Crema de Pinon
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/4 cups pine nuts, toasted (see Note) and coarsely chopped
- Zest of 1 large orange
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch, thoroughly mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 6 tablespoons Grand Mariner or other orange liqueur
- 2/3 cup orange juice
- 22 (4 inch) ladyfinger cookies
- 2 tablespoons whole pine nuts, for garnish
In a medium heavy saucepan, bring the milk to a boil, being careful not to let it boil over. Remove from the heat and immediately add 1/2 cup of the pine nuts, the orange zest, and the vanilla bean. Cover and let steep for 30 minutes, then strain out and discard the nuts and orange zest and return the mixture to a clean pan (wash and dry the vanilla bean and reserve to use again).
Bring up almost to a boil over medium high heat and add the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Place the cornstarch-sugar mixture in a small bowl and stir 1/4 cup of the hot milk into it, stirring until it is a paste. Add the cornstarch mixture back into the hot milk and stir it in well. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly.
In a small bowl, add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks and whisk together well. Return this mixture to the pan and continue to cook, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to be sure none of the mixture scorches. Cook until the mixture is a thick coating consistency and you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 3/4 cup pine nuts.
In a shallow bowl, combine the Grand Mariner and the orange juice. Dip whole ladyfingers into the mixture, soaking for about 2 seconds, then lay an even layer of them in the base of the pan. For the sides of the pan, break the ladyfingers in half, soak them in the juice mixture, and prop them all around the sides of the dish, cut side down, like a picket fence. Scoop the cream mixture into the prepared dish and spread it evenly. Garnish with pine nuts.
Cool to room temperature and serve within 4 hours.
Note: To toast pine nuts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside to cool.
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