There’s a team spirit around here like nothing I’ve ever experienced anywhere else. Everyone goes bananas (or maybe I should say oranges) over our local Syracuse University basketball team, the Syracuse Orange. It’s a passion that has nothing to do with where a person actually went to school, and everything to do with the place we call home. I’ve never seen an entire city so consumed with team spirit. The way a typical city turns green on St. Patty’s Day is the way this place turns orange on the day of an SU game. There’s a sort of magic to it all.
Out of necessity, I broke my unwritten rule and ventured into my grocery store yesterday (on a Saturday) to return some movies I’d rented from Redbox. The place was a predictable madhouse. But there was something else at play inside the store. It was like an unspoken rally for our hometown team. Syracuse balloons floated up from every table. Displays of elaborately decorated SU cookies and orange and blue frosted cupcakes tempted team spirit with sweets. And a full wall of the store was decorated with an arrangement of Fanta and Pepsi boxes in an SU design.
But beyond that, nearly every person I passed was dressed in their favorite Syracuse Orange gear. T-shirts, hats, and hoodies. My grocery store was a living, breathing playground of team spirit. And it was contagious.
I’ve never really followed sports of any kind. Being a Yankees fan is in my blood and I’m darn proud of it, but I barely follow the baseball season. In fact, I know very little about baseball. I didn’t go to an undergrad college known for sports, so I never experienced that swell of excitement on game day. And though my graduate school had some teams to be proud of, I commuted to classes and was never engaged in that part of the school community.
But as I was walking through my grocery store, surrounded by the infectious excitement for our local team, I could feel my blood turn orange. I became a true Syracusian sometime during that grocery trip. I’ve lived here for almost five years now. It’s about time I joined the team. During that grocery trip, I bought myself my first SU t-shirt and a couple shirts for the boys. I even picked up a pack of SU shaped pasta in all of the excitement (though I refused to get the SU antennae balls that the boys insisted they needed).
And I made this pie. I call it an Orange Creamsicle Custard Pie, since it’s got the sweet flavors of fresh orange combined with a smooth vanilla custard…reminiscent of a bite into a frozen Creamsicle bar. I nestled the custard into a vanilla cookie crust and topped it with vanilla accented whipped cream and fresh orange slices. The boys are calling it ‘SU Pie’. Whatever you call it, don’t cheat on the fresh oranges with pre-squeezed juice. The fresh zest is one the MVPs when it comes to the flavor in this recipe. Use fresh oranges.
We let the boys stay up late last night to see the beginning of the game. They wore their new t-shirts, ate SU pasta salad and SU pie, and created long lists for all of the SU gear our family suddenly needs. Our team ended their run for the season last night, but it’s ok. It was a good game. I think I could get into watching basketball. In fact, I think this could be the start of something…
Orange Creamsicle Custard Pie
For the Crust
- 2 cups vanilla wafers, crushed to fine crumbs
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, melted
For the Filling
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange zest*
- 3 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice*
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
To prepare the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the vanilla wafer crumbs and the melted butter. Press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of a pie dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
To prepare the filling: Combine the milk, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract, salt, and orange zest in a sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5-6 minutes until the mixture comes to a gentle boil and begins to thicken. (It should be quite noticeable when the thickening occurs.) Remove from heat. In a bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks. Slowly add about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add another 1/4 cup of the hot milk and whisk to combine. (This slow addition of the hot liquid tempers the egg yolks and prevents them from scrambling when added to the hot liquid.) Pour the egg mixture into the pot. Bring the mixture to a very gentle boil, whisking constantly. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture becomes even thicker. Whisk in the orange juice and lemon juice. Cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat. Allow to cool slightly, whisking every few minutes to prevent a skin from forming. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Refrigerate for a few hours to set.
For the whipped cream: Beat together the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until thick. Use the whipped cream and additional fresh oranges or fresh orange zest to garnish the pie, as desired.