It’s totally normal to recipe-stalk, just so you know. Sites like Pinterest, Foodgawker and Tastespotting make recipe stalking even easier. One recipe I stalked for months before attempting it was Momofuku Milk Bar’s banana cream pie. I admire recipe developer, Christina Tosi’s elaborate dessert recipes. The steps are plentiful and the flavors aren’t compromised because of it. And the creativity that goes into each recipe? Phenomenal, to say the least.
So I stalked many blogs, all of which were home to various bakers who had attempted this gorgeous banana cream pie. I made my own crust to cut out some time from the original recipe, but kept the filling true to the original recipe. I hate to say it, but I was terribly disappointed in the final product. While the banana flavor in the filling was stunningly present, I didn’t care for the texture at all. It wasn’t the fluffy creamy filling I think of when banana cream pie crosses my mind. It was jiggly, slightly odd, and not what I had imagined. The inclusion of both yellow food coloring and gelatin in the filling also had me second guessing this particular pie.
A few weeks later, I decided my quest for a damn good banana cream pie wasn’t over. So, the stalking began again. I read hundreds of variations and decided to try again, taking one key tip from the Momofuku pie failure – I decided to use very, very ripe (almost rotten looking on the outside) bananas in the cream filling, because the sugars in these bananas are plentiful and the flavor of the bananas has much more depth that way. I wanted a filling that was light in texture, but would more or less hold its shape for a sliced pie. I made a custard that isn’t exactly traditional. For color, I added just the slightest bit of turmeric instead of an artificial food coloring that would leave the pie neon and alien-like in color. The crust is my go-to recipe. It’s light and flaky, which works well with the light, fluffy banana cream in this pie.
Banana Cream Pie
Yields one 9-inch pie.
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter, COLD, cubed
6-10 tablespoons ice cold water
For the filling:
3 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 super ripe bananas (black, spotty skins are GOOD in this case) + 1 just ripe banana
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
optional extremely scant 1/8 teaspoon turmeric (for color – and a little goes a LONG way!)
Prepare your pie crust dough: In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg until well combined. Add in the cold, cubed butter, using your fingertips to work it into the flour mixture, working quickly so the butter stays cold. The butter should create small flakes, some about the size of oats and others just slightly larger. Add in the ice cold water, about a tablespoon at a time, using a fork to bring the dough together. Continue adding the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough just comes together.
Turn the dough out to a lightly floured surface (it’s okay for it to be crumbly – we’re about to take care of that right now). Knead the dough gently into a round, semi-flat disc shape. Wrap nice and snugly in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for at least one full hour. This resting time lets the butter solidify a bit, allowing it to break down slower in the oven, creating a flakier crust.
Once the hour or so has passed, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly dust a flat surface with flour. Roll the dough out on your floured surface to a circle about 1/8-inch thick and about 12-inches in diameter. Transfer it to a pie pan. Trim the edge until it has about one inch of overhang. Use your thumb and forefinger of one hand to push the thumb of your other hand, crimping the overhanging crust. Continue this around the crust to create a crimped edge. (Like this!)
Line the pie crust with foil or parchment paper, then top with enough pie weights or dried beans to cover the bottom. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges are nicely golden brown. Remove the weights and foil/parchment paper, then return the crust to your oven for another 5 to 10 minutes until the bottom is nicely golden brown, too. Allow the pie crust to cool completely before adding the filling.
Prepare your pie filling: In a food processor or blender, combine the egg yolks, one cup of the milk, the melted butter, and the three super ripe bananas. Blend until completely smooth. Set aside until needed.
In a medium pot, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt, paying attention to break up any clumps of all of the above ingredients. Turn the heat on to medium and whisk in the remaining milk and the banana mixture. Continue whisking, over medium heat, until the mixture begins to thicken up (7 to 10 minutes). Once the mixture is very, very thick, pour it into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic all the way onto the top of the pudding (this keeps a skin from forming). Refrigerate until completely cooled (1 to 1 1/2 hours).
Make your pie: Pour the whipping cream into the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the whisk attachment to beat the cream over low speed (2 – 4) until it’s frothy. Add the confectioners sugar and continue whisking over medium speed until the mixture begins to thicken. Add the vanilla and whisk the cream until stiff peaks form.
Remove half of the whipped cream, transferring it to a bowl until needed. Add the completely cooled banana mixture to the stand mixer, which should still contain half of the whipped cream. Whisk the mixtures together at low speed until just combined (you can also do this step by hand, using a spatula).
Spoon half of the banana cream mixture into your cooled pie crust, smoothing it out on top. Slice the remaining banana – the one that wasn’t overly ripe – into rounds about 1/8-inch thick. Arrange the bananas over the smoothed cream. Top the bananas with the remaining banana cream filling, again smoothing it out as best as you can.
Use a piping bag or simply a frosting spatula to top the pie with the reserved whipped cream. Refrigerate the pie until you’re ready to serve it.