I haven't lived in the Midwest since college, but I have an inkling there's something going on there amidst the corn fields and dairy farms. Organic farms, distilleries, and local restaurants are popping up, native seeds are being saved, heirloom crops are being grown again, and people are taking pride in Midwestern food. Perhaps in all of that there's a small dose of nostalgia, faux or real, that our generation is inclined toward, but this revival moves way beyond the casserole dish.
One of the women who seems to be part of that movement is Paula Haney of Chicago's Hoosier Mama Pie Company. When I had a chance to sit down with her earlier this spring, she talked about her motivations in starting her bakery, a primary one being to bring awareness and appreciation to the "poor foods" of the United States, specifically the Midwest (read more from our conversation here).
Paula's new cookbook, The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie does just that, while also being a great go-to resource of traditional and creative pies for any home baker, offering seasonal recipes from classic Cherry to Red Line Espresso Cream.
The first recipe I tried was this Sweet Corn Custard Pie with Tomato Jam. Maybe part of my selection was guided by a Midwest nostalgic pang for the corn puddings of my youth, but the dessert is also unique and different, a new take on tradition. It also just seemed to be a good place for an (eventually) corn-fed Hoosier like myself to start.
The pie is a dream and a bit of a sleeper hit, but it's a delightful surprise when you slice it to reveal the light creamy custard speckled with fresh corn kernels. It's a sweet with a touch of savory, especially with the spicy sweet tomato jam drizzled atop.
Sweet Corn Custard Pie with Tomato Jam
Adapted from The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie
For the pie:
Nothing-in-the-House pie crust, halved
1 1/2 c. fresh sweet corn kernels
1 1/3 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. whole milk
1/2 c. + 2 Tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla paste
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch fresh ground black pepper
4 large egg yolks
2 large egg whites
1. Prepare half of the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash. Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Pierce the bottom of the shell all over with a fork, and let chill for 15 more minutes in the fridge. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325.
2. Place 3/4 c. of the corn kernels, 1/3 c. of the heavy cream, milk, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2-3 times until the corn is finely chopped.
3. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in the remaining 1 c. of the heavy cream, vanilla paste, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in the remaining 3/4 c. of the corn kernels.
4. Whip the egg whites into soft peaks and fold into the corn mixture in 2 additions.
5. Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake immediately for 50-55 minutes until the edges of the pie are slightly puffed and the custard moves in 1 piece when the pie is gently shaken.
6. Cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge overnight before slicing. Serve with tomato jam.
For the tomato jam:
1/2 c. + 2 Tblsp. granulated sugar
4 pinches cayenne pepper
4 pinches fresh ground black pepper
2 pinches kosher salt
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1. Combine the sugar, spices, salt, orange juice, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Remove any stray citrus seeds.
2. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly.
3. Gently toss the tomato halves into the hot mixture. Continue to simmer until the mixture becomes thick and syrup like, about 30 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Serve with the Sweet Corn Custard Pie.
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