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Hawaii's Local-Style Custard Pie

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Hawaii's local-style custard pie is creamy and silky. The secret? Evaporated milk! It's simple to make, just prepare the filling a day ahead.

Local-Style Custard Pie

Have you tried custard pie in Hawaii before?

First thing you'll notice is that it taste quite different from all other custard pies. How different? It's definitely creamier. Whereas most mainly custard pies are eggy, Hawaii custard pies are creamy (almost velvety!) It's also softer and silkier in texture.

Local-style custard pie is marvelous and only something locals know about. Visitors go crazy for malasadas and shave ice, all of which are delicious. But custard pies feel like a "locals only" secret ^_^

You can buy custard pie at a number of bakeries across the islands, or you can make it at home.

Custard Pie from Epi-Ya Boulangerie & Patisserie (Oahu)
Custard Pie from Epi-Ya Boulangerie & Patisserie (Oahu)

The Secret Ingredient

What's the secret ingredient to Hawaii's custard pies?

Evaporated milk! Yes!

Most custard pies call for whole milk or heavy or cream. But in Hawaii, we use evaporated milk. This makes for an extra delicious custard pie.

Custard and Pumpkin Swirl Pie from Epi-Ya Boulangerie & Patisserie (Oahu)
Custard and Pumpkin Swirl Pie from Epi-Ya Boulangerie & Patisserie (Oahu)

Where To Buy Custard Pie in Hawaii

If you don't feel like baking at home, stop by these local bakeries. They are all quite popular for custard pies:

  • Lee's Bakery - Lee's is a Chinese bakery and is the most famous place in Hawaii for custard pie. If you're only going to try one, make it Lee's.
  • Kaneohe Bakery - Talk with any local and when it comes to custard pie, you're either a Lee's Bakery person or a Kaneohe Bakery person. Good to support both ^_^
  • Epi-Ya Boulangerie & Patisserie - Saint Germain was a popular bakery growing up (home to our favorite baguette on the island). The bakery closed a few years ago and everyone was devastated. But then the former employees got together and reopened the bakery under a new name, Epi-Ya. It's as good as before...maybe even better. Out of these three bakeries, we visit Epi-Ya most frequently (everything they sell here is delicious). In addition to custard pie, they make an excellent pumpkin pie and a custard-pumpkin swirl pie...a must!
Ingredients for Custard Pie filling: Eggs, Sugar, Cornstarch Evaporated Milk, Water, and Vanilla Extract.
Ingredients for Custard Pie

How To Make Custard Pie

My favorite part of Hawaii's newspaper is the Wednesday food section. We used to have two main newspapers (Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin). They merged in 2010 and now we have one main newspaper: Star Advertiser.

I saved LOTS of local recipe clippings back in the day, but it's neat that we can also look up newspaper archives for these same recipes.

In 2009, Betty Shimabukuro published a recipe for local style custard pie. Betty got the recipe from Henry Shun, a professional local baker. (I love how recipes are passed from friends to families across generations in Hawaii. I hope to put together a big community cookbook one day.) This is the recipe we are baking today.

It calls for a pie crust (store bought or homemade works...custard pie is really about the filling).

What goes in the filling?

And that's it! Pretty simple, basic pantry ingredients. Mix everything together and let the filling sit in the refrigerator overnight. Then the next day, you take it out and pour the filling into the pre-baked pie crust. Then bake. And eat.

Do you like custard pie hot or cold? I love it both ways, but it is more common to eat chilled/cold custard pie in Hawaii. Extra onolicious on a hot day.

Whisking the custard pie filling
Whisking the Custard Pie filling

Important Tips

Make sure you read through these tips before making the pie. It a simple pie...but as it goes with simple things, it's all in the details ^_^

Refrigerate Overnight
Refrigerating the custard filling overnight will ensure no bubbles when you bake. It also makes for a silkier pie.

Don't Fill To The Top Right Away
Fill the pie shell up to 1/2-inch from the rim. Bake 10 minutes. Then fill it up to the rim. This ensures that the filling won't sink in the center.

Pre-Bake Pie Crust
Because the custard filling is liquid, you'll end up with a soggy crust bottom if you don't pre-bake the crust. Here's how: poke a few holes in the bottom of the pie crust with a fork (this will help the bottom of the crust from puffing up). Bake at 400F for 6-8 minutes.

Common Questions

How long can the pie keep?

It keeps for three days...though never lasts that long in our home ^_^

Bubbles and air pockets in the filling?

Key to smooth, silky filling is to:
1) Refrigerate the filling overnight.
2) Do not overbake. It's a fine balance between being perfectly baked, and overbaked. Once it's overbaked (you can tell it's overbaked if the pie puffs up in the center), you'll get holes in the filling and it'll be watery. Bake for a total of 30 minutes. If it's not done by then, stand by the oven and check it every few minutes. You want the center of the pie to be slightly wobbly and just set.

Are you supposed to eat this hot or cold?

The Hawaii-style of eating custard pie is cold. I like it hot on the first day (about 30-minutes out of the oven is my dream temperature), and then cold for breakfast the next morning. It's onolicious both ways.

Custard Pie Recipe

See below and enjoy ^_^

Custard Pie

Custard Pie

Yield: One 9-inch round pie
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 35 minutes

Hawaii's local style custard pie is wonderfully creamy (almost velvety), sweet and fragrant with vanilla. The secret? Evaporated milk! It's easy to make, just make sure to prepare the filling a day in advance.

Ingredients

Instructions

    1. Break eggs into a mixing bowl and beat.
    2. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cornstarch. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch into the eggs until incorporated. 
    3. Continue to whisk for 1 minute. Then add the evaporated milk, water, vanilla and salt. Mix until incorporated. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight.
    4. The next day, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    5. Using a fork, poke several holes in the bottom of the pie crust (this helps keep the crust from puffing up). Pre-bake the crust for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
    6. Skim off any bubbles from the top of the filling. Gently stir to blend any cornstarch that settled on bottom of bowl. Do not create bubbles while stirring.
    7. Pour the filling into the pie shell, fill it 1/2-inch from rim. Bake for 10 minutes, then add more filling, up to the rim of the pie shell.
    8. Bake for another 20 minutes longer, until done.
    9. If it's not done after 30 minutes total baking time, keep baking but check frequently to see if it's ready. Careful not to over bake (or the filling will have holes and become watery). You want the pie to be just set. Eat hot or cold, and enjoy ^_^

Notes

Source: Star Bulletin (September 30, 2009)

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Mahalo for Reading!

Boyd

Sunday 29th of November 2020

I burned the crust. But wuz really ono

Kathy

Sunday 29th of November 2020

Glad it still came out ono! :) - Kathy

Toni

Saturday 3rd of October 2020

My mother in-laws custard pie beats all of them. She only used 4 eggs. 1/2 cup sugar and no cornstarch. Try it you’ll love it

Jasmine

Saturday 5th of December 2020

i'll try it out, does she still follow the same procedures in this recipe?