Tuesday, November 29, 2011

PIE #50 - Grand Finale Pie


Confucius said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." My journey of fifty pies began with a wild hair, a worthy cookbook, and a wish for sweet success. Eleven months, 25 pounds of flour, 15 pounds of sugar, 12.5 pounds of butter, and 13 quarts of cream later...I am pleased to announce {{{INSERT TRUMPET FANFARE HERE}}}, I can bake a good pie!

Over the past few weeks, I've been pondering what my 50th pie would be. Cream, custard, fruit or nut? Pastry, cookie or cracker crust? With multiple recipes under my proverbial belt coupled with my increased confidence, a worthy grand finale pie could certainly be created. It had to be magnificent, no doubt, and perhaps complex enough to challenge my newfound pie making prowess.

In the end I decided to come full circle, flashing back to 1974 and Miss Miranda's 7th grade home economics class at Watson Junior High. There I made my debut into pie making society, if you will, and fell miserably flat on my face. My dismal pie skills deserved no less than a big fat pie in the face pitched by Miss Miranda herself. I tried to locate her, to inform her that her most inept baking neophyte had redeemed herself. A Google search and a call to my junior high school were fruitless. Miss Miranda, wherever you are, I hope you stumble upon this blog and are deliriously overjoyed that you've inspired a student to pie aplomb, albeit 37 years later.

My 50th pie is a combination of the cream pie recipe variations that Miss Miranda assigned: vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, coconut, and banana crowned in glorious mounds of whipped cream. This pie makes a spectacular presentation when sliced. The multiple cream layers showcase strikingly against the voluminous whipped topping. The flavor combination is beyond luscious. Any two of the flavor components, for instance chocolate and coconut or butterscotch and banana, make a delicious duo. However, all five unify into a harmonious taste quintet. A grand finale pie indeed!

It's hard to believe my resolution to make 50 pies in 2011 to commemorate my 50th year on earth is now officially resolved. It's a bittersweet feeling that lingers on much like its chocolate counterpart, yet I've thoroughly enjoyed every flour-tinged step of the journey. My footsteps were at first tentative with some slips along the way. Forging forward I gained a firmer foothold. Now I stride with sure-footed confidence along the pie path. From that first faltering step taken on January 1 to reaching my final destination of Pie #50 on November 26, I can now do the happy dance.

Thank you, family and friends and esteemed cookbook author and pie impresario Ken Haedrich, for accompanying me on my quest, for bravely taste testing my creations, and for offering excellent tutelage and constructive criticism. 2011 is coming to a close and what is that I see ahead? Why, it's a fork, not the one that has dug into fifty pies but rather a fork in the road that leads into 2012, another year that begs for another resolution. Suggestions, anyone?

Crust:
1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix all crust ingredients together and press evenly into a 9 1/2 inch deep dish pie pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool.

Vanilla Cream Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 1/8 cup half and half
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick. Whisk in the half and half and egg yolks. Place over medium heat and cook, whisking virtually nonstop, until the mixture starts to thicken and comes to a low boil, 5-7 minutes. Continue to whisk and heat until quite thick, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.

Immediately pour the filling into the cooled pie shell. Gently press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the filling, leaving no gaps or air pockets, to prevent a skin from forming. Place in refrigerator while making next layer of filling.

Chocolate Cream Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup half and half
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium heavy saucepan. Whisk in the half and half and egg yolks. Place over medium heat and cook, whisking virtually nonstop, until the mixture starts to thicken and comes to a low boil, 5-7 minutes. Continue to whisk and heat until quite thick, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla, then whisk in the chocolate until smooth and fully melted. Remove pie from refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Slowly pour the filling over the vanilla layer. Spread chocolate mixture evenly and replace plastic wrap over the filling again. Place pie in refrigerator while making the next layer.

Butterscotch Cream Filling:
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup half and half
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium heavy saucepan. Whisk in the half and half and egg yolks. Place over medium heat and cook, whisking virtually nonstop, until the mixture starts to thicken and comes to a low boil, 5-7 minutes. Continue to whisk and heat until quite thick, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla. Remove pie from refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Slowly pour the filling over the chocolate layer, spreading evenly. Replace plastic wrap over the filling again. Place pie in refrigerator while making the next layer.

Coconut Cream Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 cup half and half
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup Coco Lopez canned cream of coconut, well stirred
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium heavy saucepan. Whisk in the half and half, egg yolks, and the cream of coconut. Place over medium heat and cook, whisking virtually nonstop, until the mixture starts to thicken and comes to a low boil, 5-7 minutes. Continue to whisk and heat until quite thick, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and extracts. Remove pie from refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Slowly pour the filling over the butterscotch layer. Spread evenly and replace plastic wrap over the filling again. Chill for several hours or overnight.

Topping:
2 cups heavy or whipping cream, well chilled
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
3 large bananas

Using a chilled medium-size bowl and chilled beaters, beat the cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add confectioner's sugar and continue beating just until stiff. Slice the bananas about 1/4' thick and place all over the pie. Mound the whipped cream over the bananas. Slice and serve. Chill remaining pie in the refrigerator.

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