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Sugar cream custard with chunks of pineapple, inspired by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Don’t panic! The key both to pie baking and intergalactic hitchhiking, as it turns out. Irreverent, absurd, entirely improbable, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a pillar of 20th century science fiction distinguished by its tongue in cheek sense of humor.

 

Spoiler-Free Summary:

Arthur Dent’s house has been scheduled for demolition for months. Unbeknownst to him and to everyone else, so has his planet. When the earth is destroyed by a bureaucratic vogon horde to make way for a new hyperspacial express route, Arthur’s best friend, Ford Prefect (who is not, in fact, from Guilford, but from a planet near Betelgeuse) throws out his thumb and the two hitch a ride off world. Ford, it turns out, is a writer and researcher for the infamous, encyclopedic, ever-updating tome “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” During their escape, the alien and the uptight Englishman get caught up in the universe’s greatest ship jacking and inadvertently begin a quest to find the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. (Spoiler alert: the answer is 42.)

 

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Notes from the Piebrary:

Douglas Adams was an atheist, environmental activist, and technology enthusiast. Combine a healthy respect for scientific advancement with a dry British wit and an irreverent disregard for genre conventions and you have The Hitchhiker’s Guide. That is not to say book lacks in philosophical depth, or that other science fiction does not have a sense of humor, but the depth of this book stems from the humor, and that always strikes me as fairly unique.

It is almost as if Adams is stifling a laugh with one hand and gesturing at some everyday, mundane thing with the other; pointing out the absurdity of bureaucracy or the almost painful amount of life wasted wondering about the meaning of life itself. The Guide is a healthy dose of bathos, I think intended to cut and humble a reader. Speculative fiction exists to help us imagine what we could be, The Guide reminds us that we will always be human.

 

Parsing this Pie:

In the book, galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox steals Heart of Gold, a highly advanced spaceship with an improbability drive. It is, ostensibly, based on some aspect of quantum theory wherein a subatomic particle may likely be in one place, however, it could also be in another entirely separate place light years away. If you can control probability, you could pass between the two probable places that something exist almost instantaneously. However, god only knows if you’d show up in the same form you left in. When the improbable becomes entirely possible, you may find yourself transformed into a banana if you’re not careful.

The Heart of Gold is described as being shaped like a white running shoe. I wanted to get the pure, sleek white of the ship, but with some sort of golden surprise on the inside. Sugar cream pie is a dessert that (apparently) migrated from western Europe, to Canada, and trickled down into the American Midwest, where it is most frequently associated with the state of Indiana (I first read about it in the Hoosier Mama Book of Pie). The custard combines cornstarch and milk and comes out delicious, but at the cost of being this slightly off-putting white color. As for the gold at the center? Pineapple; because it seemed like the oddest, weirdest, prickliest fruit to pick. It was highly improbable that it would have anything relevant to do with Hitchhiker’s Guide, and so it was also somehow perfect.

 

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Recipe:

Crust:
-1 cup flour
-1/3 cup butter
-2-3 tbs water

Filling:
-1/4 cup cornstarch
-1 1/2 cup whole milk
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-3/4 cup sugar
-8 tbs unsalted butter
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2 tsp almond extract*
-1 can chunked pineapple

*I did not include the almond extract when I made this pie. However, after suggesting that something was missing, Piebrary intern Haley suggested trying almond extract to compliment the pineapple, like in pineapple upside down cake. Try this addition at your own risk, but give it a bit of kick. I might also try Ameretto if you’re the drinking sort.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine crust ingredients until they come together in a shaggy dough. See the crust tutorial for more. Roll out and line your pie tin, blind bake until browned around the edges.

Drain chunked pineapple, set chunks on a thick layer of paper towels. You want them to be as dry as possible because pineapple juice has an enzyme that prevents things (like custard) from congealing.

In a medium saucepan not yet over heat, combine the cornstarch with a bit of milk until it becomes a smooth paste. Add the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and butter and whisk smooth. Cook over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes, until thickened. When it bubbles it will jump and steam disturbingly, just a heads up. Stir in vanilla and almond extract.

Line the blind baked crust with the drained pineapple and then pour custard over top. Cool at room temperature for about an hour and then chill in the refrigerator overnight.

A favorite desert at the restaurant at the end of the universe: serve with gold sprinkles, if you have them.

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