Cook'n is the best selling recipe organizer

Volume III
November 23, 2012

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

The Mystery Behind Perfect
Banana Cream Pie is Solved!

By Alice Osborne

The soft, creamy quality that makes banana cream pie such a pleasure to eat is precisely what makes it tricky to get right. But this is a pie worth the effort it takes to learn to make it right. Once you've had homemade, from-scratch banana cream pie, there's no going back to Marie Callendar's!

Whenever I want help with tough kitchen stuff, I always look to America's Test Kitchen. And they pulled through again. Here I share their tips for solving the mystery behind perfect banana cream pie - perfect in flavor, perfect in texture, perfect in looks:

First, these seasoned cooks say to avoid banana flavored extract. It tastes artificial. Also, avoid a cookie-crumb crust - it makes the pie too sweet. A pre-baked pie shell is the best to use.

An exquisite banana cream pie is built around a perfect pastry cream, so here's the Test Kitchen's explanation of this process: "To make pastry cream, you combine egg yolks, flour or cornstarch, and sugar; whisk in hot half-and-half; stir over low heat until thick; and then add vanilla and a little butter. (The butter melts in the hot pastry cream but re-solidifies and stiffens the cream as it cools.)"

Another thing to know is how to protect the banana slices from turning brown. The Test Kitchen found great success with orange juice. Covering the banana slices in this juice slowed browning and left the mellow, fruity banana flavor alone - something everyone in the Test Kitchen liked.

Then you want to bump up the banana flavor so you don't end up with a vanilla custard pie with banana slices. The pros in the Kitchen discovered the secret: They infused the half-and-half with banana flavor and then strained out the fruit. Two bananas (sliced), were sacrificed to give their pastry cream a banana-y boost, and straining kept the color of the filling appealing. Here's what to do:

"Add half-and-half to sliced bananas that have been sauteed in melted butter. Bring this to a boil, cover the pot, remove from heat and steep the mixture for 40 minutes. Strain the banana-infused half-and-half into egg yolk mixture. Discard bananas."

So with a creamy yet sliceable banana-boosted pastry cream, mellow and yellow sliced bananas, and a light and stable whipped cream (thanks to confectioner's sugar), they solved the mystery behind the perfect banana cream pie. Now the recipe, and our thanks to the amazing America's Test Kitchen crew:

PERFECT Banana Cream Pie

Filling that you can cut without it oozing all over the plate, a banana flavor that's not artificial, and a texture that's creamy and delectable. THAT'S the PERFECT banana cream pie!

5 ripe bananas divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
2 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract divided
1 pre-baked pie shell completely cooled
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Peel 2 bananas and slice into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sliced bananas and cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add half-and-half, bring to boil, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 40 minutes.

Whisk sugar, egg yolks, and slat together in large bowl until smooth. Whisk in cornstarch. Strain cooled half-and-half mixture through fine-mesh strainer into yolk mixture - do not press on bananas - and whisk until incorporated; discard cooked bananas. [ME: I think I'd save these for use in a smoothie, cookie or muffins batter or something.]

Transfer mixture to clean medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened to consistency of warm pudding (180 degrees F), 4 to 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat; whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Transfer pastry cream to bowl, press greased parchment paper directly against surface {ME: this step prevents a "skin" forming], and let coo for about 1 hour.

Here's a tip for your pie shell. Before baking, refrigerate for at least 40 minutes, then freeze for 20 minutes. Then adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line the chilled pie shell with a 12-inch square of foil, folding foil over the edges of your dough. Fill with pie weights and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and continue baking until crust is golden brown, 7 to 11 minutes more. Let crust cool completely.

When crust is cool, peel and slice remaining 3 bananas 1/4-inch-thick and toss with orange juice. Whisk pastry cream briefly, then spread half over bottom of pie shell. Arrange sliced bananas on pastry cream. Top with remaining pastry cream.

Whip heavy cream, confectioner's sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla until stiff. Spread whipped cream evenly over top of pie. Refrigerate until set, at least 5 hours and up to 24 hours. Serve [ME: And prepare to die and go to heaven]!

Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises.

Help on downloading recipes


blog comments powered by Disqus

Contribute to the Cook'n Club!

DVO would love to publish your article, prose, photography and art as well as your cooking, kitchen and nutrition tips, tricks and secrets. Visit the Newsletter Submission / Win Win for All section in our Forum for more information and details.