When Adrienne Kane, in her latest cookbook United States of Pie, recommended a raspberry streusel pie for breakfast, I knew I was in for a treat. The charming book offers pies that reflect the country’s varying palates and personalities, from Concord Grape pie in New England to Hoosier Pie in the Midwest to Olallieberry in the Pacific Northwest.
All lovely pies and places, but if I had to choose a region to live in for pie’s sake, it would be the South, the home to pecan pie, lemon pie, Tarheel pie, Key lime pie and cream pies of all types. Time and not enough Lipitor on hand kept me from testing all of them, so I opted for a Southern classic: banana cream pie, updated nicely by Kane with a quietly salty vanilla wafer crust and a layer of chocolate ganache. Those innovations -- followed by traditional layers of sliced bananas, rich vanilla pudding and fluffy whipped cream -- made for an ideal pie.
No expert with cornstarch puddings, I didn’t let the custard boil the first time, and was left with a filling that never set. Undeterred (and desperate to try this pie in its perfect state), I forged ahead and made another. I did it for you all, really. It was a sacrifice any decent human would make in search of the truth.
And as I sink my fork into that fluffy pillow of banana-y goodness, all I can say is: Pies like this make me proud to be American.
Banana Cream Pie
1 Vanilla Wafer Crust (see below)
For the ganache
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
For the filling
2 cups whole milk
2 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch of kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 medium ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into ¼ -inch thick disks
For the top layer
½ cup heavy cream
Make the ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-size heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for a moment, to begin melting the chocolate. With a rubber spatula, stir the chocolate slowly to further melt it and to incorporate the cream.
Spoon the ganache over the bottom of the prepared crust, spreading it out in an even layer with the spatula. Refrigerate the ganache-lined shell while you make the filling.
Make the filling: In a small saucepan, heat the milk until almost boiling. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt, and stir well. Slowly pour the scalded milk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into the top of a double boiler and place it over simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens to a custardlike consistency, about 7 minutes.* Take the custard off the heat, and stir in the butter and the vanilla until the butter melts. Allow the custard to cool slightly on the counter, about 30 minutes.
Assemble the pie: Remove the ganache-lined crust from the refrigerator. Arrange the banana slices in a single layer over the ganache. Carefully pour in the custard; it should completely cover the bananas and fill the crust. Return the pie to the refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 4 hours or as long 1 day.
When you are ready to serve the pie, remove it from the refrigerator. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Mound the whipped cream on top of the custard, and serve.
*Marissa’s note: Traditionally cornstarch custards are cooked over low,direct heat until they begin to boil, and are let to boil for one minute. This is how I did it on the second try and had success with getting my custard to set.
Vanilla Wafer Crust
1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) vanilla wafer (such as Nilla wafer) crumbs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a medium-size bowl, mix together the wafer crumbs, salt, and butter until the mixture is evenly moistened and crumbs have darkened slightly and begun to clump together. Pour the mixture into a pie plate. Using your hands, press and flatten the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the plate, working it up to cover the sides as well. Press firmly; there should not be any cracks or holes in the crust.
Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until the crust is beginning to brown at the edges.