“He who doesn’t want to knead, sifts for ten days.”
-Greek saying

I may have mentioned that I’m a bit of a procrastinator. It just happens; you start watching “Dollhouse” and can’t stop (a-ma-zing), you decide to watch “Pushing Daisies” (gorgeous cinematography and adorable) and, before you know it, you find yourself at the end of season 1. Maybe you could be writing, but instead you choose to get books out of the library (a worthy and necessary task) and attempt to read all of the pertinent articles (rather stupidly, but also, to look at the other side of the coin, ambitiously) because, hey, you’d like to write a well-researched and thoughtful prospectus. However, just like when watching a season of television, when reading from a random array of sources that just might end up being useful and pertinent, you sometimes hit upon the worst thing ever: what I like to call the “pertinent clunker” that you know you must read in its entirety, yet dread doing because, god help us all, it’s so very, very dull (just for the record, that was not a deliberate attempt at rhyme). In short, my current plight with Dmitry Merezhkovsky, author of the collection of essays entitled “Sick Russia” (doesn’t that say it all?); there are moments that, I’ll admit, are blazingly good and perfect for my project, but they come maybe every other 7-8 pages and the language is hard, dense, repetitive and also mind-numbingly overwrought. So, what’s a girl to do? Make a cup of tea and write a blog post about the tasty green tea cream pie with sweet red beans and strawberries you made this past week.

Yep, it hasn’t all been about the Merezhkovsky.

What was the inspiration for this decadent dessert? 1) A recipe I saw for Strawberry and Banana Cream Pie on Joy the Baker’s blog, and 2) a friend and I had long ago planned a cookbook exchange–my Chinese cookbook for her Indian cookbook –and, after making said exchange, she invited me over to cook up a Chinese feast of Fish-fragrant bean curd and spicy boy choy with her (deliciousness has abounded this summer, as well as the joy of cooking with friends). As the Chinese aren’t really into dessert (this tradition is changing, but fruit tends to be the norm), I decided to use my Japanese know-how and love of all things green tea flavored to whip something up that would complement the meal and suit the American need for sweet things after something savory.

Will this kind of dessert be for everybody? While my guess would be probably not, my deep-seated belief is that it should be. Eating this pie I was reminded of the mile + trek I would make to the local grocery store from the high school I used to work at and how, upon arriving, I would eagerly look at all of the desserts and choose some tasty-looking green tea bun with red bean paste (anko) inside or how, when I would go shopping with a fellow JET and close friend in Kyoto, we would sometimes make our way over to Gion for the best (the Japanese have an obsession with the best or, in this case, ichiban oishii, most delicious) green tea ice cream in town. Those were good days, good times and I was glad this past week to have this pie as a little afternoon getaway from Merezhkovsky. A slice of pie and an episode of “Pushing Daisies” (featuring a character known as Ned the Pie-Maker) embodies what summer afternoons should be.

Green Tea Cream Pie with Anko and Strawberries
Yields 1 9″ pie
Partially adapted from the above Joy the Baker link

Red Bean (Anko) Filling
-Soak beans (1 1/4 cup) for 12 hours
-Drain and rinse
-Add to pot and cover with 5 cups cold water
-Bring to boil, simmer for about an hour and 10 minutes or until beans are soft and falling apart
-Add 8 teaspoons sugar (or, depending on your taste, more), and mash with a fork
-Beans will keep for up to 3-4 days in the fridge

Green Tea Custard Filling

2 cups 2% milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (I used 1/2 tsp., but should have used 1; don’t make my mistake!)
3 Tablespoons butter
1 heaping Tbsp. matcha powder (best to whisk first to remove lumps)
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
Pinch of salt

-Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
-In a large saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the cornstarch, brown sugar, and salt until well blended and thick. Whisking without stopping, drizzle about 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, warming the eggs so they don’t cook and curdle. Still whisking, slowly add the rest of the hot milk in a steady steam.
-Place the pan over medium heat and, whisking constantly (even the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Boil, still whisking for one minute before removing from the pan from the heat. Mixture will be thick and silky (watch out, once the mixture starts to boil, it will thicken very quickly). Don’t be afraid to remove the pan from the flame to whisk it smooth.
-Whisk in the green tea powder and then the vanilla extract.
-Whisk in the butter, stirring until fully incorporated and the custard is smooth and silky. Transfer custard to a medium bowl, cover it with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold throughout.
-Custard can be refrigerated up to three days.

Tart Crust (the beauty of this was that there was no rolling pin involved!)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoons (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold or frozen, cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk

-Put the flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor fit the the blade attachment.
– Pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of cold butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in (there will be pieces of butter that are the size of oatmeal flakes and butter the size of peas).
– Beat the egg yolk with a fork and add a little of the egg yolk at a time to the flour mixture. Pulse for 10 seconds at a time. When the egg is in, process in longer pulses until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that may have escaped mixing.
-Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and the sides of the pan.
-Press the crust so that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking.
-Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of foil and fit the foil, butter side down, tightly against the frozen crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 22-25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust is puffed, gently press it down with your fingers.
-Bake the uncovered crust for 3 to 5 more minutes (depending on how brown the edges are; the goal is GOLDEN) on the baking sheet.
-Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.

-When ready to assemble the pie, slice strawberries (about 8-10) and place on cooled pie crust, reserving a few for the top layer.
-Whisk the cold custard to loosen and then top the strawberries with the custard.
-Add red beans, making sure to arrange it so that the green tea custard is visible (it’s pretty!)
-Place a the remaining strawberries on top of the pie.
-If you feel compelled to add another layer, whipped cream would work nicely here. 🙂

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