Sunday, June 5, 2011

Praline Cream Pie

Normally, I think of the holiday season when it comes to pie - pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie - in other words, heavy and rich.  But custard pie feels like the perfect version for summer, suited to the hot weather.  Since custard pies like this one need to chill for about 8 hours, you can make it in the morning and then forget about it in the fridge until just before serving dessert.

I have several custard pies I want to try in the future, but this one caught my eye because it was only just made possible for a vegan, thanks to a (relatively new) product on the market - the Madagascar vanilla wafer cookies from Back to Nature.  In the past, I ignored recipes that called for 'nilla wafers, so thank you Back to Nature for filling this much-needed hole in the vegan product market.

For the crust:
  • 1 cup vanilla wafer cookies (such as Back to Nature)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted vegan butter
  • Cooking spray
For the praline:
  • 1/4 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plain non-dairy creamer
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1/2 cup sifted vegan powdered sugar
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • 1 and 3/4 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. To prepare the crust, place the cookies in a food processor and process until finely ground.  Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the melted butter; pulse about 3 times, until just combined.  Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and a little up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

2. While the pie crust cools, prepare the praline: combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, the creamer, and 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, then cook for 3 minutes without stirring.  Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar, stirring with a whisk.  Spoon into the prepared crust.  Chill for 30 minutes, until completely cooled.

3. While the praline cools, prepare the custard filling: combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and Ener-G egg in a bowl, stirring with a whisk - the mixture will be quite thick.  Place the milk in a small, heavy saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until bubbles form around the edges, but before it comes to a boil - a candy thermometer should read between 150 to 160 degrees at this point.  Gradually add the hot milk to the sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk, then transfer the whole mixture back to the saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then continue to cook for 1 minute, still stirring constantly - the mixture should be thick.

4. Remove from heat and spoon the custard into a bowl.  Place this bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and let stand for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the custard cools to room temperature.  Remove from the bowl of ice and stir in the vanilla extract.  Spoon the custard mixture evenly over the cooled praline layer, spreading to the edges of the crust with a spatula.  Cover and chill for at least 8 hours - the pie filling should be firm.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 wedge), Calories 261 

Tasting Notes:
Oh my goodness, if you don't have a sweet tooth, abstain from this recipe.  Sugar sugar sugar.  If you do have a sweet tooth (like me) then you are going to gobble this pie up in about 30 seconds.  Use your thinnest spatula to remove the pie from the pie plate, or you risk leaving the cookie crust behind. I actually wished there was something to offset the very smooth filling - some chopped nuts stirred into the custard perhaps? - but nonetheless my vegan custard set perfectly and was deliciously sweet.


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