family, food

Banana Cream Pie + A Birthday Celebration

I'm kind of a nerd about birthdays.  When one of my loved ones has one coming up, I get super excited.  I subscribe to the idea that on your birthday you should only do -- and eat -- things you really enjoy.

Naturally, I've never been more excited about a birthday than I was for my baby's first.  I thought long and hard about what she'd like to do and I felt the weight of the incredible responsibility of deciding what she would have for her first dessert.

The answer turned out to be pretty simple.  Susanna's fondness for bananas goes way beyond the fleeting crushes she forms for just any new fruit.  She is in love.  And the time her Grampy gave her a bite of vanilla pudding?  Well, he didn't get very many bites himself after that.

Enter the perfect dessert for the occasion:  Banana Cream Pie.  There's pudding.  There's whipped cream.  There's a tender crumb crust that's just the thing for eight tiny teeth.  And most importantly, there are scores of banana slices.

Before you write this off as a recipe for kids only, I must tell you about the browned butter in the crust that adds a certain nutty sophistication, about the real vanilla bean in the filling, and about how I scaled back the sugar so the freshness of the milk and eggs can truly be appreciated.  This is not child's play.

I'm not just crazy for birthdays; I'm also crazy for pie.  There were twelve different kinds at our wedding.  I'm partial to rustic pies, so the filling here is soft and the whipped cream spooned on.  If you like a cleaner cut and fancier presentation, feel free to up the amount of corn starch in the filling and to whip the cream to a stiffer consistency suitable for piping on in a pretty decoration.

I'd like to extend my gratitude to my brother and sister (Uncle Spud and Auntie Lo,) who flew in for the occasion so it could be all about family.  A special thanks, as well, to my mom and dad (Boomer and G-pa) for hosting.  You guys are the cat's pajamas.

Banana Cream Pie

feeds 12 adults or 24 one-year-olds

Crust

  • 6 T unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (here's a great recipe if you want to go homemade)
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar

Filling

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract, or the scraped insides of 1 fresh vanilla bean
  • 3 firm, ripe bananas, sliced into coins

Whipped Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and continue heating until it begins to turn golden brown.  Pour the butter into a bowl, remembering to scrape all the delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pan into the bowl, as well.  Stir in the crumbs and sugar.  Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a lightly-oiled 9-inch glass pie pan.  Bake for 10 min, then cool completely.

For the filling, thoroughly whisk together the sugar, corn starch, and salt in a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom.  Slowly pour in the cold milk while whisking constantly.  Vigorously whisk in the egg yolks until no yellow streaks remain.  Place the pan on medium heat and stir often until the mixture thickens to the consistency of porridge and for a couple of minutes longer, just to remove the starchy taste.  Off the heat, whisk in the cold butter and vanilla.  Pour 1/3 of the filling into the cooled pie crust and top with half of the bananas.  Repeat.  Top the pie with the remaining 1/3 filling and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Chill the pie for 4 hours or overnight.

Whip the cream to soft peaks, sprinkling in the sugar gradually.  Stir in the vanilla and whip to medium peaks.  Slice the pie and spoon the cream on top.

    Thanks, Andrew, for this hilarious slo-mo video.