baking dessert pies + tarts

banana cream pie

Friday, June 17, 2011
Banana Cream Pie is my dad’s most favorite pie. Really, I think of it, and I think of my dad. If I recall a Father’s Day or his birthday, I see him: eating, laughing, opening up crappy ties and random books we knew he’d love for sure. The memory is swirled in yellow, and a faint picture of of maroon colored box [from one of those hip-to-be Square Bakers] sits on the kitchen counter, a white whipped cream top peeping out at us.
When I started branching out in my baking skills, I thought one year I’d try to make one for him. It was my first attempt at pastry cream. I was so anxious: I read and re-read the recipe again and again; I had my thermometer out and a crazy amount of bowls. Something went in here and something in there and WHISK CONSTANTLY and oh my greatness the eggs are scrambling and quick add this and I forgot to add that and I’m not WHISKING  and where is a clean spatula and why isn’t it thickening and I am covered in everything. It was a disaster. I couldn’t get that cream to thicken, so I stuck it in the freezer and we ate it cold, scrambled egg bits and all. My family lied and said it tasted great.

As you might have guessed, I didn’t make it again for a long long time. In fact, I shied away from pastry cream in general. But slowly, over the years I got brave, and decided to have another go.

We’re all glad I did. This Banana Cream Pie is incredible. Light and creamy, with lots of fresh chunks of banana. Vanilla beans stud the crust, the pastry cream and the whipped cream. It is sweet but not overly so, and has so much banana flavor. And, there’s a some insurance with that pastry cream – a little bit of gelatin and whipped cream folded in makes it a guaranteed success. We’ve added one to the birthday dessert list.

Happy Birthday Dad. I love you.

Banana Cream Pie
SaraBeth’s Bakery

This pie takes some work, but it’s worth it. My only, only complaint is that the vanilla beans in the cream filling make it taste a little gritty – I think I will use extract next time I make it. SarahBeth suggests using plumped vanilla beans, which would solve the gritty problem. 

I also did not have a coffee grinder to grind the almonds for the crust, so I used a food processor. This gives it a different texture, but it still tasted great.

almond pastry dough
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour, divided
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons [1 stick] unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, chilled
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon ice water
seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Grind the almonds in a coffee grinder [or food processor] with 1 tablespoon of the flour until powdery. Combine the remaining 1 cup flour, ground almond mixture, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter cubes and toss to coat with the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse meal with some pea-sized pieces of butter, about 2 minutes. Using a fork, mix the egg yolk, 1 tablespoon ice water, vanilla seeds, and almond extract together in a small bowl. Drizzle the yolk mixture all over the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, combine just until the dough clumps together. If the dough is too dry, add more ice water, a little at a time.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a 1 inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled but not hard, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375, position oven rack at lower middle. Line a 9 inch pie pan with the dough. Pierce the bottom of the dough with a fork. Freeze for 15 minutes.

Line the dough with a round of parchment paper and fill with pastry weights or dried beans. Bake on a sheet pan for 15 minutes, until the pastry is set. Remove the parchment paper and weights and continue baking until the pastry is golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Cool completely.

cream filling

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
2 tablespoons cold water
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
3 ripe bananas, cut lengthwise in half, then into 1/3 inch slices
1/4 cup heavy cream, chilled

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl. Set aside until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a heatproof medium bowl until combined; set aside.

Heat the milk over medium heat until very hot. Gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Whisking constantly, cook over medium heat until the filing thickens and comes to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and whisk for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the gelatin mixture, and whisk until the gelatin is completely melted [the pastry cream will thin slightly]. Strain through a mesh wire sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in the vanilla. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface and pierce a few holes in the wrap [this will prevent a skin from forming]. Let stand on a wire rack until completely cooled and thickened but not set. Remove the plastic wrap and fold in the bananas.

Beat the heavy cream just until it forms soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the banana mixture. Fill the cooled pastry shell and smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let the filling set in the refrigerator, about 1 hour.

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or seeds form 1/2 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted [optional, for garnish]

Beat the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla just until it forms stiff peaks. Top pie with whipped cream. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Just before serving, top with almonds if using. Serve chilled.

  • Reply
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    this pie looks amazing! i love your food blog. the photos are so gorgeous!

  • Reply
    lisa heaner
    Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    banana cream is my favorite summer pie. but i’ve never made it myself. i can’t wait to try this recipe!

  • Reply
    Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 3:26 am

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  • Reply
    Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 3:28 am

    I am excited to try this recipe for Thanksgiving. My grandma always made banana pudding and the entire family loved it. She can’t make it any more, so I have started. I will always make the original, but I think this would be a great addition. Thanks for sharing it – I love reading your blog!

  • Reply
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