Pi Week: Fish Fingers and Custard Pie
You’re over dipping actual fish fingers into actual custard. These days, I substitute chipotle sauce, mango salsa, or honey mustard for the custard and turn the whole Fish Fingers and Custard display into an excuse for Fish Tacos whenever I rewatch Matt Smith’s episodes.
But if I really want to gross out folks who don’t know me, I’ll make a Fish Custard Pie.
This Pi Day, you too can disgust mild acquaintances while delighting fellow Whovians! Sure, you and I know the pie is actually topped with my graham cracker crusted vanilla wafer sticks (Get the Faux Fish Fingers Recipe Here) but you can smile extra wide at your coworkers and and tell them Jim the Fish finally finished building his dam.
Fish Fingers and Custard Pie
- ½ cup/ 115 g cold butter
- ½ cup /100 g sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon (minus 1 strip)
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 2 cups/250 g flour
- 1 tbsp cold heavy cream
- 1 egg
There are plenty of complicated and time consuming ways to make a tart crust. Because I live in the 21st century, though, I prefer to use my food processor. (An especially sturdy blender will also work.)
Toss the butter, sugar, lemon zest, salt, and flour into your food processor and pulse a few times until it looks like breadcrumbs – tasty, sugar and carb filled breadcrumbs.
Grab a comically oversized bowl. Dump in the egg and heavy cream then whisk that scant bit of fluid at the bottom of your bowl until it’s little frothy. You need all that room because you’re going to pour all the crumbly proto-dough on top.
Now for the fun part. Use your fingers to work the scant moisture into the crumbly mix until it just barely forms a dough.
If you keep all your fats nice and cold then you’ll get a wonderfully light pastry texture. If you melt the butter in the microwave then overmix everything, you’ll get a rock.
When transforming a lump of dough into a crust, I roll mine out between two sheets of parchment paper for easy cleanup, but if you don’t mind a mess, you can also roll it out on a lightly floured surface.
I like to use a removable bottom 9 inch/22 cm tart pan for this recipe, but if you don’t own one, a regular pie pan will work just fine. Whatever you’re using, spritz it with some nonstick spray and tuck your freshly rolled pie crust within. Trim the edges so it barely sticks up from the top of the pan.
Pop your prepped crust back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Between us, I usually make the pie dough and fish finger cookie dough (see Kitchen Overlord’s Faux Fish Fingers recipe) on day one. Day two, I make the filling then bake the pie and cookies. If you’ve got a busy schedule, breaking it up means you only have to do 30-45 minutes of actual work at a time.
Whenever you’re ready to bake your pie, preheat your oven to 350F/180C. Put some parchment paper over the crust and fill it with pie beads, a pie chain, or your favorite heavy non-reactive, heat resistant thing that keeps the crust from puffing up like it’s trying to escape into orbit.
Bake it for 20 minutes with the weights in place. You put that parchment paper in there to make your life easier. You can use it to lift the hot weights right out of the crust with without burning your hands. So hey, now that I brought it up, why not do it? Pop the emptied crust back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
While the crust blind bakes, keep yourself occupied making the custard filling.
- 1 cup/250 ml heavy cream
- 1 cup/250 ml whole milk
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 1 strip of lemon zest (stone from the lemon you zested for the crust)
- 8 egg yolks
- ½ cup / 100 g sugar
Don’t be intimidated by custard. It’s just milk and eggs that you’ve tamed through the power of fire. Prometheus would be proud.
Pour the cream, milk, vanilla, nutmeg, and lemon zest into a small saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and ease all that dairy goodness into a low boil. Don’t rush it. Hang out awhile. Tell it how awesome your pie is going to be. The milk won’t scorch if you coax it into cooperation.
Meanwhile, pour your egg yolks and sugar into another bowl. Grab your hand mixer and beat the heck out of them until they magically transform first from a goopy mess then to a gritty reboot and finally into a soft, creamy yellow. You can stop at the gritty reboot, but you’ll be happier if you push past it and into the light, airy fun beyond.
Once your eggs are pale and creamy and your dairy is softly boiling, it’s time to introduce them. I’ll be honest – if you’re not using a stand mixer, you’ll wish you had three arms for this part. You need to pour your milky mix into the eggs a little at a time, gently mixing the whole while. If you dump it all in at once, the eggs will angrily curdle. You have to gradually ease the eggs into it.
After you’ve mixed all the milk into the eggs, turn off your mixer and leave the bowl alone for around five minutes so the custard can settle down from all that traumatic blending.
Preaheat your oven to 350F/180C. Remember that crust you blind baked? Put your pie pan on a cookie sheet (that makes it easier to get in and out of the oven) and pour in the custard.
Bake the whole shebang for 35-40 minutes, or until the custard has set but the middle is still just a wee bit wobbly.
Pull it out of the oven and let it cool down to room temperature. After that, you can store it in the fridge for up to a day or two.
Right before serving, arrange 8 fish finger cookies on top. Cut the pie so each slice has a fish finger smack in the middle and proudly serve up your Fish Fingers and Custard pie!
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