Bored with the usual selection of fruit and pecan pies, we decided to create something a little different this year. We were inspired by classic vanilla cream pies, but wanted something with a bit more substance. So we created a penuche fudge filling that gets hidden beneath the layer of vanilla custard. Add a shortbread crust and we had a winner.
It is important to assemble this pie only just before serving; the penuche will soften once the custard layer is added. Luckily, the layers can be prepared well in advance. The penuche can be poured into the crust and held at room temperature for up to two days. The custard can be refrigerated for two days.
PENUCHE CREAM PIE
Start to finish: 2 hours (40 minutes active)
8 to 8 3/4-ounce package shortbread cookies
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
Pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)
Heat the oven to 350 F.
In a food processor, pulse the shortbread cookies and flour until they are reduced to fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse just until evenly moistened. Press the crumbs over the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the penuche layer. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the brown sugar, 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, the corn syrup, 1/2 cup of the cream, and the salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture reaches 230 F on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour into the prepared pie crust. Allow to cool at room temperature.
While the penuche cools, prepare the custard. In a medium bowl, combine the cornstarch with the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Add the yolks and beat until smooth. Set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium, heat the milk along with the vanilla bean, splitting and scraping the inside of the pod into the milk. When the milk comes to a simmer, slowly pour it into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the entire thing back into the pan and heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens.
Remove the vanilla bean and transfer the custard to a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly over the custard and refrigerate until completely chilled.
When ready to serve, whip the remaining 1 cup of cream with the powdered sugar until soft peaks form. Pour the custard over the penuche filling in the pie, then top with whipped cream and toasted nuts, if desired.
Nutrition information per serving: 600 calories; 300 calories from fat (50 per cent of total calories); 33 g fat (18 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 160 mg cholesterol; 71 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 55 g sugar; 6 g protein; 180 mg sodium.