Grandmother's Graham Cracker Torte
12 full sheets graham crackers (24 squares)
1/4 c butter, melted
1 egg white
4 egg yolks
3 c milk
1 vanilla bean
1/2 c + 2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
1/3 c + 1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 c water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Place graham crackers in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Crush with a rolling pin. Remove to a medium bowl. Add butter; combine thoroughly (I use my hand). Stir in egg white. Press into the bottom of a 9"x9" square glass dish, reserving 1/3 to 1/2 cup crumbs. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 325. Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Scrape seeds of vanilla bean; add seeds and pod to milk. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks, 1/2 c + 2 Tbsp sugar and 1/4 c cornstarch; whisk well. When milk boils, ladle some milk into egg yolk mixture, whisk to lighten, then whisk egg mixture into pot. Whisk continuously until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Remove vanilla pod; rinse under running water, pat dry and reserve to add to a canister of sugar. Pour custard mixture onto prepared graham cracker crust. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine 1 Tbsp each sugar and cornstarch. Pour in water; whisk to mix. Boil mixture for 15 seconds, then remove from heat and set aside, covered.
In a medium bowl, whip egg whites with electric mixer until frothy. Add cream of tartar, 1/3 c sugar and vanilla. Whip until stiff peaks form. Whip in cornstarch-sugar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. When thoroughly incorporated, whip 10 additional seconds. Spread over hot custard filling, sealing to edges. Sprinkle with reserved crumbs. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool thoroughly, then refrigerate. Serves 16.