Banana cream pie

For the past few years, my New Year’s resolutions have revolved around food (shocking, I know). I’ve vowed to start this blog (which I did!). I decided I would try a new recipe/restaurant every week—and I accomplished that, too!

So when I sat down to decide what my focus this year would be, I knew I had to keep the trend going. In 2017, my goal is to try to make a new, labor intensive sweet treat/baked good item every week (as time allows). So that means no easy peas-y cupcakes or cookies. The recipes I choose aren’t going to be done in 20 minutes. I want to focus on new techniques (here’s looking at you, meringue), using fancy gadgets (I’ve been dying to use my miniature torch), and creating mini masterpieces.

So with that comes my very first recipe: Banana cream pie courtesy of Sarabeth’s Bakery in New York. I’ve had her bakery cookbook for a while now, and have never tried anything, so this was going to be my first big to do.

What I love about this recipe is that the base is a rich, flaky almond crust filled with a smooth pastry cream made of bananas and vanilla bean, and topped with handmade puffy clouds of whipped cream and toasted almonds. This recipe will take several hours, but I promise: It’s worth every bite.

Makes one 9-inch pie

Almond pastry dough:
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, chilled
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons ice water
Seeds of ½ vanilla bean
¼ teaspoon almond extract

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Using a fork, mix the egg yolk, 2 tablespoons 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F, position one of the racks in the lower third of the oven. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the dough, making sure to leave at least an inch of overhang over the side of the pie dish. Pinch the top with your finger or a fork to ensure the dough it tightly sealed. Pierce the bottom of the dough with a fork. Freeze for 15 minutes.
  6. 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.

Banana cream filling:
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
2 tablespoons cold water
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
1½ cups whole milk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, cut lengthwise in half, then into 1/3-inch slices
¼ cup heavy cream, chilled

  1. 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 and set aside.
  2. Heat the milk over medium heat until very hot (you’ll see bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan—but do not let it boil). 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 filling thickens and comes to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and whisk for 1 minute.
  3. Remove from the heat, add the gelatin mixture, and whisk until the gelatin is completely melted. Strain the cream through a mesh wire sieve into a clean bowl and then stir in the vanilla.
  4. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface and pierce a few holes in the wrap (this helps prevent a skin from forming). Let stand until completely cooled and thickened, but not set. Remove the plastic wrap and fold in the bananas.
  5. Beat the heavy cream with a whisk or handheld mixer 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.

Whipped topping:
1½ cups heavy cream, chilled
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

  1. Beat the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla just until it forms stiff peaks.
  2. Top the pie with whipped cream by either spreading with an offset spatula, or filling a pastry bag with a large start tip for some fancy decor. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
  3. Just before serving, top with almonds if using.
  4. Serve chilled.

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