Published December 11. 2013 9:00PM Updated December 11. 2013 10:32PM
My pie frenzy continues.
As normal people go about their normal day, I bake pie. I bake pie before work, think about pie during work, sometimes even bake pie after work (at an hour when most people are asleep).
Pretty much every day Thanksgiving week, I brought in pie to share with my co-workers. People started talking. I started to feel awkward. I stopped bringing pie into work.
It's not that I want to consume such massive amounts of pie. (Typically, that's what fuel my baking.) It's that I find the process so interesting, the literature so vast. There are always new recipes to try, new variations, maybe less butter here, a lattice crust there, and so many different ways to crimp the crust. How do I become a pie master without practice? It cannot be done.
Ever since my introduction to baking pie -- like, oh, last month -- I've made apple pies, cherry pies, guava-cream cheese hand pies, banana cream pies and sweet potato pies. All quite tasty, but all of which I'm still trying to perfect.
But back to that banana cream pie. It's not something I typically crave, not because I don't like it but because it just doesn't occur to me to crave it. But recently, I returned to the first place that introduced me to banana cream pie - The Coffee Shop in Union Square in New York City. It's dark and loud in there at night, a pseudo nightclub disguised as a diner, and all the hostesses and servers are aspiring models who have perfected the bored, pouty look and attitude. Not my kind of place.
But, improbably, the banana cream pie is mighty fine, maybe the best I've ever had. So when I came across a recipe for a banana cream pie with a bottom layer of chocolate cream, how could I resist?
I think the chocolate/vanilla combination works great, making this pie a little more interesting than regular old banana cream.
A few things: The crust called for too much butter and sugar, so I scaled those back and am sharing with you the lighter version. I think you could eliminate the sugar altogether, but I haven't tried that yet.
I had trouble getting the custard to set firmly enough for a clean slice, but that didn't stop me from inhaling this delicious pie. I made it twice in one week and the second time cooked the custard for longer, which helped. (I didn't want to overcook the custard and curdle it, so I stopped when I thought it was thick enough.) Next time I'll try this pie in cupcake form so that the pie can be served in individual portions, thereby avoiding the mess created by trying to slice this pie.
So now that I'm all pie talk all the time, I want to know: Do you have a special secret to making awesome pie? Share it with me and I'll run your tips the next time I write about pie. Which is probably soon, because, see above.
Black-bottom banana cream pie
Adapted from foodandwine.com
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from 10 whole crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
2 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 medium bananas, sliced into half-inch slices
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
Chocolate shavings, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt and melted butter. With clean hands, mix well until crumbs absorb the butter. Press crumbs into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for about 8 minutes. Let cool completely.
In a large saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks and 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk until smooth. Set saucepan over medium, add the rest of the milk and whisk constantly until the custard becomes thick, about 5 minutes. (I set my flame at medium-low and found I needed 9 minutes.)
To see if the custard is ready, dip a wooden spoon into the custard, then swipe a finger across the back of the spoon. If the swipe mark stays put, your custard is thick enough.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is melted. Pour half the custard into a bowl.
Add the chocolate to the custard in the saucepan and whisk until chocolate melts and is fully incorporated into the custard.
Spread chocolate custard into the pie plate. Arrange banana slices on top of the chocolate custard, then spread vanilla custard on top of bananas.
Chill pie in the fridge, anywhere from 6 hours to overnight.
Just before serving, make the whipped cream topping. Using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream and confectioners' sugar until stiff peaks form. (The liquidy mixture will take on body and starts looking like whipped cream, and when you turn off the mixer and lift up the beaters, the peaks the lift creates will stay in place.)
Shave chocolate onto the whipped cream using a vegetable peeler and running it along the edge of a chocolate bar.