Almond Cream Pie

The holidays are one of my favorite times to bake. Of course, truly any time of year qualifies as a good time to spend in the kitchen for me. And when the foodie gears in my head start clunking around, I get bit by the cooking bug and can't get enough.

This time, I was on a pie spree. You see, I find food gifts to be one of my favorite presents. While a specialty pie or batch of cookies from the store may seem like a small gift, homemade goodies take time, effort, and of course, caring enough about a person to pay attention to his or her favorite foods. It's like when I go gift shopping for a person, I usually have an inkling on what direction to go as I pay attention over time to what a person has shown interest in. For my former supervisor's birthday, I made red velvet cheesecake. Why? The guy had pointed out many times in the past that red velvet everything was just the best choice ever. It made my decision easy.



So, pies, cakes, steaks, or whatever suits a person's fancy is often an upgrade to one of those "I don't know what to get this person" store bought-presents (and especially a gift card!). A little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way, and a sweet treat often brings on the smiles.

Brainstorming recipes is a rather enjoyable hobby of mine, and after some pie pondering I came up with a new one: Almond Cream Pie. Being that I had made Banana Cream Pie a while back (and it was phenomenal), I stuck to the basic recipe format and just adjusted a smidge to get the flavor I needed. Essentially, the filling is a vanilla custard with almonds. Yum.

I started out by adding the sugar, brown sugar, and flour to a small saucepan. Next, I turned the heat to medium, then slowly stirred in the milk. I brought the mixture to a boil, stirring it frequently, and then let it cook for about 10 minutes before taking it off the burner. The pudding mixture started to really thicken during this process. In the mean time, I beat the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl, then spooned in some of the hot pudding mixture. I whisked the pudding and eggs together thoroughly to temper the eggs, then slowly poured the eggs back into the pan. I heated the stove back to low, and cooked the pudding for a few more minutes until it was very thick, continuing to stir through this process.


I had grabbed some sliced almonds at the grocery, so hey, why not grind 'em up and mix 'em right in the filling?!


Once they were a nice powdery consistency, I stirred them right into the pudding, then poured it into the crust.


With some whipped cream and sliced almonds on top, I had a beautiful pie ready for the taking. Man, whipped cream is much easier to work with than frosting!



Flavorwise, good results all around! Ok, and I'm just going to toot my own horn here and say that looks-wise, it's pretty snazzy as well. The end result of my baking (or stove-top cooking, I should say) experiment was a smooth, creamy, almond flavored pie filling. The almonds were ground up well enough to not cause a sandy texture, but rather enhanced the almond flavor that the extract had already added.

Almond Cream Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

For the pie:
8-10 graham crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups milk
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup almonds, finely ground

For the whipped cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Add finely crushed graham crackers and melted butter together in a pie dish. Mix with hands and press into dish to form crust. In a medium saucepan, mix sugar, flour, and salt. Heat to medium, and gradually stir in milk. Continue cooking for about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Boil for about 1 minute, then remove from heat. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks. Spoon in some of the heated mixture to temper the eggs, then whisk to combine. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the pan, stirring quickly, and return to low heat. Continue cooking while stirring until mixture is very thick. Do not boil. Remove from heat, then stir in butter, almond and vanilla extract. Mix in ground almonds. Pour filling into crust.  Refrigerate and let pie set for 4 hours, covering the filling with plastic wrap. For the whipped cream topping, beat heavy cream for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  Spread over pie and top with sliced bananas. Keep refrigerated.

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