When it comes to peanut butter pie, I’m a purist. Keep your peanut butter/chocolate combos and cream cheese concoctions – I’m talkin’ ’bout one thing and one thing ONLY: real, honest-to-goodness, diner-style peanut butter cream pie. The kind that overwhelms you with pure peanut butter goodness, bite after bite, and leaves you weeping softly into your napkin when it’s all gone. It’s my all-time favorite dessert, and I’m ecstatic to report that it’s just as delicious when made sugar free.
Sweet Pie of Youth
The first slice of peanut butter pie I ever had was dished up at Dean’s Diner, a nice little place with original diner fixtures and an awesome sign located about an hour outside of Pittsburgh, PA. My grandparents took me there when I was a kid and blew my mind with Dean’s homemade peanut butter pie, and ever since, I’ve been pouring over recipes and conducting ample field research in hope of creating my own equally delicious version.
My Dean’s-inspired mission has now been accomplished. I am truly delighted to be able to share my recipe for diner-style peanut butter pie, and not only is it sugar free, I dare say it’s at least as good as Dean’s. And it turns out it’s very easy to make – just a simple cream pie base, loaded with peanut butter and just the right blend of spice to make something good into pure diner pie magic.
Yup, it’s sugar free, but it sure ain’t calorie free. Granted, it would be astronomically caloric if you made it with sugar, but even without, there’s a lot of peanut butter and pie crust to contend with here. I can’t recommend this dessert in good conscience if you’re actively trying to lose weight, unless you have a lot more self control than I do.
However, everyone needs a treat once in a while, and if you’re going to treat yourself, it might as well be to something earth-shatteringly delicious. Throwing modesty to the wind, I assure you this is the mother of all peanut butter pies. And as the available splurges out there go, it’s really not incredibly unhealthy. It’s a heck of a lot healthier than any comparable dessert made with sugar, and the best part is you just can’t tell this is a sugar free dessert from the taste. Make this to share with your loved ones or take it to a party, and sure as Dean blew my mind with peanut butter goodness, you’ll blow theirs.
Diner-Style Peanut Butter Pie
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
3 cups fat-free evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups Stevia In The Raw or sucralose
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt or salt substitute
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of chili powder
for the meringue (optional, but fancy):
4 egg whites, at room temperature (cold egg whites don’t whip up very well)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup Stevia In The Raw or sucralose
Prepare the pie crust and set it aside. You can make it up to a few days ahead if you like.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, whisk the egg yolks, milk, sweetener, flour and salt together. Cook the mixture for about ten minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the peanut butter, vanilla, cinnamon and chili powder. Once all the ingredients are well combined, pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell.
If you’re going to enjoy your peanut butter pie without meringue topping, you’re all done. You can cut into the pie right away, but the custard filling is likely to be badly behaved and not hold a firm shape – you can see what I mean in the pics, which were taken when my pie was freshly made. It’s going to be kind of a peanut butter avalanche at this point, which for sure has it’s own appeal, but if you want it to stay in neat pieces, pop the pie into the fridge for at least an hour before cutting slices. The longer the pie is refrigerated, the firmer and neater your slices will be.
If you’re making a meringue topping, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a large metal (preferable) or ceramic mixing bowl by making sure it’s been thoroughly cleaned, then lightly wiping the inside with lemon juice or vinegar, then a clean paper towel. This will make sure there’s absolutely no residue of anything in there which will interfere with your egg whites whipping up nicely.
Put your egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl, and use an electric mixer on medium-high speed to whip them into a white foam which holds soft peaks. Add the sweetener and continue to whip until they look glossy and hold firm peaks. Spread the meringue atop the pie and pop it into the oven for about ten minutes. I left mine in a little too long, resulting in a sort of deep golden brown meringue. Typically, this is not what you want.
My experience with meringue is that it tends to seep a bit of liquid onto your pie, no matter what you do. This is just water separating from the protein in the egg white, and while annoying, is really no big deal. If it gets really bad, carefully tilt the pie to one side over the sink and let it drain off.