Orange Natilla (na-tee-ya) Custard Pie

orange natilla custard pieMy first trip to World Food Championships  was in 2013.  I was excited to go, but to be honest, I was completely skeptical about the experience.  I knew going into it that I would not do well.  I wasn’t a professional chef; I had no formal training, and I would undoubtedly be out classed.

Before heading out to Vegas, I practiced my signature and structured rounds and knew exactly how long each step would take.  I was completely prepared.  I never read in the rules that I was allowed to have help, so I prepared as if I would be alone in the kitchen.  

Before going, I knew that there was a finals round, and I knew that the finals round would be based on Dole pre-packaged fruit.  However, I never prepared a recipe.  First and foremost, I never thought I’d make it to finals, and as I understood it (my fault), we would be given a Dole fruit (a mystery) and we had a set amount of time to cook…kind of liked “Chopped.”

I was wrong…about everything. We arrived to find that I was allowed a team of people, only made it better.  My husband became my sous chef, and he was a champ at washing dishes. I was good enough to make finals and did. The Dole pre-packaged fruit was not a mystery, AND I should have prepared a recipe.

The night that I made the Top 10, we enjoyed a quick celebratory dinner and headed back to our hotel so that I could get busy writing a recipe.  Having not prepared ahead of time meant that I would need to make something I was familiar with and something that would show technique.

 I settled on a spiced orange flan style custard that I’d had in the Keys and that I’d previously made into a pie.  I remembered the basic ingredients, but I couldn’t remember all of the steps, so I hit Google to hopefully find “Orange Natilla.”  To my surprise, someone else had tried the same Cuban restaurant in the Keys and had posted the recipe.  I was ecstatic!  I quickly copied, made the necessary Dole changes, and hurried out to find custard ramekins.

Finals came and went, and in the end, I came in 8th place in the world, which ain’t too bad for an amateur cook from rural Florida!

And then, a month later…

While looking through the cookbooks at WalMart, I saw a Taste of Home cookbook and decided to thumb through it, just to see if I might have been published.  To my surprise, I was!  My Orange Natilla Custard Pie was featured (photo above is from Taste of Home)  The best part was I’d written a brief history of the pie, and…OMG! The recipe and description I copied while at WFC in Vegas was my own recipe!!! I wondered how that person happened to have tried the same custard at the same restaurant in Key West!!?!?!  I’d completely forgotten about entering it.

1 c. whole milk

1 can sweetened condensed milk

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ c. orange juice

1 large strip orange peel

1 large strip lemon peel

1 tsp cinnamon

1 star anise-whole

1 egg for crust eggwash

2 TBSP water for crust eggwash

2 TBSP granulated sugar for crust

In a medium sauce pan, bring whole milk, vanilla, orange peel, lemon peel, cinnamon, and star anise to a boil stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and allow to cool 15 minutes.  Strain milk.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs until creamy.  Add sweetened condensed milk and orange juice and mix completely.  Gradually add warm milk, beating well after each addition.

Pour into prepared crust.  Brush edges of crust with eggwash and sprinkle crust and custard with sugar.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes.  If crust begins to darken too much, cover crust with aluminum foil.


1 ¼ c. all purpose flour

7 TBSP cold butter, cut into pieces

1/8 tsp salt

3 TBSP ice water

Place flour, butter, and salt in a food processor.  Process to coarse crumb stage.  Add ice water and pulse just until dough comes together. Do not let it form a ball.  Transfer dough to wax paper and flatten to a disk.  If dough becomes too sticky, sprinkle with additional flour a tablespoon at a time.  Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to approximately a 14 inch circle.  Transfer dough to a 9 inch pie pan.  Carefully press dough into the pan.  Trim the overhang, leaving a 1 inch edge.  Crimp edges.  Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork.  Chill for at least 20 minutes.

Line the dough with aluminum foil, pressing well into the edges so that pastry does not shrink.  Fill with weights.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or just until the pastry begins to brown around the edges.  Remove foil and weights.  Continue baking for 10 more minutes.  Cool at least 10 minutes before filling.

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