Salted caramel custard mini pies
I’m slowly making the mental transition into fall. Truth be told, I’m not entirely certain I ever fully transitioned into summer from spring, although I quickly got to used the long days of sunlight — bright at 6:00am and still hanging on at 9:00pm.
My sense of seasonality is guided more by my gardens than the calendar. Although many of my summer crops are still happily putting out fruit (tomatoes!), the fall crops are taking hold, and I’m beginning the annual late summer clean-up, pulling spent plants, taking large cuttings of annual herbs for preserving, making mental notes for next year’s crop rotation — which soils need to be amended with which nutrients and whatnot.
Still, I’m hovering between the two seasons, fall and summer, slowly reaching out for one while clinging stubbornly to the other. So I surprised myself a bit when I felt the need to make soup and pies this weekend on the heels of a super-summery, tomato-caprese-driven lunch. It was the cool temps, no doubt (barely breaking into the 70′s either day), and salted caramel had been on my mind for a while anyway.
Yes, while the nation’s halves poke and finger point in election frenzy, I’m thinking about salted caramel. With our government’s system of checks and balances, no single person is going to ruin or save the country in four years — Congress plays the larger role there, and its composition can rapidly change without our voting say, through retirements, deaths, and scandal. I’ll cast my vote in November, and the nation’s will be done. (And we’ll all survive, I promise.)
Meanwhile, salted caramel should not be denied.
Out of the blue. That’s pretty much how the inspiration came about for the pie part of these salted caramel custard pies. It wasn’t a magical, lyrical moment. There’s no long story behind it. Just a word, printed white-on-black in my brain.
It was enough … I ran with it. Folks who follow me on Facebook got the iPad photo preview Saturday afternoon. I was giddy with the energy of a great idea coming to life and had to share with like-minded peeps. Ain’t social media grand?
Custard is easy anyway, and the salted caramel version went just as planned (well, not all went according to plan, but I’ll get to that a minute. First, some more photos).
What made me very happy about the result was that these pies, full of creamy salted caramel custard, were not heavy or cloyingly sweet, as you might expect: The lightly salted graham-cracker-oat crust cut through the sweet with its savory crunch. This recipe’s a keeper, for sure.
Oh, and about the not-according-to-plan part … I placed the pie tins on a quarter baking sheet and stuck them in the fridge, balancing the pan precariously on top of water pitchers and ketchup and kimchi bottles. As could totally be predicted, things shifted a bit over the course of prepping dinner, and the tilted tins began dripping custard off their edges.
That wasn’t the problem.
The problem came when I pulled out the pan to clean up the pie tins. I still don’t know what happened, but in the blink of an eye, the pan was on the floor, upside-down. I was holding one pie when the pan fell, so it was unharmed. One of the three remaining pies fell cleanly upside-down, on its plastic wrap. Another one sort of survived — mangled, but edible. The fourth was total loss.
Heartbreaking. I only wish I had had the presence of mind to photograph the mess before cleaning it up. It was impressive — salted caramel custard every where.
Still, the ones that survived … well, they didn’t survive long.