Saturday, July 14, 2012

Banana Cream Pie

This pie is always a favorite - it is one of my most requested pies (after Apple, Lemon Meringue and Key Lime). The banana flavor comes from the filling and also a layer of fresh banana slices on that line the crust.

Cream Pies are great in the summer - not only do they taste cool and creamy, but they are cooked only briefly on the stovetop instead of a prolonged baking in the oven. So you aren't spending an hour heating your kitchen.

This Banana Cream Pie is adapted from something I found in my old copy of The Joy of Cooking. Once you get the basics of making a cream pie down, there are endless variations you can do. I have made up some pretty unusual flavors over the years, but cream pies are so popular that it's really worth learning the basic recipe for making them.

Cracker Crumb Crust made with Ritz crackers or Vanilla Wafers. After pressing into the pie pan, CHILL the crust instead of baking it.

2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 Cups milk
3 egg yolks
2 bananas
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

In the top of a double boiler combine the sugar, flour, salt, and milk. Stir the mixture in the bowl while the water boils beneath it, cooking for about 10-12 minutes until the mixture thickens. *Thickening time depends on how cold your milk is to start with. It can take anywhere from 9-14 minutes to get it nice and thick like a pudding. In the first 5-7 minutes it doesn't thicken much at all, but when it starts it goes fast. So watch the filling carefully and when it starts to thicken, stir it constantly. Once it has thickened, remove it from the heat.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks. Take a small amount of the hot milk/flour mixture (about a tablespoon) and stir it into the eggs. Add another spoonful and stir it in (you are "tempering" the eggs so they don't cook and curdle). Now pour the egg mixture into the rest of the hot milk mix. Return it to the double boiler and cook until thickened some more (about 3-5 minutes) stirring constantly. Take it off the heat. Cut one of the bananas in half. Mash half of the banana in a small bowl. Add the mashed banana and vanilla extract to the filling mixture. Now place a layer of Saran wrap directly on top of the filling (to avoid getting a thickened skin on top). Put it in the fridge to cool. 

In the meantime, cut the remaining 1 1/2 bananas into thin slices and line the
cracker crust with the slices.

When the filling has cooled (it can be a lukewarm, but not HOT), pour it slowly into the
pie shell, being careful not to mess up the banana slices.

Top with fresh whipped cream (see below for recipe) and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.  Try to eat it the same day because the sliced bananas turn brown.

Fresh Whipped Cream:
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 - 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, depending on how sweet you want it

Make sure the cream is well-chilled, (I even chill the mixing bowl and beaters when I make whipped cream). Beat on high speed with mixer until it is thickened. Spread it over the chilled pie and then put the pie back in the fridge until serving.

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