Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Simple Simon

When I was little, there was a small store in a shopping center that sold the best pies I have ever tasted. I know that as an 8 year old, my tastes couldn't have been very discerning, but there is something to be said for the tastes of childhood. I'm sure that often they are better in our memory than they ever were in reality.

The name of this store was S. Simon's and all they sold was pie. Whole pies, pies by the slice, warm derby pies, cold fruit pies. It was cool and refreshing to walk into, just like an ice cream parlor. And it was brightly painted with scenes of Simple Simon meeting the Pieman. I know that JMom always got the warm derby pie. I think they had a huge slice of chocolate deliciousness that I used to love. I know for a fact that the Strawberry Cream pie was my favorite. The custard was just the perfect amount of sweet and creamy. The strawberries were simple sliced and laid on top of the custard. No glaze, no added sugar. There may or may not have been fresh whipped cream. If there wasn't, then I certainly don't see why there can't be going forward! Anyway, somewhere along the way, that delightful and delicious establishment closed. There was no more Best Pie Ever.

But all is not lost! Somehow this scrap of paper ended up in my possession.

The recipe to the S. Simon custard for pie! It may not be the right crust, and it may not end up looking like the fluffy mounds of cream topping in the refrigerated case at that enchanting store, but it's a start! And I'm finally going to try to make it.

First of all after reading the recipe, I decided that this either makes a ginormous pie, or it's custard for 2 pies. So I cut the amounts in half. Here's what you need for one pie:

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups milk
4 egg yolks (save the whites...give yourself a facial or make meringue. Don't be wasteful! We're in a recession for cryin' out loud!)
2 tbsp butter (unsalted, as usual)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the first five ingredients in a heavy saucepan, turn the heat to medium low. I set my stove to 2 notches below medium. Grab your wooden spoon, a barstool, and your laptop. It's important to multitask while stirring. It'll only take 15-18 minutes of Facebooking...then you should see the custard getting quite thick. At this point, it should start bubbling, much like with JMom's mac and cheese sauce. The scrap of paper just says "Stir. Boil 3 minutes". Please be advised that this means to stir constantly. And you're not looking for a rolling boil here. This is custard, people, not pasta. I did slow down the stirring while it was boiling. Just move it around a little at this point. After the 3 minutes is up, take that deliciousness off the heat. Add the butter and vanilla, then stir to combine. This is what you should have now:
Go ahead and pour it into a prebaked pie crust. My pie crusts are usually a complete disaster. The only exception is when I buy refrigerated ones that are Julie-proof. Homemade pie crusts make me mutter inappropriate things and feel domestically inadequate. So for today's recipe please ignore that hideous piece of pastry.

Once filled, place the pie in the fridge to chill for several hours:
Since the pie crust was a culinary disaster and wouldn't even make it up the sides of my dish , I had a little custard left over. Slip that in your vintage refrigerator dish, please. Grab spoonfuls throughout the day.

Once the pie is chilled and set up, I suppose you could add just about any fruit to the top. I thinly sliced strawberries and sprinkled them with just a little bit of sugar. I let them hang out in the fridge to get a little juicy, then just slapped them on top of the custard. The combination of the berries and custard is just perfect. This pie isn't going to last long around here.

Which makes me wonder if I should plan on making another pie soon. I also wonder if it would be appropriate to have a pie extravaganza. All pie, all the time?? Sweet and savory! Chilled, baked, or fried! This is definitely something I'm going to have to spend some time thinking about. I'll report back with my decision.


  1. Custard and berries - mmm - that looks delicious!

    I use this recipe for everything pie and tart related - and it's awesome... I don't even roll, I just hand pat and voila. Now, I do realize that a tart shell is not a pie shell, but in my world, it works.


  2. Adding it to my To Try list. The one pictured by the way, is PWs. Just doesn't quite work for me, but I'm challenged...

  3. That looks delicious. I love anything with custard and ALWAYS use a pillsbury refrigerated pie crust.

  4. That recipe is interesting, I never saw corn starch in a custard recipe only in recipes for homemade puddings. Did it taste like custard or pudding? One of our favorites is to drop blueberries, raspberries or sour cherries into the custard just before baking. Raspberry custard is my son's favorite. And I know what you mean about the pie crust, that's why I'm with Sally...pillsbury rocks.