Have you ever taken a bite of something and just felt like, wow– this is home. In my imagination-charged brain- I like to imagine that’s how it feels when a Floridian pours a glass of OJ, when someone in New York folds up a slice of pizza, or even when a Minnesotan scoops up a fork full of Lutefisk! Like… it’s so tied to your home state’s heritage and tradition, that you can’t help but kinda puff up with pride? The kind of stuff that people write books (blog posts?) about and that the Welcome Center touts when you cross the state line? That’s kind of how I feel about Sugar Cream Pie.
Sugar cream pie is about as Indiana as it gets. It’s up there with a breaded tenderloin sandwich and a Friday night basketball game (two of my most favorite things). It falls into the category of “desperation pies,” which includes other custardy non-fruit gems like Chess Pie and Shoofly. Back in the 1800s, when you NEEDED pie (we’ve all been there) but there was no fresh fruit available– you dumped sugar, cream, and flour into a pie shell and made it happen.
The pie itself is sweet, but not as sweet as you might imagine if you’ve never had it. It’s dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg and when cool, you can cut a slice and hold it in your hand, eating the creamy, sweet slice over the sink after all the guests have left and it’s just you, the dishes, and a piece of pie. It’s the original hand pie.
It helps that this pie is dead simple to make and although i wouldn’t say we are as desperate as the creators of this pie were, it’s so pantry friendly that if you had a pie crust in the freezer, you could go from dreams of pie, to pie on the table within 90 minutes, easy.
This recipe is based off of an actual church cookbook that my mother-in-law used as her recipe. I tweaked it a bit to include an actual vanilla bean instead of extract, and I increased the volume to fill a standard 9 inch pie pan (the recipe was definitely written for an 8 inch), but other than that– the ingredient list remains the same. Cream, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and/or nutmeg. That’s it! If you’re searching for something different for your Thanksgiving pie table (and you aren’t from Indiana…) make this pie and change lives!
Sugar Cream Pie
3/4 C all purpose flour
1.5 C granulated sugar
1/4 tsp table salt
3 C heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
fresh nutmeg (or 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, but trust me–just do the right thing and buy it whole)
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon plus extra for dusting
Set oven rack to middle position and heat to 350F
Prepare pie dough in pan, crimping/fluting the edge, and place in freezer while you prepare the remaining ingredients
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.
In measuring cup, pour 3 cups of heavy cream. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into cream, stirring to incorporate. Add nutmeg and cinnamon and mix thoroughly (but don’t whip it! We aren’t looking to add air to the cream).
Carefully whisk wet ingredients into dry, switching from a whisk to a rubber scraper about 3/4 of the way through.
Pull crust out of freezer, and add filling to pie shell.
Bake at 350F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until center is still wobbly and edges are set.
Remove from oven, and sprinkle with additional ground cinnamon. Let cool completely (this is the PERFECT day-ahead pie).
Serve with a black coffee and no forks! Happy Thanksgiving!
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