Classic Banana Cream Pie
Banana cream pie is the sort of pie you’d see slowly spinning in the pastry case at a retro diner, where the red leather booths are big and cushy, the jukebox plays Buddy Holly tunes, and there’s chrome absolutely everywhere. In short: it’s a no-brainer for our 70th anniversary celebration!
As with all of our pies, we turned to our trusty flaky pie dough recipe for the crust. But rather than use a bright yellow banana pudding for the filling, we whisked up a vanilla pastry cream, and then topped it with fresh banana slices.
The pastry cream is a stovetop custard, made by combining sugar, heavy cream, milk, and egg yolks, and then boiling the mixture until it’s thick and silky-smooth. (It’s actually the same stuff used in éclairs!) And while the words “stovetop custard” may sound intimidating, all it requires is a whole lot of whisking — it’s a great arm workout — so the eggs don’t coagulate from the heat of the burner. There’s also a few tablespoons of cornstarch in the pastry cream, which helps prevent the eggs from getting scramble-y.
We flavor the pasty cream with both freshly scraped vanilla bean and a splash of vanilla extract. Combined with the airy vanilla whipped cream, the pie tastes decadent and almost boozy — full of a caramelly, bourbon-like richness. It’s divine with the thick banana slices, and the contrasting salty, buttery crust really lets all that vanilla shine.
Though banana cream pie is a classic, this version has a modern elegance to it that feels fitting for more upscale occasions, like bridal showers or milestone anniversaries. But it’s not so fancy that it would feel out of place on a gingham-clad picnic table at your family barbecue. If anything, it’ll be polished off well before the pulled pork, potato salad, and brownies — with nothing but a few crumbs left behind.
Yield: 1 9” pie
For the pastry cream:
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 ¾ cups whole milk
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and diced
For the pie:
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 disc flaky pie crust
2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 large bananas
To make the pastry cream: In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and cornstarch until fully incorporated.
Add the egg yolks and kosher salt, whisking until fully incorporated.
In a medium saucepan, combine the whole milk and heavy whipping cream. Run a paring knife along the side of the vanilla bean, splitting it in half lengthwise. Using the tip of the knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod into the milk mixture. Whisk to combine.
Heat the milk mixture over medium heat until it barely starts to simmer, stirring frequently. Watch the mixture carefully to make sure it doesn’t scorch. Once simmering, lower the heat.
Temper the egg yolks by adding 2 tablespoons of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking continuously so the eggs do not scramble. Continue adding the hot milk slowly, whisking continuously, until about half of the milk mixture has been incorporated into the egg yolks.
Pour the warmed egg yolks into the remaining hot milk, whisking continuously, and bring the mixture to a boil for 1 minute, or until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture through a sieve into a medium bowl.
Whisk in the vanilla extract, then gradually add the unsalted butter, whisking until smooth after each addition.
Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap onto the surface of the custard to ensure it doesn’t form a skin. Chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours, or until completely cooled.
To make the pie crust: Preheat the oven to 475°.
Lightly dust a clean, flat surface with all-purpose flour. Roll out the disc of dough into a ¼”-thick 12” circle, frequently turning the dough 90 degrees to prevent sticking. Brush off any excess flour and transfer to a 9” pie plate.
Press the dough gently into the pie plate, and trim the extra dough, leaving 1” to hang off the edge of the pie plate. Fold the extra dough under itself on the rim of the dish, creating an edge that is double-thick. Crimp and flute the edges of the pie. Freeze the pie crust for 10 minutes.
Remove from the freezer and dock the crust with a fork. Place a 12” circle of parchment paper in the center of the pie crust and pour pie weights onto the parchment in an even layer.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust is starting to brown on the edges. Remove the pie weights and parchment, lower the oven temperature to 350°, and return the pie to the oven. Continue baking the pie crust until golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes more. Cool the pie crust completely.
To assemble the pie: In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy whipping cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat until soft peaks form. Set aside.
Spread the cold pastry cream into the bottom of the cooled pie crust in an even layer.
Cut the banana into thin slices and arrange them in an even layer on top of the pastry cream, pressing them gently into the cream.
Top the bananas with the whipped cream. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving. Slice and serve cold.