The custard pie rests among the much sought-after favourite with the wide range of decadent patisserie that fashions the customary Mauritian tea-time culture. An afternoon cup of tea or a 3pm snack would bring pastries, pies and cakes au rendez-vous, more promptly than an after dinner treat.
As I was crafting a vegan version of this custard pie, my favourite sweet bites took me back to the classic days of my childhood and young adulthood. A selection of patisserie was as much a marvel as it was a delicacy for a well-deserved after-school snack.
After finishing university and back in the country, I realised how much I had missed my little sweet ritual. Whether I was working or not, tea time would never be quite complete without a few morsels of my favourite pastries and cakes which happened to be the banana pie and the black forest gâteau. Custard pie was not among the top of my list, although for variety, I would sometimes grab a tartlet.
A delicately fragrant, vanilla custard set into a plain crust with buttery undertones, the Mauritian custard tart is cause for delight for its simplicity.
With my weakness for extrinsic combinations, I decided to gratify the vanilla coconut-milk-based custard with a topping of fresh pears rubbed with a slice of lemon then brushed with a lush coating of tangy strawberry jam. My choice of pear this time is the Abate Fetel variety which has a rich sweetness with an aromatic honey note. The texture is firm yet smooth — just heavenly when baked. They are a little pricier than other pears but so worth it. Bartlett, Anjou, Conference or Bosc varieties are certainly good to use too though.
Enhancing without overwhelming the delicate taste, texture and aroma of the coconut-vanilla custard, these sweet Abate Fetel pears imparts additional flavour and another layer of juicy custardy texture. With just the right hint of tartness from the lemon and strawberry, this pie is certainly no sloth when it comes to fresh fruity and floral notes — quite delightful to think what putting together some simple ingredients can produce.
Watch the recipe video and see the procedures in action.
Vegan Pear Custard Pie
Ingredients (for one pie 24-cm / 9-inch pie dish)
1 block of pie crust or you can use my recipe for the oil-based shortcrust pastry
500 ml homemade coconut milk (or one store-bought can + 100 ml water)
5 tablespoons cornstarch (or vegan custard powder)
150 ml water
1/3 cup [70 g] sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder (or a few drops of yellow food colouring. Omit if using custard powder that already contains colouring)
3 pears (I used Abate Fetel variety. Bartlett or any type of dessert pears are also suitable)
1-2 slices of lemon
Strawberry jam (or other jam of choice)
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
Peel the pears then rub them with the lemon. Cut the pears in half. Remove the seeds and inner stem. Then slice the pears across but do not disturb the slices. Set the pears aside.
Place the pie crust in the oven and bake for 10 minutes only.
Meanwhile, make the custard.
Place coconut milk in a saucepan on medium heat.
Add in the vanilla and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
In a small jug or cup, mix the cornstarch with 150 ml water. Add the turmeric powder and mix well.
Add this mixture to the coconut milk while stirring constantly.
The mixture will thicken considerably very quickly. You may lower the heat if the mixture is becoming lumpy and mix it more vigorously.
It will take about 7 - 10 minutes for the custard to reach the desired consistency. It should not be a runny custard but rather thick. It will thicken further upon baking.
The thicker the custard is, the firmer the resulting texture of the pie will be.
Remove the crust from the oven.
Pour the custard into crust. Smooth it out lightly.
Arrange the pears on top and lightly press them into the custard.
Brush the pears with a little strawberry jam. You may want to dilute the jam with a little water first if it is too thick.
Put the pie back in oven and allow to bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the pears are lightly caramelised and crispy on top.
The pears will release some juice but this will thicken into a caramel consistency once out of the oven and cooled.