Monday, September 7, 2009

Banana Cream Pie Controversy

Good God this pie caused a lot of controversy. It started out so very simple. I was out on a seemingly harmless date and I asked, "What is your favorite kind of pie?" Thinking that I was the pie baking goddess and that no man could resist my skills in the kitchen, I thought I could really wow him with whatever pie he wanted. On top of my overblown ego, he said his favorite was banana cream. Jackpot! I had made a banana cream pie with my cooking club fellow goddesses from an Emeril cookbook a few years back and it was heavenly. How could I possibly go wrong? Ugh, famous last words.

I proceeded to diligently prepare the pie with what I thought was some skill and care. I took this photo and texted it to the guy. Lesson #1 in this scenario, never text the finished product to the taster as this will lead to too much build-up, leading to high expectations and a diminished rate of return upon tasting. Note: don't do food trailers.

The first two pieces of pie went to my parents and being the sweet parents they are, said the pie was "amazing". Lesson #2, do not test recipes on your parents as they are your parents and they will lie to your face because they love you and still think you are 8 years old cannot handle their real opinion.

The second two pieces went to two guys in my office who taste a lot of my baking. When they are not fond of something, they are pretty diplomatic but honest so I knew they would tell me the truth. I thought if these two like it, I am golden. One of them liked it and the other said it was the best thing I had ever made.

So, by now, I am feeling pretty good. My family and colleagues all gave the big thumbs up and collectively indicated that whoever did not totally dig the pie was mentally deranged. Fast forward to a random Tuesday night. I ask the target audience to come over and taste the last piece of pie I had. He says no need to twist his arm and that he will put in a double work out to prepare. Lesson #3, people who spend a lot of time at the gym and watch every little thing they eat should not be completely trusted with providing credible food tasting opinions. Their taste buds have been diminished by bland food without salt, sugar or fat. Anyway, I gave him the pie, left the room and returned to find that he had eaten most of the pie but left some of the graham cracker crust on the plate. Not good. He then proceeded to say the following, "it was good but if I could offer a suggestion, I like banana cream with the regular butter crust rather than the graham cracker crust you have." There you have it, everyone liked the pie except for the person it was aimed at. Crashed and burned.

To make matters worse, I then proceeded to call my Mother to tell her what happened and she said, "yes, your Father and I thought the same thing, it was a little overwhelming with the graham cracker crust." I understand lying to me about the Tooth Fairy and Santa, but my baking? She said they didn't want to hurt my feelings.

I will try the pie with the butter crust in the next few months. Until then, here is the fateful recipe that I still personally love. Cheers to Emeril, who, in my book, is a genius.

4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise in half
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 recipe graham cracker crust
3 pounds (about 9) ripe but firm bananas peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine 2 cups of the cream, the milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the vanilla bean, and the vanilla seeds in a large heavy saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

Combine the eggs, egg yolks, cornstarch, and 1 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until pale yellow. Slowly add 1 cup of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly until smooth. Gradually add the egg mixture to the hot cream and whisk well to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly with a heavy wooden spoon, and cook until this mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. (The pastry cream may separate slightly; if so, remove from the heat and beat with an electric mixer until thick and smooth.) Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing it directly against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours.

To assemble, spread 1/2 cup of the pastry cream over the bottom of the prepared crust, smoothing it with the back of a large spoon or rubber spatula. Arrange enough banana slices (not quite one-third) in a tight pattern over the custard, pressing them down with your hands to pack firmly. Repeat to build a second layer, using another 3/4 cup of the pastry cream and enough bananas to cover it. Do a third layer using the method above. If there is any remaining cream and bananas, do a fourth layer. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

In a medium bowl whip the remaining 2 cups cream until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and the vanilla extract until soft peaks form. (In my version there is also a tablespoon of dark rum that went into this but that's up to you.) Pile the high with the whip cream or pipe on the cream for a more refined look.

Graham Cracker Crust Recipe:

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a bowl and mix well. Press the mixture into the sides and bottom of a 9-inch pie pan.

Bake the crust until browned, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

1 comment:

  1. I fail to see the controversy here - this is the best banana cream pie there is bar none! :) The graham cracker crust is what makes it. Other pies only WISH they could be this good.
    (And for the record - thanks for reminding me it was Emeril's - I thought it was Ina's and was giving credit to the wrong person all this time!)