(adapted from Maida Heatter’s New Book of Great Desserts and The Fannie Farmer Baking Book)
one 9” fully baked pie shell of your choice, cooled
4 egg yolks
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons water
½ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt (you can use ¼ teaspoon; I prefer salty with sweet)
2½ cups milk (don’t substitute skim or lowfat)
1¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon
In a medium size bowl, whisk the egg yolks and set aside. In a heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter over medium heat until it just turns nutty brown. Carefully transfer the browned butter to a heatproof bowl. (This helps to prevent the butter from burning.) Place the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of water into the heavy pan you used to melt the butter. Stir to combine, then add the browned butter back to the pan with the brown sugar and water. Cook this mixture over medium heat until it boils and begins to caramelize; this takes about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully add ½ cup of heavy cream. The mixture will sputter; whisk until smooth and set aside.
In a 3 qt. saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch, flour and salt. Gradually whisk in ½ cup of milk until the cornstarch and flour are completely dissolved. Gradually stir in the remaining 2 cups of milk. Then stir in the browned butter/brown sugar/cream mixture. Place over low to medium heat and cook, constantly scraping the bottom and sides of the pan with a rubber spatula, until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue to scrape the pan and let the mixture boil for one minute. Remove from the heat.
Set a kitchen towel beneath the bowl of egg yolks to keep it steady, and slowly whisk in a few large spoonfuls of the hot mixture to the egg yolks to temper them. Whisk in a few more spoonfuls of the mixture, then pour the yolk mixture back into the remaining hot milk mixture, whisking well. Place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring with a spatula, just until the mixture comes to a very low boil. Continue to stir and scrape the pan; let it simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract and the bourbon. Pour the filling into the cooled baked pie shell, cover with a piece of buttered plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours. (If you have the patience, the pie slices best when it sits in the refrigerator overnight. I do not.)
Just before serving, prepare the whipped cream.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, place:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Whip just until the cream holds stiff peaks. Remove the plastic wrap from the refrigerated pie and swirl the whipped cream decoratively on top of the pie.