In case you didn’t already know, today is Pi Day. This is the day when cooking enthusiasts and mathematicians come together to celebrate the fact that March 14th is 3.14 which is a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to it’s diameter. I wish I could say I knew this by heart, but I’m really not that smart, at least not when it comes to math. I looked it up online. Just now. Anyhow today is the day when we all talk, dream, share, and eat nothing but pie all day long because we as a human race love puns and fun food holidays such as this one. Especially when said food holiday consists of all things pie. Last year I was very ambitious, and determine to share two recipes on Pi Da, so I posted this Strawberry Cream Pie (I have a thing for cream pies), and this Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal Raisin Pie (cinnamon roll crust equals dreams).
This year I wasn’t so ambitious, mostly because I’ve been shooting a lot of miscellaneous food projects this week, so you only get one pie recipe this time around. It’s okay though because it’s a really good pie recipe. I decided to share a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Incredibly Decadent Desserts from the people over at Cooking Light. I love this book, mainly because it’s a beautiful book, visually. The photographs are amazing, and the recipes are interesting. I have to be honest, I’m not one for cooking “light,” so I do tweak the recipes to put the fat back in them. Sorry. I feel like if you’re going to have a dessert, you might as well have a really good dessert, and that means full fat flavor all the way. This Chai Latte Cream Pie is a banana cream pie (minus the bananas) meets a chai latte and it’s the perfect dessert to make this week.
Let’s start by making the absolute best part of any pie. The only reason to actually even make pie. The crust. I’m a fan of pie crust, like you wouldn’t believe. I love it more than the filling itself. A great crust makes the pie, just like an okay crust would break it. This one is a basic graham cracker crust. In a large bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs with sugar, salt, cornstarch, melted butter, and an egg white.
**Tip: The cornstarch and egg white might seem like crazy ingredients for a graham cracker crust. Believe me, when I first saw that, I thought that’s really weird, but I gotta tell you it makes a world of different. Both help bind the crumbs and helps the crust stay together when you go to slice and serve.**
Pour the crumbs into a 9-inch pie plate and then press down and up the sides. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before filling.
**Tip: If you want to speed this process, you can stick the pan in the freezer to cool it completely. This will also help the crust stick together.**
Now let’s turn our attention to the filling. The chai latte cream filling. This is designed to taste just like a chai latte. In a medium sauce pan, combine the milk, sugar, fresh ginger, spices, salt and cinnamon sticks. Set over medium heat and bring to a slight boil. Remove pan from heat and add in the black tea bags. Let soak, covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring every once in a while.
Drain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl. Discard all of the spices, ginger and tea bags. Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Keep a close eye on the mixture to ensure that it doesn’t bubble over and make a mess.
Whisk together the remaining sugar, cornstarch and eggs in a medium bowl. Slowly stream the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until it has all been well incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the pot and return to medium-low heat. Cook the custard until the mixture thickens, stirring with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and place into a large bowl of ice water. Stir in the vanilla, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg, stirring with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted and the custard has come to room temperature.
**Note: This ice bath trick ensures that the custard cools down more quickly, and helps the pie set faster so that you can enjoy it as soon as possible.**
Pour the mixture into the baked and cooled pie crust, spreading it out as evenly as possible with a rubber spatula. Cover the pie with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap actually touches the surface of the custard directly. This will ensure that the pie doesn’t develop a weird skin on top. Place in the freezer and allow the center to set/chill for about 4 to 6 hours.
**Note: I know that 4 to 6 hours seems like a lot, but you have to keep in mind that chilling the pie actually helps a lot when you go to cut and serve the pie.**
This pie is a good one to make ahead of time. Just keep it in the fridge or freezer, well covered with plastic wrap, and then just cut and serve whenever needed. The pie will keep in the freezer for about 1 month, before it starts getting weird.
If you do plan on eating the pie right away, I recommend serving it with a giant dollop of frozen whipped topping on top with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon. To make whipped cream, beat cold heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form, about 8 to 10 minutes.
If you do have leftovers and haven’t eaten the entire thing by yourself (it happens believe me it does) you can store it in the fridge until people are ready to eat. Just let the pie come to room temperature before eating.
**Note: I recommend slicing the pie from the freezer, while it’s chilled and well-firm. If you try to slice the pie while it’s warm, or hasn’t set, you run the risk of the custard flowing out everywhere.**
A good variation on this pie would be to have a chocolate crust with it. I think that the chocolate would pair well with the spices from the custard. Crush up chocolate sandwich cookies in a food processor and use that instead!
I hope you’re all celebrating Pi Day with lots of slices of pie. Even if you haven’t planned your meal just yet, you have to give this one a try very soon. If your’e a big fan of chai lattes, then you’re going to love this pie and I can’t wait for you to try it for yourself. You deserve it. Believe me, you do.
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 9 full sheets)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 large egg white
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon sliced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- pinch of salt
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
- 2 black tea bags
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ground cinnamon for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray, set aside.
- To make the crust, in a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cornstarch, salt, butter and egg white until evenly combined. Pour into the prepared pie plate and press down onto the bottom and up the sides of the plate. Bake until lightly golden brown around the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.
- To make the custard, combine the milk, 1/3 cup sugar, ginger, cardamom, cloves, salt and cinnamon sticks and set over medium heat. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Add in the teabags, cover and let steep for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Drain the mixture into a large bowl, through a fine mesh strainer. Discard all of the spices and teabags, and pour the milk bag into the saucepan. Return over medium heat and bring to a simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and eggs. Very slowly whisk in the warmed milk into the egg mixture, until all the milk has been added. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat; add butter, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, stirring until butter melts.
- Place the pan in a large ice-filled bowl, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the mixture comes to room temperature. Pour the custard into the cooled pie crust and cover with plastic wrap, making sure it touches the surface directly. Chill until set, for about 4 hours, or overnight.
- To make the whipped topping, beat the cream, sugar, and vanilla on high until soft peaks form. Slice the pie and serve with a dollop of cream and a dusting of ground cinnamon. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Enjoy!
- Yield: 8 servings