Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dulche de Yummy.



I live in an area of the country that once was aptly named the “Great American Desert.” I guess the powers that be decided a moniker like that wouldn’t exactly have people chomping at the bit to up and move there, so it is now called the “High Plains.” Conjures up lovely images of gentle breezes (of 40 mph) sweeping over green (brownish) plains (flatlands) doesn’t it? Yes, it is a giant lie. Deserts are not known for their accommodating weather, either. Google haboob, tumbleweed apocalypse, and Winter Storm Goliath if you’re interested in a play-by-play of the seasons here. It’s hot in the desert during the spring, summer, and fall. No kidding, the desert is hot, you say? The ocean is also wet and Britney Spears is also a national treasure…these are all just known facts. But with the heat comes a changing of the taste palette. Clearly I believe in seasonally appropriate desserts. Pumpkin spice belongs in the fall, peppermint in the winter, and mint in March. The only dessert I will eat year round is Blue Bell. My Texan heart wants what it wants. But since the cool temps are quickly vanishing and giving way to what I call “UV Level: Sunburn Inferno,” I wanted a dessert that was going to make me forget I live in the desert. Something light, something cool, something sweet (duh)...essentially, something that would give me brief reprieve and make me forget I live in the armpit of America. What dessert in the world could be that powerful? Pie. The answer is pie.
Of the cream variety.

Doesn't it look like a delicious caramel-y cloud? That's because it is. Well, specifically, it is a dulce de leche cream pie. This pie would be insanely easy to make if you can get your hands on a can of dulce de leche. We're about to take a turn into sob story territory here...I scoured the aisles at my commissary, but I can't say I was all too surprised when I couldn't find a can of dulce de leche, even when I live within walking distance to the Texas border. I could find La Lechera sweetened condensed milk, and a cursory Google search told me all I needed was a can of condensed milk to make my own dulce de leche. 'How hard could that be?' I thought to myself with a foolhardy, devil may care attitude. Anything not to have to go to our seventh circle of hell (Walmart) in town. So when it came time to make pie, I followed the instructions found here. This honestly wasn't the worst process in the world, but three damn hours to make some caramel? I had caramel sauce in the fridge and nearly decided that would work when we entered hour two. Coincidentally, this is also when I decided I was done literally watching a pot of water simmer (still better than going to Walmart), so I removed my can of condensed milk and let it cool.
At least the rest of this is a piece of cake. Or pie, I suppose.
While my science project was cooling, I got my ingredients together and my pie crust ready. I decided since I was making my own dulce de leche, I'd let the good folks at Pillsbury take care of my pie crust for me. Solid choice. Here's the total breakdown for this recipe:
  • 1 room temp pie crust
  • 1 can of dulce de leche if the baking gods love you, or a can of sweetened condensed milk simmered for two hours
  • 1 block of cream cheese at room temp
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • Optional: a tub of Cool Whip for topping, additional caramel sauce for topping ...and by optional, I really mean you want, nay, need these things for the best pie possible. This isn't like the optional add ons every car salesman in the world will try to sell you. These final two ingredients are functional AND aesthetic.
Fluted and hole-poked. Ready for action!
Start by cooking the pie crust following package directions. Usually for a single-crust pie you want to bake it for 10-12 minutes at 450. Place the crust in the fridge to cool off after it is cooked. In your stand mixer, blend the cream cheese, half the can of dulce de leche, powdered sugar, and vanilla for a few minutes until fully incorporated. Scrape this out of the bowl into another bowl and cover up. Wash out the mixing bowl, dry it, and place it in the fridge to chill for a few minutes. Once it is cold to the touch, get it back out and dump in the heavy whipping cream. Start to blend on low for a minute until it thickens up, then blend on high for several minutes until the cream is nice and fluffy. Add in the sugar and give a final mix. Then dump in the bowl of cream cheese/dulce de leche mix you set aside earlier and give a good blend. Pie filling complete!
Ha! Tricked you into a photo montage. Take out the pie crust once cooled.
Then dump the remaining half a can of dulce de leche into the bottom of the pie crust.
Then spread in the pie filling. No need to get pretty if you heeded my advice (smart cookie) and got Cool Whip for topping.

I put my Cool Whip into a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip...arguably the most versatile of decorating tips! I then just piped stars around the top of my pie.
And I finished up by drizzling more caramel sauce on top.
Once you've gotten to this step, now comes the hard part: put it in the freezer to set for two hours. So if you're like me and had to make your own dulce de leche, you get to bookend this pie with two more hours of waiting and staring a wall, pretty much. Once I set it in the freezer, I literally told this pie it better be the best damn thing I eat all week or it was dead to me. I'm not in the habit of talking to desserts (really), but I'm glad this pie took my not-so-thinly veiled threat seriously. After doing demanding work around/on the house all day (Hi spring break, you were made for hard labor), getting all sweaty and gross, this pie was my ultimate reward for a long day of home improvements and exceedingly warm dog walks. I imagine eating a cloud would taste very similar to eating a slice of this dulce de leche cream pie...a cloud lined in caramel. It is so light but packs the perfect amount of sweetness thanks to the dulce de leche in the filling and the extra layer of it on the bottom of the pie (okay, it was worth the time). It's like the cotton candy of pies, I guess. Melts on the tongue, but won't ever make you feel uncomfortably full. This is an important quality I look for in a dessert because I pretty much eat them nonstop. I've got seven more slices of this pie left, and I'm gonna need them to fuel my remaining spring cleaning. Considering it's so windy outside that everything is pretty much just getting re-covered in a thin film of dirt after I clean it, this pie is going to soothe my frustrations and lamentations. Pie: cheaper than therapy. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
You make me happy when skies are brown...

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