Sunday, December 29, 2013

Banana Caramel Cream Pie

If there's one dessert that conjures up childhood memories for me it's gotta be banana cream pie.  How do I begin to describe my Mother's banana cream pie? How do you describe something that transports you to nirvana?  My sister especially loved this pie, so much so that she asked for it on her birthday instead of cake.

On one ill fated birthday my mother was busy in the kitchen whipping up two banana cream masterpieces.  And I was there to witness it.  First there was the dough, super flaky and tender.  Everything had to be cold, bowls, flour, Crisco, ice water.  And once made, into the Frigidaire to chill perfectly before rolling.  

Next came the cream: egg yolks, milk, sugar, flour, vanilla extract.  Five simple ingredients with a synergetic effect.  Today we call it pastry cream, Mom just referred to it as pudding.  There was a lot of stirring involved and adjusting the flame and testing for the right consistency.  

And bananas, ripe but not too ripe.  These she would carefully slice on the diagonal, and I didn't question her.  Of course the meringue on top was the real ball buster.  There are a lot of pit falls when it comes to making meringue and Mom was determined not to end up in any of them.  She may have banished me from the kitchen at this point so I wouldn't mess up her meringue mojo because I don't have a good memory of this part, but whatever she did it came out airy and perfect toasted.

Once the two perfect pies were done she put them on a small TV table on on the back porch just off the kitchen.  And that's when it happened. 

A strong breeze, the neighbor's cat, the weight of two perfect banana cream pies on an old rickety TV table, whatever it was, the pies ended up in a heap on the floor.  I was devastated!  I'd been salivating over these pies all day!  Mom was also devastated but only for as long as it took her to realize what she had to do.  There was pie to make for someone's birthday and that someone was going to be home from babysitting very soon.

There was pie for birthday dessert later that night.  It wasn't banana cream, it was apple, but it was damn good anyway.  What follows is not Mom's recipe for banana cream pie but the spirit is there and tasting this pie with my family this past Christmas day more than makes up for those two other pies.  At one point I turned around to see everyone with a fork in the pie plate! When I tell you they were fighting (in a friendly way) over the last piece, well lets just say that's the thing that memories are made of.

banana caramel cream pie

1 & 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons raw cane sugar

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into tiny pieces

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

3-4 tablespoons ice water (or enough to from dough)

In a food processor add flour and sugar; pulse to mix.  Add butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles course meal.  Add water a little at a time and pulse until dough forms.  Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

Roll dough on a lightly floured surface to about 14 inches.  Fold dough in half and transfer to a 12 inch pie plate.  Fit the dough snugly into the plate, roll the edges underneath until they meet the rim of the plate.  Crimp the edges to secure.  Dock the bottom of the pie shell with a fork so steam can escape while baking and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the pie shell on a baking pan. Fit a sheet of tin foil or a disposable pie pan into the plate and weigh it down with beans or pie weights.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Set aside until ready to fill.


1 & 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup butter, cut up
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the heavy cream (I usually use the microwave) just to take the chill off it and set aside. In a medium, heavy bottomed pot heat the sugar on medium high, swirling the pot occasionally. Keep an eye on it as the sugar melts. If you find that sugar crystals have collected on the side of the pot use a damp pastry brush to clean them off. You might have to help it along with a wooden spoon or a heat proof spatula but the less you touch it the better. 

Once the sugar melts it will start to turn a light golden color and than a bright amber and it will smell like creme brulee. I wish I could tell you what mark to look for on a candy thermometer, but honestly I've never made this with one.  

Lower the heat to medium and add the butter. Whisk until the butter is mixed in, it's going to fight you but just keep whisking gently. Once the butter is incorporated add the heavy cream and stand back as the mixture will bubble up. Whisk again until all the cream is mixed in. 

Remove from the heat and add vanilla extract. Pour into a heat proof container and cool. Once cool it can be covered and stored in the fridge until ready to use. Makes about 2 cups of caramel.  (Reserve left overs for other recipes.)

pastry cream: (my friend Vinny's recipe)

1/4 cup sugar
1 &1/4  plus 1/3 cups half and half
2 & 1/2  tablespoons corn starch
3 yolks
1 & 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut up
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium, heavy bottomed pot whisk together sugar and 1 & 1/2 cups half and half.  Bring the mixture to a boil on medium heat stirring occasionally.  In a medium bowl whisk together 1/3 cup half and half and corn starch, set aside. 

Once the half and half has come to a boil lower the heat.  Pour half of the mixture into the bowl with the corn starch and whisk until combined. Add the egg yolks and whisk in.  Pour this mixture back into the pot and cook on low, stirring constantly  and occasionally scraping the bottom of the pot with a heat proof spatula, until thickens.  

When the pastry cream has thickened, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.  Lastly add the vanilla.  Transfer to a shallow bowl and cover directly with plastic warp (or butter wrappers if you have any).  Chill for 1 hour before using.

meringue and assembly:

3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 bananas
1/2 cup caramel
1 batch pastry cream
1 pre-baked pie shell 

Spread caramel on bottom of pre-baked shell.  Slice bananas and layer on top of caramel.  Top with pastry cream.

In a stand mixer fitted with a wire whisk, combine egg whites and cream of tartar.  Mix on low to combine, then mix on high until foamy.  Add the vanilla.  Slowly add the sugar.  Continue mixing on high until meringue is thick.  

Transfer to a pastry bag with a star tip.  Pipe rosettes over the top of the pie.  Toast meringue under the broiler, turning as necessary, being super careful not to burn anything, including yourself!

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  1. I saw this on Share Your Sweets and had to come take a look. So beautiful! I made banana cream pie awhile back. Caramel is a wonderful addition (I also think peanut butter would be nice). I made an Italian meringue for mine, but wish I would have toasted it like yours. The perfect finishing touch!

    1. Thanks Laura! I don't think you can go wrong with banana cream pie, it's just one of those scrumptious classics!