Pies are a funny dessert. They bring us so much comfort and joy. They bring excitement to boring days. Music to silence. Color to darkness. Turns frowns upside downrings families together in oohs and aahs, as slices are made and distributed around, all the while everyone is fighting about who got the bigger piece. No one can deny that happy feeling you get inside, whenever there is a slice of pie served in front of us. Our mood is instantly transformed, and a smile takes over our face. Sure our minds are saying, “Eh….maybe I shouldn’t. I have to watch what I eat,” but our mouths and stomachs are saying “Yes please! Can I have another?” Before we even finish the first slice. What is it about pies in general that make us so happy? It’s a combination of multiple things, really. The various different kinds there are out there is what makes them so appealing. From apple to pumpkin, to pecan, to chocolate. Filled with cream, and stuffed with fruit. Drizzled with caramel, and topped with crust and streusel. Who can resist? It brings back happy memories. Moments that were filled with laughter and family. Pies are normally the centerpiece of any holiday, one in particular of course; Thanksgiving. And although Thanksgiving only comes but once a year, thankfully we make pies all year round
Pies are a multi-step process. They aren’t one of those desserts where you can just throw everything in a mixer and plop out mounds onto a baking sheet, bake for a few minutes and then enjoy. No, a pie takes skill. It takes patience and time. You have to nurture a pie and cradle it. It all begins with a crust. You know that, its easy. Every pie has a crust, it’s what defines it as such. It’s what gives it the power to tell the world “Hey world, I have a crust! I’m a pie!” So we established that every pie has a crust, that’s easy. We knew that. What we aren’t sure about, is what kind of crust to make. Do you want a graham cracker crust? And if so, do you want it with chocolate or honey crackers? Maybe you’re not a cracker crust kind of person? Perhaps, you want a flakey buttery crust? Yea that’s it. That’s what you want. So once you’ve decided what kind of crust, all sorts of questions arise. Do you want a fruit pie? A sweet one? A savory one? Do you want some sort of cream filled pie? Your mind works hard, thinking of all the possible solutions. You start to sweat a little and your mouth becomes dry. You need water, or some sort of cool air to help you think. No what you need, is to decide on a pie! Quickly you arrive at an answer. Really, its the best of both worlds. Why didn’t you think of it before?
Banana Cream Pie. Yes, banana cream pie. It’s your best option, not only do you get fruit in your filling, but you also get to have a custard center. And to make it even better, it’s topped with high mountainous peaks of whipped cream. Your eyes widen and your stomach gurgles as you see the finished pie in front of you. A slice is cut out for you, destroying its perfect appearance, and although you know the myth that the first slice always comes out messed up, you don’t mind. Unfazed, you grab a fork and dive head first. Everything you were thinking about climbs out of your mind. You can’t think of anything at the moment, other than the sweet flavor of flaky crust melting into thick custard and perfectly ripe bananas topped with just the right amount of cream. Yes, pie has the power to fix any problem. Forget about the financial economic crisis this country is in, everyone will be much happier if they were paid in pies. Strap a fork to you and keep it at arms reach at all times because pies are the new currency; get used to it.
We start by making the crust.
Which, by the way, is the best part of any pie, if you ask me. Give me a plate full of just crust and I’m a happy camper.
Now, normally we start off with an empty mixer bowl.
This time, I’m changing it up….
Drop in the flour.
We need two more ingredients for our dry mixture: Sugar and Salt.
Put a lid on it, and pulse a few times to make sure everything gets mixed well together.
It’s butter time.
What makes for a flaky pie crust? COLD BUTTER.
Dice the stick of butter into small cubes.
Throw the cubed butter into the dry ingredients.
Put the lid back on and pulse 6-8 times or until the butter resembles course crumbs, the size of peas.
Do not over mix, or break down the butter too much.
While the food processor is running, stream in the ice cold water.
1 tablespoon at a time because remember, it’s always easier to add more, but you can never take any back.
So to be on the safe side just start with one tablespoon and then add as needed.
Pulse and add enough water until the dough comes together, and appears slightly sticky. You’ll know its down when it comes away from the sides.
If your dough is still dry and course, add more water.
Lightly flour a kneading surface. Such as a counter top or a cutting board.
Dump out the dough onto the floured board.
Gently and working rather quickly, form the dough into a flattened, even disk.
Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.
Place the wrapped dough in the fridge and let it chill for at least 30 minutes.
If you have an hour, then that would be better. The chilling process allows the crust to get flaky and crisp.
After all, isn’t that what we all are looking for in a pie crust?
Let’s make the custard filling.
The ingredients are:
Start by measuring out the milk.
Whole milk please…don’t try to cut corners with low fat milk. You’re making banana cream pie for crying out loud, this isn’t the time to be getting fat free milk.
Pour the milk into a large saucepan, over medium-high heat.
Heat until the milk is scalded.
In a separate saucepan, add some sugar.
And a pinch of salt.
Give it a good whisk.
When the milk is heated properly and ready, it will look like this
Slowly and very carefully add the milk to the dry ingredients in a steady stream, all the while whisking.
Make sure everything is whisked well together, and that the dry ingredients dissolve into the milk.
Its now time for the eggs….can’t make a custard without eggs.
We’re going to need a few egg yolks.
You can separate the yolks, the good old fashioned way by juggling the two shells and letting the whites fall. Or with a handy dandy egg separating tool like I got.
I’ve had this tool for a while now, and I’ve just realized that it looks like an egg!! White with the yolk color in the middle…will you look at that!!
Okay back to the yolks.
You can save the whites for another recipe or for a healthy breakfast in the morning.
Meanwhile, whisk the yolks.
The next step is to temper the eggs. What is tempering you ask?
Well, thank you for asking. Tempering is a very important process when adding eggs or yolks to any hot mixture to thicken it. You never want to just add the eggs directly into the hot mixture because that will result in the eggs scrambling. No one wants scrambled eggs in a dessert.
So by adding a bit of the heated milk to the yolks, you are bringing up their temperature to the same as the hot mixture.
Once you’ve added a tiny bit of the warm milk and whisked it, slowly stream it back into the rest of the heating milk mixture.
As you stream it in, whisk and continue whisking.
To learn more about tempering and all things cool about eggs, please visit Chasing Delicious. Russell has made some pretty awesome egg charts that are just bursting with a ton of useful egg information and facts. And while you’re there check out his other handy dandy Kitchen 101 charts along with the rest of his work, he’s extremely talented.
So whisk the eggs into the milk mixture and continue to stir over medium heat until the custard has thickened and bubbled.
Once it has thickened, remove from the heat.
Add the last two ingredients to the custard.
And vanilla extract.
Give the custard one last whisk.
The custard is done! Let it cool.
Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly over the custard while it cools to prevent a skin from forming.
In the meantime the pie dough should be chilled enough, so lets roll it out.
Flour a work surface or cutting board again.
Place the chilled dough on the board.
Grab a rolling pin.
Roll out the dough into a circle that is 1/4 inch thick.
Place the pie plate upside down in the center of the rolled out dough.
There’s a method to my madness.
Trim the dough into a circle outlining the pie plate, making sure to leave about an extra inch of space from the plate.
Now carefully flip over the pie plate and the dough together so its inverted.
Fold over the excess dough hanging over to make a smooth edge.
Crimp the edges of the crust.
It’s time to bake the crust. Place a sheet of parchment paper over it.
On top of the parchment paper place pie weights or beans.
I don’t like to spend more money on things I don’t need, so why not just use dry beans if you have some lying around?
This will prevent the dough from puffing while it bakes.
Bake in a 350° oven for half the time.
After its baked for a bit, take it out from the oven and remove the parchment and beans, careful not to burn yourself.
Return the crust to the oven and continue baking for the remainder of the time, or until the it is golden brown.
Let the crust cool completely before assembling.
Leave it by an open window or a breezy place, so that it cools faster.
Once everything has cooled, its assemblage time.
Spoon a layer of the custard into the crust.
Slice a couple bananas and lay it across the layer of custard.
Repeat the steps placing another layer of custard and bananas, alternating until both are finished.
Cover the assembled pie with plastic wrap. Leave in the fridge and allow to completely chill and firm up for a few hours.
While the pie is chilling make the cream topping.
Pour in the cold heavy cream into a mixing bowl and if using a stand mixer, attach the whisk attachment.
Turn the mixer on low at first and allow to whip. Gradually raise the speed to medium and whip until somewhat thick.
When the cream is half-way thickened it’ll look like this.
At this stage we are ready to add the flavorings.
Throw in a bit of powdered sugar.
And vanilla extract.
Turn the mixer back on medium and continue whipping until the cream has formed soft peaks.
Be careful not to over mix the cream as it could turn into butter rather quickly if you don’t keep an eye on it.
When the pie has completely chilled, decorate the top with the whipped cream.
You can easily spoon the whipped cream on top of the pie and make swirls with the back of a spoon, but if you want to impress people, use a pastry bag to decorate it.
Grab a pastry bag or even a gallon zip-lock bag and fit it with a star tip.
Fill the bag with the cream and pipe out decorations all over the top until it is completely covered.
There, all done.
Okay well, almost done. You know me, I always need a little extra something to finish things off.
It needs a sprinkling of something….but what?
There you go. Sliced almonds, the perfect topping.
And the Banana Cream Pie is done!
Serve yourself a piece and enjoy the bliss.
There’s nothing better than a giant slice of pie. Well….maybe two slices.
Of course, we all know the best part is the crust. So please someone eat the middle and just leave me the crust, that’s all I’m interested in to begin with.
Go on and make this today. Right now! Stop what you’re doing. Go into the kitchen and make yourself a pie. You know you want to. Enjoy it.
Banana Cream Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie
- 1 pie crust, recipe follows
- 3 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 tsp for custard and 1 tsp for whip cream
- 4-6 bananas, depending on size, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- sliced almonds, for garnish if desired
Heat a large saucepan over low-medium heat. Add the milk and scald.
In a separate saucepan, combine the sugar, flour and salt. Gradually stir in the scalded milk.
Over medium heat, constantly stirring, cook the milk mixture until thickened.
In a small bowl, place the egg yolks and whisk together. Temper the yolks by stirring in a small amount of the hot milk mixture while whisking. When thoroughly combined, slowly stream in the yolks into the hot milk mixture. Cook for one minute longer, stirring constantly and the mixture has really thickened.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and blend in the butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Allow to sit at room temperature to slightly cool to lukewarm.
When ready, grab the baked and cooled pie shell and layer the sliced bananas and custard. Alternating between the two, making layers, until all the custard and bananas are used; leaving the last layer custard.
Cover the pie with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Allow to chill for several hours, minimum 1 hour, but longer would be better.
In the meantime, make the whipped cream topping. In a bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, place the chilled heavy cream. Whip on low for a few seconds, and then raise to medium. When the cream has somewhat thickened, add the sugar and vanilla. Continue whipping until the cream has formed soft peaks. Be careful not to over whip it into butter.
Scoop the mixture into a pastry bag and decoratively pipe out the cream onto the chilled pie. Or you can simply spoon the cream over the top.
Sprinkle with sliced almonds if desired. Slice and serve. Save any leftover pie in the fridge. Enjoy.
Simple Pie Crust
For a single crust pie.
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling dough
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 2 tablespoons ice water, plus 2 more, if needed
Preheat oven to 350°
In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar several times to combine. Add butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, the size of peas.
Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers (if needed, add up to 2 tablespoons more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overprocess.
Turn dough out onto a work surface; form dough into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
Before baking, unwrap dough; place on a large floured surface. Roll dough to a 14-inch round. Place the pie dish upside down and trim the dough around the pie plate, leaving an extra inch of dough. Carefully, flip the dough and pie plate over. Gently fit into bottom and up sides of plate.
Fold overhang under itself. Pinch between thumb and forefinger to make a crimped edge around the rim.
Place a sheet of parchment paper over the formed crust. Weigh down with dry beans or pie weights. Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and lift off the parchment paper.
Return and continue baking for an additional five minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool completely before filling.