Why It Works
- The pie crust and filling are baked together so there's no risk of a lumpy, bumpy crust.
- The flour-thickened filling only requires a bit of stirring to cook up to a rich, creamy, and jiggle-free consistency.
- This cozy, comforting pie is sweet, but not overly so.
Emboldened by recent pie success recreating my great aunt's favorite lemon chocolate pie, I decided to tackle a classic beloved by many of my Midwestern friends—the Hoosier sugar cream pie. Not only is it the easiest pie I've ever made, it's also one of the tastiest.
The name pretty much says it all: sugar + cream. Add in the Hoosier and you have a nice nod to the thrifty Indianans, likely Amish or Shaker farm folks, who created this pie in the pioneer days. Sugar cream pie is what's known as a "desperation" pie, the kind of dessert you could make on a farm when you didn't have fresh fruit on hand.
"Fortunately, if your travels won't take you to Indiana in the near future, the sugar cream pie is easy enough to replicate at home."
The Indiana Foodways Alliance calls the dish "Indiana's come-home-to dessert" and they've created a "Hoosier Pie Trail" with must-stop eateries for visitors looking to try their state pie. Their descriptions of mom-and-pop joints like Stories Restaurant in Greensburg, Indiana or the famed Mrs. Wick's Pies in Winchester would make any pie lover want to jump in the car. Fortunately, if your travels won't take you to Indiana in the near future, the sugar cream pie is easy enough to replicate at home.
Recipes vary from family to family but the basic ingredient list is fairly simple: you need cream, you need sugar, and you need something to bind those ingredients together—be it flour, cornstarch, or, in some cases, eggs. Some recipes have you cook the filling and pour it into a pre-baked pie shell while others cook both at once. I consider the version that I've adapted to be a foolproof custard. Pie and filling are baked together so there's no risk in a lumpy, bumpy crust from a failed blind-baking attempt. And unlike egg-based custards, which can be fussy and temperamental, this flour-thickened filling only requires a bit of stirring to cook up to a rich, creamy, and jiggle-free consistency. Like all recipes with few ingredients, the secret is making sure that everything you put into the pie is the best available. Imagine you're on a farm and are making this pie from the fresh cream you just skimmed from that morning's milk and you'll get the picture.
Typically served at room temperature, this pie has a cozy and familiar taste even for those of us who aren't born and raised Hoosiers. My husband likened it to manjar blanco, a thick, slow-cooked Colombian treat that he grew up with. Sweet, but not overly so, this is American comfort food at its best.
This recipe is adapted from the "Old Fashioned Cream Pie" from the Palmer House in Berne that appeared in Cafe Indiana Cookbook by Joanne Raetz Stuttgen and Jolene Ketzenberger.
For the Crust:
1 recipe easy pie crust
3 tablespoons whole milk
For the Filling:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus more for dusting)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Roll out crust. For a 9-inch pan, your bottom crust should be around 11 inches in diameter. Place bottom crust in pie pan or dish. Flute edges and brush pie shell with milk. Refrigerate crust while you prepare the filling.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in heavy cream, half-and-half, and vanilla until well incorporated. Pour into prepared pie shell and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and center of pie is set. Dust with additional cinnamon, if desired. Cool for about 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.
Like all recipes with few ingredients, the secret is making sure everything you put into the pie is the best available.
9-inch pie dish
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 8 to 10|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 26g||33%|
|Saturated Fat 14g||69%|
|Total Carbohydrate 56g||20%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||5%|
|Total Sugars 32g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||3%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|