Sunday, September 13, 2009

How to make a Banana Cream Pie

Last week, I made a banana cream pie for my boss's birthday. I really like to bake, but my husband and I would never fit into our pants if we were the only ones eating the goodies.

While I am not an expert, I have a few tips on how to make a good banana cream pie. First, you have to make it, as in bake the crust and make the cream--vanilla jello pudding will not suffice. And second, you have to stir. A LOT.

I use a Virginia-modified Joy of Cooking recipe. I love that cookbook. It has everything you could possibly ever need to cook in it. What it does not have are lists of ingredients at the beginning of the recipe or estimates on how long it will actually take to make the recipe. And I have no idea how long it takes me to make banana cream pie, so I can't help you out there.

When you make a banana cream pie, you bake the pie crust empty. The Joy of Cooking will tell you to prick the crust with a fork a bunch so that it doesn't puff up in the cooking. Mine usually puffs a bit anyway, but I suppose it would puff a lot more if I didn't prick, and besides, pricking is fun. That's all I'm going to say about that. Assuming you've baked your crust, here's what you need to do to make a good banana cream pie:

First, dump 2/3 a cup sugar, 1/4 a cup cornstarch, 1/4 a teaspoon salt, and 2 1/2 cups milk into a pot. You will read recipes that call for cream, or half-and-half, or whole milk. I usually buy the smallest container of cream or half-and-half that I can find and then just dump in whatever else we have in the house that's milky. The only think I wouldn't do is use 2 1/2 cups skim milk because that just doesn't have enough fat to make cream.

Heat this concoction over medium heat and whisk in 5 egg yolks. Make sure you whisk a lot--you want the egg yolks fully blended. Keep cooking this until it starts to thicken (Joy says simmer, but it's really too thick to simmer). What'll happen is, you'll stir and stir and stir and then all of a sudden it'll start to be thick and sort of lumpy, and it'll look an awful lot like vanilla pudding. At this point, take it off the heat, and stir the crap out of it.

This is the part of the recipe that gets silly, but I'd hate to ruin a cream pie by eliminating the next step, so I do it. If you're a more adventurous cook than I, feel free to skip this, because the next thing you do (after cooking it and then taking it off the heat and stirring the life out of it until it's nice and smooth) is put it back on the heat for one minute and continue to stir. Why? I don't know.

Then you take it back off the heat and dump in 2 tablespoons butter (I know this sounds gross, and like I said, I'm not adventurous, so I haven't tried eliminating this...let me know what happens if you do!) and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (does anyone else find it weird that you're not supposed to cook vanilla on the stove, but it's totally ok to bake it in the oven?). Stir the butter and vanilla and then cover the bottom of the pie crust with this cream (if you taste it first and then eat the entire pot, well, I don't blame you. It is sooo gooood). Layer in some sliced bananas. Cover the bananas with more cream and then wrap the whole thing tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Ta da! You're done!

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