My love affair with pie has established itself pretty recently , with the advent of making my own pie, but before that, my disdain for those creations of gelatinous mounds of fruit and sugar glopped between flavorless sheets of dough (or atop just one sheet) would be temporarily forgotten with the appearance of pumpkin, pecan, or banana cream pie.
My first experience with pumpkin pie was at Montesorri when Teacher Rosie decided to bring some in as a festive almost Thanksgiving treat. Having been exposed only to Chinese dessert soups of sugar water with wood ear and jujubes, or red bean pastries (nothing against red bean - still love it!) until then, the pumpkin spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg was at once heaven in my mouth. It probably wasn't a particularly velvety or harmonious pumpkin pie, but I don't think my palate was very advanced back then.
Pecan pie was probably purchased by a family member as an attempt to bring some American tradition to our typically Chinese Thanksgiving of hot pot at our family's restaurant. After a meal of flank steak, tripe, fish balls, beef balls, lamb, tofu, wild mushrooms, and dandelion greens thrown into a gurgling pot set upon a butane range in the center of the table, what would be a more appropriate dessert than pecan pie?? I was groomed to love nuts by my mother's preference for Thrifty's Butter Pecan ice cream (purchased so rarely, but if there were an ice cream choice to be made, that is what it would be), so I had no complaints.
The story of banana cream pie -- I have no idea where it begins. Could it be digging by the forkful into a foil pan encased, plastic lidded specimen from the grocery store in a classmate's kitchen? Or was the fluffy cloud of meringue calling my name at Nation's on Jackson after getting my driver's license, and therefore, buying food without parental supervision? Wherever my first banana cream pie was, one bite and I was hooked. If it's on a dessert menu with bread pudding, I am in turmoil with that decision, often ending in the selection of both treats. How I can I deny either of you???
I am a big fan of the Tartine banana cream pie, with its caramel and chocolate layers, but Amy of Sing for Your Supper picked a strong contender for this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe. I feel like a proud mother forced to pick a favorite between her children. One is decadent with all the flourishes and undeniably delicious if a bit fussy. The other is straight-forward, with a little surprise spice, not overly sweet, just comfortingly good. It depends entirely on your mood really.
I made this on Sunday and so trusted Dorie that it tastes best when just assembled that I orchestrated a whole impromptu dinner around it. Having held up the meal with Jamie Oliver's milk-and-lemon roast chicken (a 5 pound chicken takes A BIT more time, to say the least), I rushed to finish the pie and didn't make it so pretty. Talk about gelatinous -- the pastry cream was so dense! Whisking it was nearly impossible as it just created curdled chunks. My eyes were in disbelief and I was about to throw in the towel and throw it out, but I took the advice of Mike and thinned with some heavy cream along with nuking it in the microwave a few times. After a lot of muscle, the pastry cream wasn't looking too bad, so the pie was assembled and though it looks afright, it was terribly tasty. I do love pumpkin pie so the cinnamon and nutmeg hints were quite alright with me. Most importantly for me, the crust did not shrink at all this time like it has done in the past, looking like the impact of a custard tidal wave has washed away the crust wall. It may have been religious chilling of the dough every time I worked with it and right before I stuck it in the oven, or making sure my pie weights of beans and rice reached the absolutely top of the crust, but either way, a triumph!