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Banana Cream Pie

Best made with bananas that are completely black and mushy and Valrhona cocoa powder for the chocolate crust.

To me, banana cream pie is the truest celebration of a banana. And the secret to getting the most banana flavor is using bananas that are ripe to the point of being completely black and mushy. You can’t be scared of a banana at this stage. I’m not going to lie; they’re a little bit funky, but they’re the ideal bananas for pie. As for the crust, banana cream pie needs something that can hold up to the sweetness of the filling. The crust we use is a shell of chocolate crumbs made with Valrhona cocoa powder. It’s super-bitter, but it has a lot of flavor. It’s the deepest, darkest cocoa powder you can get. Another brand of cocoa powder will be good, but it’s not going to have the same dark, dense bitter-chocolate quality.

Ingredients

Makes one 10-inch pie
  • 225 g (about 2) very ripe bananas (dirty-banana stage)
  • 235 g (1 C + 1 T) heavy cream
  • 55 g (1/4 C) milk
  • 100 g (1/2 C) sugar
  • 2 g (1/2 t) kosher salt
  • 25 g (2 T) cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 sheets gelatin (1 t powdered gelatin)
  • 40 g (3 T) unsalted butter
  • 25 drops (1/2 t) McCormick yellow food coloring
  • 160 g (1 C) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 banana, between the mellow--yellow and sweet-spotting stages, peeled and cut into 1/4" slices
  • + crust
  • + chocolate crumbs

Crust

  • 1 recipe chocolate crumbs
  • 0.5 g (a pinch) kosher salt
  • 14g–28g (1–2 T) melted butter

Chocolate crumbs

  • 85 g (6 T) unsalted butter
  • 105 g (2/3 C) all-purpose flour
  • 4 g (1 t) cornstarch
  • 65 g (2/3 C) Valrhona cocoa powder
  • 100 g (1/2 C) sugar
  • 4 g (1 t) kosher salt

Preparation

Make the Chocolate Crumbs

  1. Heat the oven to 300°F. In a microwave, carefully melt your butter in ten-second intervals. You want it melted, but not hot to the touch.

  2. In a mixer outfitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt at low speed.

  3. Stream in the melted butter and continue to paddle on low until the mixture starts to come together in little clumps—crumbs, if you will. Tossing the dry chocolate mixture by hand or with a whisk just doesn’t cut it; using a stand mixer will help distribute and knead the cocoa powder, and breaks down the sugar granules so you’re left with a jet-black crumb. Making the crumb against my advice will only give you more trouble and unevenness when you go to press your crumbs into a crust!

  4. Spread the crumbs on a parchment- or Silpat-lined half sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. Mix and break things up once or twice. The crumbs should still be slightly moist when they come out of the oven. Let them cool completely—they’ll get crunchier.

Make the crust

  1. Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse the chocolate crumbs until they resemble coarse, pitch-black sand. (The chocolate crumbs can be crumbled up by hand, as well, but it takes more time and can quickly become a hot mess.)

  2. Transfer the sandy crumbs to a bowl and toss with the sugar and salt. Add a tablespoon of the melted butter and knead it into the crumbs. If it’s not moist enough to allow you to shape it, add another tablespoon of melted butter.

  3. Dump the chocolate sand into a 10-inch pie tin. Press the chocolate crust firmly into the pie tin with your fingers and the palm of your hand. Leave no part of the pie tin uncovered. You can make the crust in advance, and wrap it in plastic wrap for storage. It will keep fresh for 5 days at room temp, or 2 weeks if refrigerated.

Make the filling

  1. The bananas, 75 g (1/3 cup) cream, milk, sugar, salt, cornstarch, and egg yolks go into a blender. Purée until the mixture is totally smooth.

  2. Put the mixture in a medium-size saucepan. Clean the blender.

  3. Bloom the gelatin in cold water: We use sheet gelatin at Milk Bar, but powdered gelatin will work fine. You bloom gelatin by soaking it in a dish with cold water. Blooming gelatin is analogous to pouring warm water into yeast; it prepares the gelatin to do its job. When you put the gelatin in the water, you’ll see it start to soften in seconds. Rub it in between your fingertips; if there aren’t any hard spots left, it’s ready. If you’re using powdered gelatin, the exchange rate is 1/2 t per gelatin sheet. Sprinkle it on top of the surface of the water—don’t dump it in, or it won’t bloom properly.

  4. Whisk the mixture over medium-low heat. As the banana mixture heats up, the color will darken and the cornstarch will thicken.

  5. When the mixture comes to a boil, continue whisking for 2 more minutes. The mixture will resemble thick glue, bordering on cement, with a color to match.

  6. Dump the contents of the pan into your clean blender. Add the butter and gelatin and purée until the mixture is smooth and even. Color the mixture with yellow food coloring until it is a bright, cartoon-banana yellow. THE DIRTY SECRET:  When we think of banana cream, we think of yellow—but without food coloring, the end result here is an off-white/tan/gray/brownish number that just doesn’t do it for me. It usually takes about 25 drops to tint a Milk Bar banana cream pie, but depending on the color and ripeness of your bananas, it could take more or less than that. Just add a couple drops at a time until the color is practically Warhol-banana yellow—it should be yellower at this point than you want the final product to be.

  7. Transfer the contents of the blender to an appropriately sized container. Cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent any “skin” forming, and put the container in the fridge for 30–60 minutes or as long as it takes to cool the mixture completely.

  8. Using a whisk or mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 160 g (3/4 C) cream and confectioners’ sugar until medium-soft peaks form. (This means the cream forms and holds soft mounds when you pull the whisk away from it.) Then add the cold banana mixture straight into the mixing bowl and, with the same whisk or whisk attachment, very, very slowly mix the banana mixture and cream together until it all has a homogenous, pale-yellow color. In an airtight container, banana cream keeps fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge.

Assembly

  1. Pour a quarter of the banana cream into the chocolate pie shell and spread it around just a little bit with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.

  2. For me, the best part of a banana cream pie is the hidden bananas in the center. Top the cream with a nice, full layer of the sliced banana. (If you’re really crazy about having a little banana in every bite, you may need two bananas.) Blanket the layer of bananas with the remaining banana cream. Put the pie in the fridge to chill. It won’t slice well unless it’s cold. Eat at will.