Unlike most pie lovers, if I’m given a choice between a fruit- or custard-filled one, I always reach for the custard one first. The rich, custardy smoothness draws me in every time. This pie is no exception; the added brûléed sugar top gives the ensemble a slight crunch and added dimension in flavor.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Roll out the pie dough and fit it into a 9-inch/23 cm pie pan. Trim the edges and create a decorative flute or crimped edge. Freeze for 30 minutes.
Line the crust with foil and pie weights. Bake until lightly browned and dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Remove the foil and weights from the piecrust and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Lower the oven temperature to 325°F (165°C).
Bring 3 cups/710 ml of the cream and the vanilla bean and its seeds to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, cover with plastic wrap, and let the cream and vanilla bean steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean.
Combine 3/4 cup/150 g of the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a medium saucepan. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring only until the sugar dissolves. Then, stop stirring and allow to boil until mixture turns a deep amber color, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Carefully and slowly whisk in the cream mixture to create caramel.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and salt. Whisking constantly, slowly stream in the caramel sauce. Pour the caramel mixture into the cooled piecrust and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the caramel filling is only slightly jiggly in the center and the top is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Chill the pie until completely cool. When ready to serve, make the whipped cream by beating the remaining 11/2 cups/354 ml of cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar on high speed in a bowl until soft peaks form. Pile the whipped cream on top of the pie and sprinkle with sea salt.
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Makes 1 (9-inch/23 cm) single pie crust, easy double for a double crust
This is a flexible pie dough that is strong and easy to handle. You should be able to drape it over your arm without its cracking, tearing, or stretching.
In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and give the mixture a 2-second pulse, 3 or 4 times, until the butter is the size of small peas. You may need more or less time, depending on your machine. Measure out the water in a measuring cup, then add the cider vinegar and enough ice to reach to 1/2 cup/125 ml measurement.
Add 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture to the flour mixture and pulse a few times to incorporate. Continue adding the water mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing a couple of times after each addition. You should only need 1 or 2 more additional tablespoons. The mixture should look slightly dry, almost like a streusel topping.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and form it into a 1-inch/2.5 cm-thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least an hour, ideally overnight.
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Reprinted with permission from Baker's Royale © 2017 by Naomi Robinson, Running Press. Photos by Naomi Robinson.