More specifically, let’s talk about Earl Grey pie. Because double yum.
As far as I’m concerned, no further introduction is necessary. It’s pie. It’s the Earl. And away we go!
Earl Grey Pie: A Slice of Heaven
Earl Grey pie is clearly culinary perfection. It combines two of the best things, and it’s super easy. I know the phrase “easy as pie” is often a lie. In this case, it’s the real deal.
This Earl Grey pie combines a ready-in-no-time shortbread crust with a heavenly infused custard for a no-fail dessert that is perfect for tea time, perfect for tea parties, and just all-around perfect.
Earl Grey tea and shortbread seem like they are simply made for one another: a quintessential tea-and-sweet pairing. The buttery richness of shortbread melts seamlessly into the boldness of black tea, delicately flavored with the juicy brightness of bergamot…a perfect balance of simple and complex, subtle and stout.
You can combine them into one lovely morsel, like these melt-in-your-mouth Earl Grey butter cookies, or keep them separate, pairing your favorite Earl Grey tea with your favorite shortbread. With this Earl Grey pie recipe, we do a little bit of both.
Earl Grey Your Way
We have a plethora of incredible Earl Grey desserts in the Plum Deluxe recipe index: Earl Grey cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and even ice cream. If you need a bergamot-infused tasty treat of any kind, we’ve got you covered! And this pie is no exception. It definitely earns its way into the pantheon of excellent Earl Grey edibles!
I experimented with a lot of flavor combinations for this recipe. And I do mean a lot. Between various shortbread flavorings, custard infusions, whipped toppings, and cream cheese add-ins, there were a couple dozen combinations in all. (Prepared in cute little bite-sized chunks…I did not eat dozens of pies by myself.) I had intended to whittle them down to the ultimate flavor pairing, but in the end, it all comes down to taste.
While I absolutely adored the lemon shortbread crust with lavender Earl Grey custard and classic whipped cream, you may prefer Earl Grey shortbread with honeyed cream cheese and plain custard. When I’m in the mood for something classic, I’ll reach for the plain shortbread, Earl Grey custard paring every time.
The wonderful thing about this recipe is you can totally make it your own! It is ridiculously customizable.
Whatever way you take your Earl Grey, that’s a perfect starting point for flavoring this pie.
If you squeeze a little lemon into your cuppa, you may be partial to a lemon shortbread with plain Earl Grey custard.
If you prefer a splash of milk, perhaps you’ll want a velvety Crème Brule Earl Grey custard with a decadent dollop of vanilla whipped cream.
If you’re a sucker for a lavender London Fog, (as I am), you can’t go wrong with lavender shortbread, lavender custard, or lavender whipped cream. (If you’re a die-hard lavender fan, go nuts and combine all three! Eat it while sipping your favorite lavender tea, soaking in a lavender tea bath, and giving your hair a lavender tea rinse. Lavender for days!)
No matter how you like your tea, use that favorite flavor profile to customize your pie. To paraphrase that song by Journey: any way you want it, that’s the way you eat it! That song was totally about pie, right?
The Three C’s (of Earl Grey Pie): Crust, Custard, Condiments
Once you’ve narrowed down your flavor profile, the next step is to decide how you’re going to distribute it across the three elements of your pie: the crust, the custard, and the condiments.
And no, I don’t mean ketchup and mustard. This is tea time. As the Mad Hatter says, “Mustard? Don’t let’s be silly.” I’m talking cream cheese, whipped cream, lemon curd…dessert condiments. Maybe “topping” would have been a better word, but we’re going for alliteration, here.
Your pie will need at least two of these three elements: definitely crust and custard.
For the crust, you can make a standard shortbread dough—either by hand or using a food processor—and then add any extra mix-ins you’d like. Some ingredients I played with were:
- Lemon zest
- Lavender—either extract, edible oil, or dried lavender buds
- Earl grey tea—powdered using a spice or coffee grinder, or minced as small as you can possibly chop it
The addition of Earl Grey elevates the custard from standardly delicious to exquisitely gourmet. And you barely have to do anything! Your guests (should you choose to share your pie…) will be suitably wowed by your culinary genius. (You don’t have to tell them how easy it actually was.)
If the idea of making your own custard intimidates you (or you’re out of eggs but well-stocked in the instant pudding department), you can totally apply these same principles to a package of vanilla pudding. Either way, you’re going to love it.
A quick word in defense of homemade custard: it really is something anyone can do! It just involves separating eggs, measuring, and combining ingredients in the proper order. That’s it!
If separating eggs scares you, try cracking all of your eggs into a bowl and gently scooping the yolks out of the whites. Keep your fingers spread slightly apart to let the whites run through them. (Kind of like a softened version of a “claw” hand.) There are tutorial videos on Youtube to help you gain confidence!
Once you’ve separated those eggs, save the whites and use them in another show-stopping dessert like this scrumptious Strawberry Meringue cake or this incroyable Lavender Coconut French Macaron cake! Your skill in the kitchen knows no bounds!
The pie will be fantastic with just the essentials, but you can really kick it up a notch when you start to play with extra toppings!
For my tastes, every combination I tried was made even more delectable by an airy gob of whipped cream. The lush, satiny sweetness of the cream added a lovely nuance in texture to the denser custard and crispy shortbread. This is another really fun opportunity to play with variations in flavor—either with infused sugars, infused cream, or zesty, boozy, or chocolatey add-ins!
If you’re a fan of cheesecake or luxurious, indulgent desserts, then consider adding a layer of sweetened cream cheese between your crust and your custard. It was a little too intense for me, but it was gooey, rich, and I imagine just right for a cheesecake lover!
I did find that it was quite nice in a lavender-on-lavender combination—that extra, dense creaminess helped cut through the strength of the floral notes. If you’re thinking of combining a lavender crust with a lavender Earl Grey, a cream cheese condiment might be just the thing for you!
As for other condiment options, the possibilities really are endless.
You could spread out a tangy layer of bright lemon curd for a gorgeous pop of color as well as flavor. Add a dose of jam, preserves, or fresh fruit for an elegant interpretation of a Jammie Dodger. Try honey, orange, chocolate, herbs…the sky is the limit. Any way you slice it, you end up with an Earl Grey pie, so you know it’s going to be good! Serve it up with your favorite tea, and enjoy your perfect pie!
Quick Note: The recipe looks involved, but it’s really very simple! The crust and the custard both come together quickly and easily. It just looks complicated because I included notes for different variations. Don’t be intimidated! You can do it!
Earl Grey Pie
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar*
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1-2 teaspoon add-in of choice (ex. Lemon zest, powdered Earl Grey tea leaves, lavender, etc.)
- 2 cups milk (preferably whole milk)
- 2-4 teaspoon Earl Grey loose leaf of choice** (optional)
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar (Yes, you need this twice.)
- 5 egg yolks
- 3 scant tablespoons cornstarch
**For a subtly flavored custard, use 1 teaspoon of loose leaf for each cup of milk. For a more pronounced flavor, use 2 teaspoons of loose leaf for each cup of milk.
Optional Add-Ins (Pick one!):
- Cream cheese sweetened with powdered sugar, honey, or lemon
- Whipped cream, plain or made with infused cream or sugars, booze, or chocolate
- Lemon curd
- Jam, preserves, or fresh fruit
Directions for Crust:
Combine all ingredients, either by hand or using a food processor. Wrap tightly in cling wrap or beeswax and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to several days.
Note: If refrigerating the dough overnight, be sure to remove it from the refrigerator about an hour before you’re ready to bake it so that it’s soft enough to work with.
Press dough into a lightly greased 9-inch pie pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. (Note: the dough may shrink a bit as it cooks, so plan accordingly.)
Cool to room temperature before adding the custard. (Unless serving the custard hot, in which case, feel free to combine immediately.)
Directions for Custard:
If you have time, infuse your milk with your Earl Grey loose leaf the night before you want to make your pie. Otherwise, over medium-high heat, heat your milk, ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp sugar, vanilla, and loose-leaf Earl Grey. Stir occasionally so the milk does not burn or form a film at the top. Strain out tea leaves once the flavors have steeped.
As your milk heats, separate your egg yolks. Save egg whites for other recipes, if desired.
Whisk together egg yolks, ¼ cup plus 1 tsp sugar, and corn starch.
When the milk boils, slowly pour 1/3 of the milk into the egg/corn starch mixture, whisking constantly. Don’t worry about getting exactly a third…you just want to temper the eggs so they don’t scramble when you add them to the rest of the milk!
Pour the milk/egg mixture back into the rest of the milk and place back over medium-high heat, whisking constantly for two minutes. The mixture will thicken to a custard-like consistency.
Remove from heat and allow to cool (unless serving the pie hot, in which case, add custard to crust and serve immediately.)
If serving cold, refrigerate your custard with either cling-wrap or a silicone mat in contact with the top of the custard to prevent a film from forming as it sits. The custard will keep in the fridge for up to several days.
To assemble the pie, spread an optional layer of add-in (such as cream cheese or lemon curd) on top of the crust. Pour in custard. Top with whipped cream, if desired. (Highly recommended!)
Serve and enjoy!