pre-baking will set the firmness of the crust so the filling isn’t absorbed while the pie bakes. This will keep it from going soggy.

Final Thoughts

A custard is a mixture of eggs, milk or heavy cream, and sugar. These ingredients combined with pumpkin puree and spices make up the filling for a pumpkin pie.

So, is pumpkin pie a custard? Technically, it is a custard-based pie.

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