Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mamaw Georgie's Vanillla Cream Pie

We moved a lot when I was a kid.  As in, more than most military families.  I'm sure that those experiences are much of what made me who I am.  One of the big constants in my life though, was my Mamaw Georgie's vanilla cream pie.

Every time that we went to her house, there was a beautiful, meringue topped pie waiting the moment we walked in the door.  Even with all the memories of my Mamaw and the things she gave to me before she died, vanilla cream pie is what really takes me back.

When I was in high school, I got the recipe from my Aunt Mavis.  I wrote the recipe down, and I never really thought much about it until after I got married and Mavis was ill.  I wanted that comfort food.  The part of food that makes your heart say "I am loved".

Even the smell of the custard cooking takes me  back to my last Christmas with Mamaw when when I was about 11 years old.  Throw some coffee smells in, and it's like a time machine.

After I was married and we bought our first house, I made quite a few pies.  Some better than others.  I started with Mavis' base recipe, haphazardly scribbled on a sheet of paper (along with recipes for cinnamon candy, M&M cookies, and cole slaw).

Mamaw Georgie's Vanilla Cream Pie:

9" pie crust
1 small can cream (this means a can of evaporated milk)
1 can full of water
3/4 c Sugar
2 egg yolks
3 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp vanilla
(For chocolate add 1/3 c cocoa)
Cook until thick
2 or 3 egg whites
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Beat whites until stiff peaks
Broil until browned

That recipe is pretty close to what Mamaw Georgie made.  It's a little taste of love to my belly.

But, the first time I made it, I used sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk (because, really, this city girl didn't know that a can of cream was really evaporated milk).

The funny thing is, accidents can be happy accidents.  It turns out that using sweetened condensed milk makes for a really rich, intense flavor.

My dad prefers the original, but my husband like Mamaw's pie made with sweetened condensed milk (and home made vanilla extract, none of that store bought or imitation stufff).

A few things that I've discovered along the way make the recipe a little less obtuse.

1.  Mix the can of water (make it cold water) with the corn starch before adding it to the combination
2.  Beat the egg yolks before putting them in the mix
3.  Cook the filling over medium heat in a saucepan or large deep skillet, stirring constantly
4.  Put the meringue on the filling while it's still hot (otherwise, it likes to weep and separate, a  lot).
5.  The meringue recipe here is pretty weak.  I use 3 egg whites, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, 1/4 c sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla now.   Any meringue recipe you like will do though.  Some hold up better than others.
6.  When making meringue, make sure that you let the egg whites come to room temp before beating

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