oday is my father’s 1st birthday. Confusing I know. It is still something that baffles me, but I will explain. Just about two years ago my father was diagnosed with Leukemia. Today marks one year since his bone marrow transplant. The start of a new life. A second birthday. So thus we must celebrate! With Vanilla Bean Banana Cream Pie of course.
Every year for his “original” birthday in April I make him his favorite cake; pineapple upside down cake. However, a new celebration means a new dessert. This Vanilla Bean Banana Cream Pie is the smoothest, creamiest, dreamiest pie you might ever make. The essences of the vanilla bean prances on your taste buds as the cool puddingy/pastry creamy filling wakes up your inner child. Kickball anyone?
Lots of love and prayers and good luck charms and get well cards and Netflix marathons and help from family and friends that included (but was definitely not limited to) year-long cat sitting, haphazard home improvements, and many delicious home made meals that nourished our family’s tired hearts has gotten us to this momentous occasion. Our entire family cannot thank these people enough. You know who you are. So come get a piece of your pie. We are celebrating you too!
This recipe was adapted from the famous Tartine cookbook. There are several steps to this pie. Yes you can cheat and use a frozen crust or pudding mix, but A. you won’t taste the love and B. it takes away from the pomp and circumstance of this celebration.
The steps are simple, they just require patience. If we have learned anything from c***** it is to be patient and have hope that it will all turn out. Just like this pie.
For the crust, make sure all of your ingredients are REALLY REALLY cold. Colder ingredients = flakier crust. I pop a few ice cubes in my water and stick the measuring cup in the freezer as I prepare the other ingredients.
Another tip: don’t get all handsy with the pie dough. The less you touch it the less gluten will develop and the flakier it will stay. Please don’t let me catch you kneading it like bread dough. I might have to slap you with a ruler.
You may be tempted to pulse away that pie dough until it is perfeclty smooth. Well rein in those OCD tendencies and stop before you go too far. Those pea-sized chunks of butter will marble your dough as you roll it out and is what will keep it flaky.
Once you shape your dough into a 1-inch thick disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Pastry cream time. Timing is key here as it is very easy to over heat the custard mixture and turn it into a curdled pastry-cottage cheese. Temper the eggs by vigorously whisking in a few ladles of the hot milk mixture. Stir constantly as you add the egg mixture back into the milk and cook until it just starts to thicken. If you do go too far, take an immersion blender to the custard before adding in the butter.
Love those vanilla bean speckles. After adding the butter, cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
I like crust. My crust may be a little thick for some, but will be a solid foundation for the 2 tons of filling that is about to find its home inside the pie. For a more typical crust to filling ration, roll your dough out to 1/8-inch thick. It may seem a little thin, but it will puff a little as you bake.
Get crafty with your pie dough scraps then start assemblin’.
When assembled, refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set. The addition of the chocolate ganache gives this pie a little unexpected pizzazz. Like adding Johnny Weir to an ice rink.
Tonight we celebrate with hot dogs, a movie and some long awaited Vanilla Bean Banana Cream Pie. Happy 1st second birthday dad! May you have many, many, many more! If not for yourself, for the pie.
Vanilla Bean Banana Cream Pie
For the crust:
- In a measuring cup, add salt to water and stir to dissolve. Add flour to the bowl of a food processor. Cut butter into 1-inch pieces and scatter over flour. Briefly pulse until butter is broken into pea sized pieces. Add salt-water mixture and pulse for several seconds until the dough just begins to come together. You should still see chunks of butter in the dough. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a 1-inch thick disk, being careful not to overwork the dough. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Remove dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out disk to 1/8” thick, starting from center moving out in all directions and turning the dough to make sure it does not stick to the surface. DO NOT overwork the dough. Fold dough over rolling pin and transfer to ungreased pie dish. Allow dough to ease into the bottom and sides then use kitchen shears to remove excess dough around edges. Leave an inch overhang if you plan to crimp the edges. Refrigerate for additional 30 minutes to 1 hour or until firm to the touch.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line the inside of the pie shell with foil and fill with pie weights (I used rice). Bake shell for 25 minutes. Remove foil with weights and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
For the pastry cream filling:
- Prepare a medium sized bowl by resting a fine-mesh sieve on the rim.
- Pour milk into a heavy saucepan. Add salt. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Add seeds and pod to milk. On medium-high heat, bring milk just under a boil stirring occasionally to make sure the milk solids do not burn.
- While the milk heats, mix sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add eggs and whisk until smooth.
- When the milk is just under a boil, lower heat, remove the vanilla pod, and slowly ladle one-third of the milk into the egg mixture whisking constantly. Pour egg-milk mixture back into hot milk, return heat to medium and continue to whisk until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream (about 2 minutes). DO NOT boil the mixture. It will cause the eggs to curdle.* You want to see a few small bubbles but not a vigorous boil. Once thickened, remove from heat immediately and pour through sieve into bowl. Let cool 10 minutes stirring occasionally to release heat.
- Cut butter into 1-inch pieces. When the pastry cream has cooled but is still warm to the touch, add butter one piece at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream and refrigerate until cool, at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.
For the pie:
- Heat 2 tablespoons of heavy cream in the microwave until hot (about 30 seconds). Pour over chocolate and let rest allowing chocolate to melt. Whisk until smooth and shiny and all chocolate is melted. Spread ganache on the bottom of cooled pie shell.
- Add banana slices in one layer on top of the chocolate. Cover with half of the pastry cream. Add another layer of bananas followed by remaining pastry cream.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer using a whisk attachment, add remaining 1 and ½ cups of cold heavy cream. Sprinkle in sugar. Beat at medium-high speed until the whipped cream holds medium-firm peaks. DO NOT over mix or your whipped cream will become grainy. Using an offset spatula, add whipped cream to top of pie. Feel free to reserve some for piping a nice design on top. Add toasted sliced almonds. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until set. The pie will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
*If your custard curdles slightly, use an immersion blender to smooth it out before adding the butter.