Last week's Ask a Baker was a continuation of a short series in answer to the question: 'How can I tell when a pie is finished baking?' I decided to break this answer down by types of pies; so far we've addressed the fruit pie, the crunchy-topped custard pie, and now I'm going to tell you all about a Southern favorite, the traditional-smooth topped custard pie!
A majority of your chess pies fit in this category: our simply delicious Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie (seen above), and Kick in the Pants Pie, Muddy's ever-popular take on lemon chess (pictured below), are both pies that fall into this category.
Unlike the crunchy crust pies, you typically don?t want these types of recipes to result in cracking pie filling. Rather, when assessing whether your pie is done or not, you are looking for the amount of jiggle, texture, and color. As always, keep in mind your recipe will ultimately determine on where on the scale of golden to brown your pie will fall when done. And of course the final texture of your pie will depend on the particular recipe.
Many (but not all) pie fillings will take on some level of goldenness before they are done. After successfully baking your recipe a time or two, however, you should be able to use this as a guide for yourself. Luckily, there are some rules that apply to most pies regarding texture. Most fillings will puff slightly and take on a drier look on top when they are done. If your pie has sunk and/or has developed a pool or two of liquid on top, it has baked too long! Pull it while it is puffed and dry!
Ultimately, the amount of jiggle is the most universal rule in judging the doneness of a non-crusty crusted custard pie. Unfortunately, it is also the most difficult to describe without being able to show in person. A majority of chess pies will be done they have a slight jiggly tremble to them. Don't pull them from the oven when they still have a wet, sloshy jiggle. Also, don?t look for zero jiggle, or you will without a doubt end up overbaking!
One more quick pointer about these types of pies: we in the Muddy's kitchen always give these pies a little hat when they are removed from the oven. By little hat, I mean an empty pie pan is placed on top. This practice keeps the pie from falling by retaining enough heat to finish any last minute baking needed, but not so much as to allow it to overbake.