[Photograph: Lauren Weisenthal]

There are many reasons that I enjoy my job as a pie columnist, but probably the most fun is the opportunity to experiment with new ideas for pie flavors. My favorite muse for new pies, beyond things like seasonality or special occasions, are the flavor combinations made popular by classic plated desserts. These pies are not just tasty and nostalgic, they serve a purpose too; a plated dessert can be difficult to transport and assemble outside of a dinner party or restaurant, but the pie version of a plated dessert can easily be boxed up and enjoyed in many settings.

Creamy, rich crème brûlée makes an outstanding pie filling. The custard that's traditionally served in ramekins is made with cream, milk, egg yolks, vanilla bean, and sugar. I found that formula to be just a hint too runny on its own, so I've added one egg white for extra stability when slicing. Be sure to take the time to blind bake the crust—if you don't, you'll be stuck with a soggy, raw skin on the bottom. The cooking temperature is low to keep the custard from overcooking too quickly, but it's not high enough to fully bake the crust on its own.

When making crème brûlée, pie or otherwise, the last step is always the most exciting. Smooth a thin layer of sugar over the top surface, then spark up a torch and carefully caramelize the sugar without burning the custard beneath. I accomplished that objective just fine, but in the future I'll take steps to protect the crust as I'm doing the torching. As you can see from the photo, I lost control of the flame a bit, but enjoyed my pie with smoky and charred crust nonetheless.

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Crème Brûlée Pie »

About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.


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