This pie came to be after a longtime customer showed up at our kitchen door with two stalks of fresh, local bananas that he had grown in his yard in the Malibu hills. I placed the entire stalks, flowers and all, on a top shelf in the kitchen and waited patiently for the bananas to ripen. Those bananas deserved an over-the-top preparation to honor the weeks of ripening it took for them all to be ready to use. Weighing in at a staggering four pounds, this is not your average late-night-diner banana cream pie. A rich layer of almond cream and baked bananas line the crust, followed by vanilla custard piled high and fresh bananas, and then a topping of whipped cream.
by Nicole Rucker
1. If your dough has been chilled overnight, it will need to sit at room temperature a bit before rolling—this will take 10 to 15 minutes. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the pie dough out to a 13-inch round that is 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a 9 1/2-inch pie dish and use your fingertips to relax the dough into the shape of the pie dish, leaving a 2-inch overhang around the edge of the dish. Fold the edge of the dough under itself. Use your thumb and forefinger to crimp the edge of the dough, pressing the dough into the dish and making sure the dough extends to the outer edge. This anchors the crust inside the dish, which results in a proud crown of crust after baking. Freeze the crimped crust for about 20 minutes, until the dough is very cold.
2. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. Line the crust with heavy-duty foil, leaving a 1½-inch overhang. Trace your fingertips over the foil overhang and gently press it into the crimp. Fill the foil-lined crust with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and lift out the foil and pie weights. Leave the oven on.
4. Spread the almond cream in the bottom of the crust. Cut half of the bananas into 1/4-inch-thick slices, slightly on the bias. Beginning at the sides of the pie crust, fan the slices to cover the almond cream in overlapping rows. Sprinkle the bananas with the granulated sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the almond cream has puffed and the bananas have browned. Let the baked shell cool completely on a wire rack.
5. Assemble the pie: Spread half of the pastry cream over the baked bananas and almond cream. Cut the rest of the bananas into ¼-inch-thick slices, on the bias. Beginning at the sides of the pie crust, fan the slices of fresh banana in overlapping rows on top of the pastry cream.
6. Cover the fresh bananas with the remaining pastry cream and smooth it into an even layer. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge while you make the whipped cream.
7. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream and confectioners’ sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Pile the whipped cream on top of the pie and swoosh it around with the back of a spoon.
8. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. When you are ready to serve the pie, soak a kitchen towel in hot water and fold it in half. Place the cold pie on top of the towel to release the buttery crust from the dish.
Prepare the Flaky Butter Crust 2 to 24 hours before starting the pie, as it needs to chill prior to rolling it out.
To achieve a clean slice with well-defined layers, the finished pie needs to chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
FLAKY BUTTER CRUST
Makes two 9 1/2-inch single crusts or 1 double crust with some dough left over for lattice work or other decoration
When I set out to develop my own pie dough recipe, I scoured my cookbook collection for unique recipes from which to find inspiration. There were so many recipes, all claiming to be the “flakiest,” “butteriest,” “best ever,” but most of them followed a traditional formula of cold fat, cold flour, and cold water. Some recipes called for vinegar, others swore by vodka. The vinegar intrigued me, mainly because I love vinegars and have quite a collection of them—a vinegar for every kind of recipe calling for acid.
When I dug further into the vinegar lead, I found that two recipes containing vinegar came out with excellent results. Though both needed tweaks to make them my own and adjust them to my taste, they each resulted in shattering flakes with great butter flavor and uniform color. One of the recipes was from Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney, Australia—and in that recipe, the authors actually dissolve the sugar in the water with the vinegar.
This was a lightbulb moment—dissolving the sugar in the liquid with vinegar creates a syrup that permeates the dough thoroughly. The color after baking is intense and the flavor and aroma of the cooked crust is a dish all its own.
Making pie goes back hundreds of years. The basic ratio of fat to flour wavers very little from recipe to recipe and the technique remains mostly the same, but the addition of vinegar adds a layer of tenderizing magic that shortens the production of gluten strands. Gluten is a friend in pie dough, but too much gluten makes for an inedible brick.
I prefer to use a vinegar with flavor, like unfiltered apple cider vinegar, as well as dark brown sugar for even more flavor and caramelization. Brown sugar is also considered to be an acid, and so it has similar tenderizing abilities as the vinegar, which means that this pie dough recipe is incredibly forgiving and has become one of my most consistent recipes. The raw pie dough tastes seasoned, as it should in my opinion.
You can make pie dough with your hands, you can cut the fat into the flour with a pastry cutter, you can squish the butter chunks into the flour with a rolling pin—there are as many methods for incorporating fat into flour as there are bad pie dough recipes. I stand by my simple pinch and smear method, and though there are plenty of ways to shortcut things, the handmade method works the best for me and for the team of bakers that make perfect pies at my bakery. I think that you can tell the difference between a hand-processed crust and a machine-processed crust. A crust made by hand will have a texture that is tender, and the outer edge will have visible layers and flakes when you cut into the slice. There will be less uniformity, but that’s the charm of a pie.
1. In a measuring cup, combine the brown sugar, vinegar, and salt with 3/4 cup (107ml) of hot water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Chill the liquid in the freezer until it is very cold (this should take about 20 minutes) and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to start the rest of the dough.
2. Combine the flour and half of the butter in a large mixing bowl. Pinch and smear the butter between your fingers. Processing the butter like this creates small leaves of butter that layer in the dough, resulting in flakes later. Once all the butter chunks have been pinched, grab small handfuls of flour and butter and rub the two together between the palms of your hands until the mixture resembles uneven pebbles on a sandy beach.
3. Dump the crumbly mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface. Scatter the remaining half of the cold butter over the dough. Use the palm of your hand to smear the butter as if you were sliding a secret message across a table. Use a bench scraper to gather the shaggy dough and repeat the smearing process until you have a pile of striated rubble. The larger pieces of butter will create a marbled dough and will melt during baking, causing the water in the butter to evaporate (this will result in flaky pastry pockets).
4. Gather the buttery mixture up in a mound and form a well in the center. Remove the cold liquid from the fridge and pour half of it into the well. Using your fingertips, slowly bring the flour and butter into the center and combine it with the liquid, until the liquid has been incorporated. Gather the moistened dough into a pile.
5. Slowly pour the remaining liquid onto the shaggy mess. Lift the dough from the bottom and squeeze just until it comes together into one mass. Divide the ball in half and shape each half into a disc. Wrap each in plastic and chill for 2 hours before using.
Makes about 4 cups
1. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water. Place a clean heatproof bowl inside it. Set a fine-mesh strainer over the heatproof bowl.
2. In a separate heatproof bowl, whisk together the whole egg, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until just incorporated. Set aside.
3. Combine the milk and the vanilla in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the milk simmers. Remove the pan from the heat.
4. While whisking, pour one-quarter of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk to incorporate. Add the remaining milk mixture slowly, whisking to combine. Transfer the mixture back to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan with a heatproof spatula, until the custard is thick and bubbles appear in the center, 4 to 6 minutes.
5. Using the spatula, quickly pass the custard through the strainer into the heatproof bowl. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking until the butter has been totally incorporated.
6. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and cool it completely in the ice bath. The pastry cream can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, almond extract, and salt and beat until incorporated. With the machine off, add the almond flour, then mix at medium speed until no dry bits of almond flour remain. If you’re not going to use the almond cream immediately, transfer the cream to an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to 1 week.
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Reprinted from Dappled by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019, Nicole Rucker.