Secrets of the Samoan-style pineapple custard pie

secrets

The Long Story

(Skip to the recipe)

If your family is like mine, someone’s bringing food home at least once a fortnight from a church, family or other social function. Usually the food is great … okay, I lie. Most of the time the food is yuck, a consequence of either cheap catering for lots of people or all the good stuff got swiped before the take-a-plate-home-ers got to the table.

To me, it’s no coincidence then that pineapple custard pie is often amongst the dishes we still gratefully (as in, we still eat it cause it’s a sin to waste food) receive at home.

I’ve recently learned how easy it is to make – it only needs a few ingredients – so I understand why it’s a favourite of pot-luck affairs. Judging by all the pieces of take-home pie I’ve tasted, however, it’s apparently really easy to get this recipe wrong (at least according to MY taste buds).

The crust is usually the culprit. It is often too doughy, tasteless, and sometimes even thicker than the filling itself. Speaking of which, it is because of this pie that, for a long time, I thought I hated custard. The filling is always so …gelatinous, with that kinda firm yet wobbly consistency that I only really appreciate in, well… jello.

With its usually flavourless meringue or cream topping, this pie was destined for a top spot on my list of Samoan delicacies that I just don’t get.

That is, UNTIL…

Enlightenment

One evening I made a rare public appearance at a function held at my uncle’s church. The ipu ki afterwards was a huge and lovely spread of all kinds of desserts and light savouries to accompany the yummmiest, hot koko Samoa.

Before I even got to the table, though, I started hearing a buzz about the pineapple pie someone had brought. Oka se magaia! people were saying… and as plate after plate of this reportedly amazing pie passed by me, my culinary curiosity was ignited. I had to see what all the fuss was about – and quickly before it was all gone!

Thankfully the person had brought four large pans of this pie, and I got there just as they were cutting into the last one (the other 3 were already a wasteland by then).

The first thing I noticed was the filling. It wasn’t as translucent as the usual, more wobbly variety. Instead, it was a creamier, lighter yellow that was just firm enough to stand on its own, but soft enough to so beautifully melt in my mouth.

I would describe its flavour the same way, too: somehow creamy and light at the same time, perfectly complemented by sweet and tangy pineapple in every bite.

The real winner for me, though, was the crust. Crisp but not flaky, firm but not too crunchy, with a subtle, buttery sweetness of its own, it was just the right texture to support the smoothness of its filling.

My taste buds rejoiced! But at the same time I was confused.

If our Samoan style pineapple pie can taste this nice, why had I never experienced this before? Was it just my bad luck that all the samples I’d had till now were made wrong? (Serves me right for waiting for the take-home plates instead of actually attending the functions)…

OR did this particular baker break some of the rules of our ‘traditional’ Samoan recipe?

I had to learn more.

piepan

Discovery

Imagine my excitement when I learned that the genius behind the pineapple custard pies that night was none other than Auntie Sarah, my mom’s close cousin. Apparently, it’s a recipe that she and her siblings inherited from their own mother.

As a child back in the 1950s, my mom was sent to live with Auntie Sarah and her family in Lalovaea (so that mom could go to school in town). Auntie Sarah’s mother ran a small store in those days and my mom remembers this hard-working lady making pineapple custard pie almost every day to sell there.

In the 4 or 5 years since I first tasted Auntie Sarah’s version of this pie, she’s generously offered several times to show me how to make it, but I never quite got to her place for the lesson. She has since taken very ill, so I don’t feel right anymore about bothering her with my baking education.

It turns out, though – thankfully – that my mom already has this recipe scribbled on a card in her collection. She got it long ago from Auntie Sarah’s late sister. It’s written Samoan lady style – sometimes we have exact measurements and instructions, sometimes we don’t – and assumes that the cook is already skilled in the kitchen.

I’m always game for a challenge, so over the last few weeks my mom and I have been hacking away at this recipe, trying to read between the sparsely written lines to decipher the secrets of this pineapple custard pie.

Between us we have literally made almost 20 pies in this time, arguing a lot over our interpretations of the instructions, tweaking and adjusting with every concoction… and now, at long last, I do believe we have it.

If our final creation is not exactly like Auntie Sarah’s, it’s pretty darn close. More importantly, though, I really love it! Lol…

I hope you do, too:

The Crust

Ingredients:

3 eggs
3 cups self rising flour, sifted
1 cup sugar
300 grams butter

crust

Directions:

Grease a tin (I also sprinkle a little flour over the grease, I don’t know why).

In a mixing bowl, cream butter & sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time and mix it in. Fold in the flour.

Now this is going to make enough crust for at least 2 large pans. If you don’t need that much, just wrap the leftover dough in plastic and store it in the fridge.

One batch of our chilled dough still worked really nicely even after 3 weeks.

Okay, press that dough into your pie tin – make sure you have plenty up the sides of the pan to anticipate for some shrinkage – and bake till golden brown.

Let the pie crust cool.

The Filling

So the instructions here get kind of vague. All it says on the recipe card is:

Use full cream or mix cream and milk, no water. Put custard as usual, not too thick, not too watery. Add 1 or 2 cans of crushed pineapple after custard is boiled. Add vanilla if required.

Riiiight.

I’m sorry if I’m not much clearer with my own instructions – it really is a matter of tasting and adjusting until you get the consistency (and volume) just right – but this is how I make the filling now:

filling

Ingredients

Custard powder
Milk
Cream
Sugar
Crushed pineapple
Vanilla extract (not essence, please)

Directions

I start with half a cup of custard powder, a quarter cup of sugar, and maybe 2 cups of milk in a saucepan. Whisk really well together then turn the stove on and bring to boil, stirring the whole time. As soon as it boils, turn the heat down and let it simmer while you continue to stir.

It should start to thicken now, and here’s where I get to tweaking: add more milk if it looks like it’s getting too thick, add more custard powder if it’s not thick enough, chuck in half a cup of cream, stir stir stir, watch watch watch, taste to see if it’s sweet enough, or if it needs more cream, stir some more.

Once the mixture stops ‘bubbling’ in the heat and starts to ‘plop’ instead, add your crushed pineapple and however much vanilla extract you want lol. (I love vanilla, so I use at least a tablespoon).

A pinch of your baker’s intuition will help you ‘feel’ when the filling is ready, at which point, remove from heat and pour into your waiting pie crust.

Beautiful.

fillingandmeringue

The Meringue

I know it’s not for everybody, but I LOVE me a good meringue. Auntie Sarah made her pies with cream, so this meringue is my own go-to recipe.

I can’t remember where I got it from – probably Martha or Nigella or Jo – or maybe I was clever and adapted this from all of them, but it is so simple and yummy…

NOTE: If you’re going to use meringue, prepare it before you make the filling. It’s important that meringue goes on while the filling is still very hot, so: filling ready, pour into the crust, immediately top with meringue. Got it?

Ingredients:

4 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter (apparently to help hold the shape)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Use an electric beater to froth up the egg whites a little bit (5 seconds on high). Add your cream of tarter and vanilla, then beat again for ages, adding the sugar a little at a time, until you get thick, glossy, soft peaks.

Spread the meringue thickly and evenly onto the piping hot filling – right to the crust on all edges of the pan. If you like, twist little swirly shapes into the meringue with a spatula, then pop the whole pie into a warm (something like 90 degrees C in NZ, or 200 degrees F in the USA) oven until the meringue just starts to brown.

Not into meringue?

It’s also lovely to use real cream as a topping. If this is how you want to roll, after you fill the pie let it cool completely while you prepare the cream.

Throw like a cup and a half of double or whipping cream into a bowl with a quarter cup of sugar and beat till thick (firm peaks is good). Spread generously on top of the cooled filling and then stand back and marvel at your wonderful creation.

The final product

The pie is going to need at least 2 hours or so for the filling to set. I like to let that happen under a food umbrella on the dining table before chilling in the fridge for another little while.

And then it’s time to taste. The moment of truth looks something like this:

pineapplepie

(Notice the little black vanilla seeds from the extract I used?)

And it is so mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. according to me, anyway.

Someday, I’m going to take a pie around to Auntie Sarah for her final and conclusive verdict.

In the meantime, please let me know what you think of our version of this pie, and maybe share a few tips of your own in a comment below.

πŸ™‚

The following two tabs change content below.
Known offline as Lillian (Lils, Lei'a) Arp, Hamo Geek Girl is just learning what it means to be Samoan. When she's not here, she's over at Manaui: Savour Oceania mostly talking about her other favourite topic: Food!

59 thoughts on “Secrets of the Samoan-style pineapple custard pie

  1. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Thank you very much for uploading this recipe. We just made it tonight and man was it delicious….I think I may have to give some away as I know if it stays in my fridge I’ll be eating the whole lot of it in a few days lol.

    1. Hi, I am so excited, my mother-in-law was from American Samoan from the Fa a muli family and gave me her recipe. Sadly she passed away many years ago and I never made the pie because I had a little trouble reading her writing.
      But now seeing your recipe I think I can follow hers with yours.

      I am so so happy and can’t wait to make it and remember so many wonderful memories with my in-laws and my husband and his siblings fighting over her delicious pie. Thank you thank you so much!

  2. Just finished making this! So great. Thanks a lot. I found the base to be perfect and the custard to be great. As you say, you just have to tweak it to your own tastes.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Chev.. I’m going to have to make this pie again very soon so I can figure out what’s happening with everybody’s pie crust not coming out like mine lol.. I just recently learned something (thanks Nigella Lawson!) about self-rising flour. Apparently it doesn’t keep its rising ability for very long. I’m wondering if that’s contributing to our different experiences with this crust.

      Stay tuned for a bit of tweaking on this recipe πŸ™‚

  3. Love this recipe! About to make my 3rd pie this week. The only thing I found was that the pastry was too wet, I’ve had to add more flour both times.

  4. I’m going to make this, this weekend. I made your puligi last night and it was a HUGE hit with my family. Especially my sister whom usually, passes up the leftover tinfoil containers of puteni/puligi we usually get from poly feasts. My mom use to make this and all though it was good, it wasn’t my favorite as it was either too tart or the crust to filing ration was off. I can’t wait to make this for her.

  5. Thank you so much for this beautiful, creamy recipe!!!! I have made it twice now, once for my daughters cultural shared lunch, and second was just today for to’ona’i considering it’s white Sunday! Both times, they were such a big hit!!!! Thank you so much again!

  6. I read your post last week and asked my husband if he would like me to make him a pineapple pie. He said to be honest I have never liked pineapple pie. I really don’t like the crust. Well I just made my husband this pineapple pie! He said it is the best he has ever tasted. He had 2 huge pieces. Thank you for sharing.

  7. I want to try this but need to know the exact measurements. What is the difference between milk and cream? How many cans of pineapple and what size?

  8. thanks for the additional insights. I’ll be making this soon as I have some Asian family members who are after me to make this.

  9. Pleaseeeee respond to my repeated request for help with your recipe. Have I offended you in some way that you quickly answer others and I have been waiting since March?

    1. Hi Lauren. Glad you like it. The filling for half moon pies is similar, but includes water,so it’s more gelatinous than creamy. That said, I’ve never tried making a half moon pie with this custard (no water) filling, so if you’re feeling adventurous, let us know how it goes :).

  10. Hi. Several of us have asked questions but no responses. Is this still a live blog???? I would really like to make your dessert but cannot without a better recipe. PLEASE !!Reply

  11. Your recipe looks great. I do need some help with it please.
    What size can is the pineapple?
    Do you use 2 cans (as in the picture above)?
    Do you drain the pineapple before adding it?
    Is the custard powder the same thing as Bird’s custard mix?

    1. Hi Cathy, Bird’s is another brand. If that’s what’s available, use it. I think I used 2 20 oz cans of pineapple and am almost sure I did not drain them. If you asked about the type of cream to use, I had also asked and had been told to use whipping cream. Perhaps, you’ve already read the older posts, but you might be able to find additional answers or insight from them. I hope you get your answers, and best wishes with your baking. By the way, I did the meringue which I loved, but then, that’s how my family made this.

  12. When the pie gets cold the crust gets soft why is that? I have used the same ingredients but it turns out soft when it’s cold but i really want it crisp and hard.

    1. Hi Loli… I’m not sure what happened there. The first thing I loved about this recipe is that the crust was not soft and bread-y like other pies I’d had. You might want to tweak the balance between flour and butter maybe? Sometimes the brand of ingredients used will make a difference. Also, I learned something from lots of cookie baking that might help. Make sure the dough is nice and chilled and the oven is nice and hot (preheat to the correct temperature). That might help the crust keep its form and crispness.

  13. Hello from the US. This looks like a great dessert to make. Can you help me understand the recipe please.
    What is custard powder? Is it the Bird’s brand
    Here, for cream we have Half and Half (Half Cream, Half Milk) or Whipping Cream (high fat). What did you use? High fat or Lower fat?
    How much crushed pineapple do you add? The picture shows 3 cans. Do you drain the juice before adding it or put that in also?
    How many people does this make 1 9 inch pie or the rectangle pan in the picture that looks like it serves 20 (9x13 size).
    Thanks. Cathy

    1. Hi Cathy… I do apologize for the delay in getting back to you (I also saw your message on Facebook). It’s been a hectic few months in my offline world, I’m only now beginning to catch up with this blog and comments. No you haven’t offended me lol I was getting around to you, I promise πŸ™‚ … Okay, so some answers:

      I use Edmonds Custard Powder. I checked the ingredient list online and it’s the exact same stuff as Bird’s Custard Powder.

      While I currently live in NZ, I grew up in Hawaii so I’m familiar with US products. Yeah, half and half is not going to work quite the same as the cream we get here. Look for heavy cream or heavy whipping cream…

      So this recipe is somewhat ‘flexible’? Like lots of old Samoan recipes are? lol.. You add as much crushed pineapple as you want πŸ™‚ .. I think I used two cans, but I don’t remember what size cans those were. You see that photo up there of the custard mixture in the pot? (Diagonal to the image of the pineapple cans). Your mixture should look kind of like that … Next time I make a pie I’ll measure the pineapple I used (maybe), but for now…. you just need to trust yourself.

      Oh, I didn’t drain the pineapple. I like the flavour of the juice in there…

      How many people does this serve? What size people are you talking about? lol

      You decide how big you want to cut your pie pieces and your guests will decide how many pieces they want to eat…lol Sorry Cathy, I don’t know the answer to this question. I’m not a chef. Just an enthusiastic Samoan eater πŸ™‚

  14. Oh my goodness I’m going to have to try this. I just went to a baby shower yesterday where there was a beautiful pineapple pie. Usually I steer clear of gluten, dairy and refined sugar…. BUT for this I can make a few exceptions! πŸ˜‰
    My husband will be thrilled if I can nail this recipe!

  15. Malo e lelei the sounds very Yumm but I do have a question what is the half moon pie rescipe pls

  16. Malo e lelei from an expat Tongan NZder living in Arizona! Tried out the pie and actually used the egg yolks in the custard filling (the traditional way of making real custard). Delish! Thanks for sharing your family recipie with those of us living far away from home. Hubby and I enjoyed the pie with a nice cuppa PG tips tea, and reminiscing about the good ol days and family gatherings. Fa’afetai lava! Ola

  17. Hi I’m trying out ur recipe sounds nice. My crust sank to the bottom, what did I do wrong? I’m sure it will be just as nice as a slice but would be good to know for next time…..thanks Luana

    1. Hey Luana.. I”m happy you tried it out. For the crust, do you mean the sides of the pan? That the crust didn’t quite stay up? Yeah that happens for me too when I don’t put enough of the dough on the sides. So now I like to chill the dough for a little while so it’s easier to work with, then I make sure the sides are covered right up to (and even a little bit over) the rim of the pan.

      Also, if the dough seems a bit too greasy, just add a little more flour to help it keep its shape.

      Let me know if you try it again, k?

    2. I made the pie and everyone loved it including me πŸ™‚ very easy pie to make so happy thank you so much

  18. Hi hamogeekgirl! Okay, It has been a bit over a year since I asked questions because I was allegedly prepping everything to make this pie. Well, that obviously didn’t happen, but I finally made that pie today. Guess what? It was a hit! My husband and daughter, who have never had pineapple custard pie, loved it as did my mom. Awesome, awesome recipe! I used a different crust recipe because I didn’t have self-rising flour, but I followed the rest of your recipe. I even adjusted accordingly as you had recommended. I think the only thing I will do differently next time is make homemade custard just to see what it’s like. Anyhoo, a simple thank you does not convey how appreciative I am of you for sharing your family recipe, but thank you nonetheless!

    1. So glad you tried it Maxine πŸ™‚ Sorry about my own seriously delayed reply lol…

  19. Hello we just finish our pineapple pie was yummy, was the first pie I ever Baked and so proud of myself thank you,now thy want another one……

  20. Kia ora We just finish eating our pineapple pie was the Best, thank you my mum wanted a pineapple pie for dinner and I hadn’t made one before so I went on Internet, then you were the first one I sew on google. anyway I made it and it turn out the best pie I done and the only one i baked. thank you yummy yum yum…

    1. Hi Karen.. wow that’s really exciting to hear. Thank you for trying this pie out. Well done, chef! I’m glad everybody liked it πŸ™‚

  21. Thankyou for this delish recipe to you and aunty Sarah, (I wonder if she’s my aunty Sarah?)….nah! We’re maori and aunty Sarah’s Solomon Islander!…..lols, no doubt the recipe is awesome I will place comment on final result, but I am thinking that my crust for Angela’s caramel slice will go wonderfully with your pie ingreds….. Thankyou very much from the bedggood household in Whangarei!…… : )

  22. Hi! I haven’t tried the recipe yet and I will but I just have one question pls. Can I use the same recipe for the custard cup pies?

    1. I’ve never tried custard cup pies.. I don’t see that it should be a problem though to use this recipe for them. I would just make sure to make the crust dough thick enough if you’re hoping for the pies to hold together outside of the cup lol.. sounds yum! πŸ™‚

  23. Hi! I haven’t tried the recipe yet but I I just have one question pls. Can I use the same recipe for the custard cup pies?

  24. Hello….. Love this recipe because its very similar to my Auntys recipe…. I do have a question as to why some people use water to mix their custard filling instead of milk??

    1. Hi Sesa.. thank you πŸ™‚ I’m not sure why they use water. I know that the custard filling in the pineapple half moon pies uses water, so I’m thinking some of our elders figured they’d use that same filling mixture for the flat custard pies, just less water so that the filling could set more solid I guess? For me, though, it’s all about the smooth creaminess that comes with using milk (and a bit of cream lol) in the custard. Yummm…

    1. Hey Connie… For the pastry, you’d use the whole eggs … (egg whites only for the meringue, of course πŸ™‚ )

      Hope that helps!

  25. Hi. How long do you bake this for if you are not making a meringue topping? Making this for a Church International Dinner -- first attempt!

    1. Hey Renata… so if you’re not doing the meringue topping, then you don’t have to do anything after you’ve put the filling in the crust. You just let it cool and set before you top it with whipped cream (if you want cream). Does that make sense?

      So you just bake the crust, cook the custard, pour the hot custard into the crust and (if you’re not doing meringue) let it cool completely, top it with whipped cream and you’re done.

      Hope that helps. Best of luck with your first attempt!

    2. We just had our World Food Day also Renata you are a Maori back at our church of Australia Brisbane suburb of Bray Park in a church called Holy Spirit, where we had my mother’s who passed away on 4th of June 2014 family service and Funeral. And she was cremated where abouts in New Zealand you stay in South North etc, do you have a Facebook Account ka kite

  26. Thanks so much for this! I’m an Aussie girl married into a Samoan family and I got given the Samoan lady recipe too!

    1. Gotta love the Samoan lady recipes lol guess it encourages everybody to get creative with their own cooking yeah? πŸ™‚

  27. Hi hamogeekgirl, got a couple of questions for you. First, at what temperature do you bake the crust and for how long? Second, is it heavy cream that you use? I’m prepping to try your recipe. Looks great! Thanks!

    1. Hi Xine… I bake it at around 150 C (on a NZ oven), which is about 300 F (US ovens). It takes about 20 minutes for the crust to get nice and golden, but I always have my eye on the oven cause I’m prone to burning things πŸ™‚

      So the cream -- for the filling, I use normal cream. In NZ, apparently that’s the same as whipping cream. This kind of cream is also fine for the topping (instead of meringue) but sometimes I like the topping to be extra thick and um creamy so you could try that with double cream (which according to Uncle Google has like double the fat content mmmm lol).

      Would love to hear how your pie making goes. πŸ™‚

    2. Awesome and thank you! Now, I know to use regular whipping cream instead of the heavy stuff. I will definitely let you know how it goes once I gather everything together. πŸ™‚

  28. I’m still laughing at the “vague” old samoan lady instructions…..that’s what my mums whole recipe book sounded like…..and add to that her saying to me “e fua le vaai”….nice to know it wasn’t just my mum who expected you to know what she was talking about.

    1. Lol that’s my favourite @ ‘fua le va’ai’… but it’s so true though. No matter how precise a recipe might be on paper, so many things could go wrong if the cook ain’t using her eyes and common sense, right? Omg.. now I really sound like my mom…. lol

      Thanks for dropping by, Itea πŸ™‚ .

  29. U r so funny I love yr sense of humour….and the pie looks delish. Wen I see that jello looking filling straight away I think ‘the runs’ ….. lol… so I tend to steer clear…. I’m still to perfect the art of faausi or fausi… u get my drift. Lol. My dad’s is legendary….was always a hit !…keep blogging hehe… loving it xxx

    1. Oh thank goodness. After a while I was thinking it might just be me who’s not into the jelly pineapple filling.. When you perfect faausi, can you please post up photos for us to see? It’s definitely on my list of dishes to try making, so anything I can pick from your brain, I will truly appreciate… πŸ™‚ Yes I shall try my hardest to keep blogging lol xx

  30. OMG! I’m going to make this. And will post up my pic..gosh. I’m hungry now LOL
    Thanks for posting Ms Chi πŸ™‚

    1. Aww i hope you DO make this pie -- and tell me what you think… Or how you’ve tweaked it yourself to make it even more AWESOME! lol

      You’re welcome Ms DC πŸ™‚

Say something...