Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Greater love hath no man (or woman) than to bake a friend a pie!

The school FINALLY ended on Friday, May 15th (yeah--she lives!). But instead of having a nice, relaxing week off before the first summer session began, I immediately contracted the most HIDEOUS chest cold (for a few days there, I was convinced that I had been stricken with the swine flu!), PLUS I was scheduled to attend a conference on instructional technology at Oswego State. I really felt too sick to go, but this was the first year that the conference and summer school didn't overlap. So I drug my sorry self across the state to enjoy a few days of learning about how to use Second Life, Facebook, Twitter, video games, and yes, even blogging, for educational purposes. Despite my being so under the weather, it really was fun, and we had a very jolly crew from the college that all went together in school van and stayed in the dorms there at Oswego. Moreover, I bought the CUTEST little pink Acer netbook (and many precious pink accessories, including a carrying case, cordless mouse, mousepad, and flash drive) to take with me to use at the conference, and people went GA-GA over it, especially the women. Like me, they were enchanted by its diminutive size and mostly by the girly pinkness of it! Tee hee.

We were at the conference Tuesday through Friday, and then back home to recuperate over the Memorial Day Weekend before my class started on Tuesday, May 26. I was feeling much better, but still had a nagging cough, and I wasn't sure how I was going to manage lecturing, never mind having the energy to make it through a two hour and fifteen minute class each day! Though it should be said, I was very thankful to have the opportunity to teach the class at all, as many others had been cancelled due to low enrollment, and I wasn't relishing the idea of having to temp or get a side job at the mall or somewhere if it didn't go! Nevertheless, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself for having to return to work so soon without what I would consider to be a sufficient break. But then I got to thinking about some of my non-teaching colleagues at school who always have to work twelve months of the year, and I felt both chagrined at my bad attitude and appreciative of these dedicated and long-suffering employees.

One of my pals at school is a dear fellow called John Petro, who is one of our awesome Student Support Counselors and just an all-around cool guy. He and I were chatting recently about an upcoming pie-baking workshop that I'll be teaching. He asked what kind of pies we'd be making in the class, and when I mentioned that I like to include one cream pie, his eyes lit up, and he confessed that banana cream and coconut cream were two of his very favorites. Well, that's all a passionate cook needs to hear--that she could make someone happy by baking him one of his favorite pies! But which one: banana cream or coconut cream? Then I thought, why not BOTH? Banana and coconut are tropical flavors that go well together, right? (I only know this in theory, as I personally hate them both!) Why not banana-coconut cream? Better yet, I thought, why not add some chocolate to the mix, too (which is rarely a bad idea!)? And since I seemed to be running with a Caribbean theme, why not a little rum for good measure? Before I knew it, I was inventing a pie that I decided to name "Johnny's Jamaican Vacation," in honor of my buddy, John, who deserves a tropical excursion, but who had to settle for a pie.

On the bottom of a pre-baked pie shell, there was a layer of bittersweet ganache, then a layer of sliced bananas, then more ganache, then a coconut pastry cream spiked with a wee bit of dark rum, topped with sweetened whipped cream, and finally, some toasted coconut. I regret that I cannot show you a picture of the inside layers of a slice of the pie, as it was a gift, and I gave it away in its pristine, uncut state. But I heard from several people who had a piece that the layers looked (and tasted) great! That makes me happy, but mostly, I am pleased that John chose to share his special pie with many of the other hard-working folks on the first floor, because he's just that kind of guy! And they all deserve a special treat down there, as they work so hard year-round for our students. Maybe you know someone where you work who deserves a pie like this, too?

Johnny's Jamaican Vacation Pie

9-inch single pie crust

6 oz. (one cup) semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
4 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced

Coconut Pastry Cream:
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon corn starch
pinch of salt
2 large eggs plus one egg yolk
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons dark rum
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Blind bake the pie shell for 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 350, remove the parchment and pie weights, and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool. (While the oven is hot, you might want to go ahead and toast a half cup of the shredded coconut for about five minutes at 350 until golden brown, then set aside to cool.)

Over a double boiler (or in three or four one-minute intervals in the microwave), melt the chocolate, butter, cream, and corn syrup. When completely melted, stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool while you make the coconut pastry cream.

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, bring the half-and-half to a simmer. (If I had had some, I would have swapped out coconut milk for some, if not all, of the half-and-half.) In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, corn starch, salt, eggs and yolk until smooth. Temper the egg mixture with a little of the hot half-and-half, then gradually add more and more until all of the half-and-half is incorporated. Pour the whole mixture back into the sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat, strain if desired (I always do), and then add the butter and one cup of the shredded (untoasted) coconut, along with the vanilla and rum. Chill completely over an ice bath, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whip one half cup of heavy cream with one tablespoon of powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled pastry cream to lighten it.

To assemble the pie, spread one half of the chocolate ganache in the bottom of the baked and cooled pie shell, cover with one layer of the sliced bananas, then top with the remaining ganache. Refrigerate until the ganache firms up (30 minutes to an hour). Spoon in the coconut pastry cream and smooth/even out the top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours or, preferably, overnight.

When the pie is completely chilled and set, whip one cup of heavy cream with two tablespoons of powdered sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla until stiff peaks form. Cover the pie with the whipped cream, then sprinkle with the toasted coconut. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve.


Unknown said...

Wow! that pie sounds delicious..all you have to do is step outside for some of the ingredients...i was wondering about the ingredients...however i found a great resource where i can find the gammut of food products from around the world.

Randi said...

Too bad you're a cream pie hater. CI's coconut cream pie is too die for!!