July 22, 2005
Peanut Butter Pie
posted by Carl

The Oreo cookie pie shell had been sitting in our cupboard for almost a year before I finally found the time to make a peanut butter pie. We had originally bought it in the Catskills when having a party at Nadia's fathers vacation home. As it was, we had enough good food and drink that weekend that we never had time to make the pie. I think we were too busy making the caramel apples and (two!) apple pies to consider the false pie. We had brought along "How to Cook Everything" which, disappointingly, does not include a recipe for peanut butter pie - "Everything" indeed! We scrapped the pie but kept the crust.

It wouldn't be fair to say that I had been thinking about the pie since last September, but, every time I opened the cabinet door, the Oreo cookie crust was staring me in the face to jog my memory. It was when I was watching an episode of "America's Test Kitchen" last weekend when I made the mental leap from the coconut cream pie that they were making to the perfect peanut butter pie that I had been pining for. (Incidentally, watching the segment, Nadia reminded me that I have been wanting to make banana cream pie for almost three years now.)

Originally, I had thought of a peanut butter pie as having a thick sweet peanut butter sauce with some sort of topping to cap it off - basically an 8" peanut butter cup. My previous attempt at a peanut butter sauce had worked fine for a small tart, but wouldn't cut it, I thought, for a larger item. Turning the sauce into a creamy custard was just what was needed to keep the pie from getting too heavy. It turns out that finding "peanut butter custard" on google is much easier than a "peanut butter pie" that I actually want to eat.

Once I had a suitable custard filling, I spruced it up a bit with a base layer of caramel sauce and a topping of whipped cream. Feeling adventurous, I made the caramel sauce in the microwave on the advice of Shirley O. Corriher. I screwed it up the first time, but it was so easy and fast to make another batch that I barely noticed the frustration and delay. The pie was decadently sweet but deliciously comforting. My only complaint, if I can even call it that, was the store-bought crust. Putting on my snob hat (who am I kidding, I never take it off) I would have probably preferred a buttery homemade crust to the somewhat dry store-bought one. Eat this one quickly: after just a day in the refrigerator, it was oozing a syrupy caramel/chocolate juice and losing what little structure it had. It was still delicious, but wasn't much to look at anymore.

Peanut Butter Custard

3 egg yolks
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs butter
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a 2-quart saucepan, mix egg yolks, milk, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add butter. Cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently until mixture boils and thickens, about 15 minutes. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in peanut butter and vanilla extract.

Let the custard cool slightly before pouring into pie crust. Cover and refrigerate pie until set, at least four hours.