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Chai Chi Bean Tart

"Life is short, so eat dessert first.”

Have you ever looked at someone and thought of what kind of food personality they have, or is that just me? A food personality is a quality that someone has that is similar to food. Like someone's nuttiness and temperament could resemble a cheese. Or another person’s long figure and blandness resemble a celery stalk. It’s less to do with logic and more of a feeling or vibe.

Well, as I’ve invested more time into this blog I’ve found myself constantly thinking about desserts, and new things to try. While I was dog sitting for a friend this little pup named Chi captured my imagination. I started calling her Chi Bean throughout the day, which she seemed to like because she would follow me running at full speed when I would call her that (granted this dog only gets places by running full speed, but I felt like she had an extra hop in her step when I called out “Chi Bean, let’s go.)

Anyway, adding the bean to her name made me think of vanilla bean, and chi made me think of chai, and thus the idea for a vanilla chai custard pie came about! Yeah, maybe you think that is a stretch but that’s just how my little pea brain functions, I see a dog and think about how their name is close to chai, and how good chai spices are with sweet vanilla. Putting those flavors in a creamy custard wrapped in a flaky sweet pastry, and you too will see the magic that is chai chi bean pie.

Chi the dog, the inspiration behind this pastry

So I set out to make a vanilla chai custard. Custard pie is a staple in family desserts because of my grandfather having an obsession with anything custard. So I had a recipe in mind and changed it to match the vision in my head. The result was this pie that is perfect for the fall season because of the warmth that comes from the chai spices.

Even though this dessert is a little time consuming to make, especially if you choose to make your pastry from scratch as I’ve done, it is all worth it for all things that are deliciousness. It is also a good dessert to make ahead of time before company arrives and then brings it out to impress.

Chai Chi Bean Tart

What I found when making the custard is that is is important to do a ribbon test to know when the custard can be taken off the heat from the stove. While stirring the custard constantly stop to lift the spoon above the mixture and wave it back and forth, so strands of the custard form and fall back into the pan. If the strands stay on top of the mixture then that means the custard is thick enough and can be removed from the heat.

Vanilla Chai Custard

Too little time on the heat and the custard will not set properly, and it will just be a blobby mess, (trust me from experience with un-set custard that I’ve made, you do not want a blobby mess; not only does it not look good but it’s not practical to eat). Also, be aware to measure the cornstarch correctly, cornstarch is the thickening agent and will help in its own way to set the custard.

I hope you enjoy this fall pie inspired by a young pup named chi. Until next time, keep baking.

My own recipe that was inspired by chi the dog. A beautiful melody of chai spices that resemble the fall season, made sweet with vanilla.

Ingredients for Pastry

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small cubes

1 large egg

½ teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

Ingredients for Filling

1/3 C. granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 tsp. salt

2 ¼ C. 2% milk

3 large egg yolks

3 Tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1 and ½ teaspoons of ground ginger

1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon of ground allspice

½ teaspoon of ground cloves

½ teaspoon of ground cardamom


1. Start making the pastry by combining the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor (or use a pastry cutter).

2. Add cold butter to flour mixture and pulse until the mixture becomes crumbly.

3. Add egg and vanilla extract and keep pulsing until the dough starts to bind together into large clumps.

4. Put dough on a lightly floured surface and form into one ball. Flatten the ball to form a thick disk. Cover and put into the fridge for 1 hour.

5. Prepare the filling while the pastry crust resting in the fridge by whisking together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large saucepan.

6. In a separate bowl beat egg yolks into the milk until well blended.

Slowly drizzle the egg and milk mixture into a saucepan of the dry mixture while whisking to combine the ingredients.

7. Put the saucepan on medium heat and continuously and slowly stir the mixture so that the custard thickens about 5 minutes.

8. For another 5 minutes frequently scrape the sides to prevent scorching. To test the custard is done pick up a spoon and move back and forth to create ribbons in the custard. Once the ribbons stay on the surface for about 4 seconds before melting back into the mixture the custard is ready.

9. Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in cubes of chilled butter, one at a time, until butter is incorporated. Stir in vanilla extract and the rest of the spices.

10. Transfer custard into a glass bowl to cover and put it into the fridge. Place cover directly over the custard, not on top of the bowl. This prevents a skin from forming on the surface of the custard. Keep in the fridge for 1 hour.

11. Once the dough has finished resting in the fridge for an hour, let it sit on the counter for a few minutes before rolling out the dough on a lightly floured surface into an 11-inch circle. The pastry dough should be about ¼ inch thickness.

12. Place gently into 9 in tart pan. Make sure the pastry dough does into the creases of the pan and fits nicely at the bottom. Trim the edges of any excess pastry on the sides, then cover and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

13. Preheat oven to 375F and place rack in the center.

14. After the pastry crust has been in the freezer take out and press aluminum foil into the bottom and fill the bottom surface with a layer of pie weights (or dry beans, if you don’t have any).

15. Bake crust for 20 minutes, until foil no longer sticks to the dough. Place on a cooling rack, removing the foil and weights.

16. Once the tart shell has cooled, remove the custard from the fridge and stir until smooth. Put the custard into the pastry crust and level off so the custard is smooth on the top.

17. Cover the surface of the custard filling and put it back in the fridge to let the custard set, about 2 hours. After the custard has fully set it is ready to be served and enjoyed.

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