When life is bananas...I make banana cream pie.

Well known saying goes like this..."When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."

Being that I have always been a glass half full sort of girl, this statement is definitely a motto I live by.  A problem solver by nature, I leap at the chance to fix something and make it better. However, I have come to learn that sometimes life doesn't always just hand you a "few" lemons.  In fact, sometimes when life has us bogged down it's as if someone is literally pelting you with those little yellow orbs, almost as if to keep you from regaining your stride.  These moments in our life are ever ending and the only thing one can do is find a way to make time to go to their happy place.

When I was growing up and my Birthday rolled around in December, my Mom would always ask me, "What kind of pie would you like this year honey?" This was because I despise Birthday cake.  Yep, I said it, I don't like cake.  Now don't get me wrong, I have eaten many a fabulous piece of cake in my day.  Some cakes were sinfully good, but you will rarely ever see me choose cake over a hot piece of dutch apple pie a la mode...oozing with rich apply caramel sauce, warm chunks of piping hot fruit, sugary crumbly crust, and big scoop of melting rich creamy vanilla ice cream...sorry, too focused on that pie image for a second.  Anyways, you get the picture, I LOVE PIE!   

December into January has literally felt like I am running a marathon without water...and January has just begun.  I'm a bride to be, planning 4 weddings on top of my own, traveling out of the country for work in 6 days, still haven't nailed down all the vendors for my own wedding, and am searching for a new home among other ventures...stress is not the word!  I believe the coined phrase these days is "BANANAS!"  We all have moments that require us to stop and catch our breath.  These moments are when I find myself glued to my stove, captured by my kitchen, indulging my risk factor.  This is the moment when I think anyone could find there connection to cooking.  So I am commanding you now, next time life is tough...STOP!  Take a moment to throw some flour on your board, make a dish that seems impossible, fail, or maybe even succeed.

I got a beautiful New Year's gift from my local grocer Joe Caputo & Sons, a huge bag of bananas!  So in the true spirit of the phrase, I am taking this "BANANAS" situation and making a banana cream pie, because pie makes me smile.

  •  1 3/4 Cups Whole Milk
  • 1 3/4 Cups Heavy Cream + 1 Pint Heavy Cream for Whipping
  • 1 1/4 Cups Sugar
  • Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 1/2 C Cornstarch
  • Bunch of Bananas, about 5-7 
  • 1 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract 
  • 1/4 Tsp Sea Salt
  • Vanilla Wafer Crust: 1 1/2 Cups Vanilla Wafer Crumbs & 5 Tbs Unsalted Butter
First you must make the custard for the filling.  Use a heavy bottomed pan and heat the milk, cream, and 1/2 a cup of sugar on a medium to low heat.  Bring it to a boil & be sure to dissolve all the sugar.  Whisk often so the milk doesn't burn & the cream doesn't boil over.

In a bowl combine the rest of the sugar with the eggs, egg yolks, cornstarch & salt until you have a dissolved most of your sugar and thoroughly beaten your eggs.

The mixture should look like this 

Whisk & begin to temper the eggs by adding a about 2 ladles of the hot cream mixture into the eggs and whisk rapidly. Then add the egg mixture with hot cream into the pan and begin cooking your custard.

Still be sure to keep your heat on medium or low and stir often again to prevent burning.  If you start to see any lumps, just whisk rapidly (They will be removed either way when you strain the custard, so don't worry if it doesn't look perfect.).  Bring the mixture to a simmer & be sure to stir constantly.  This will take about 3-7 minutes depending on your heat source.  Cook until the mixture is thicker than pudding.  Now taste it!  Does it need anything else...this is where cooks are born, if you want it sweeter, add more sugar and be sure to dissolve completely.  Take the hot custard and strain through a fine strainer into a bowl.  If your custard still looks separated here's a quick trick: Pull out the mixer and blend it for a minute or 2 to fluff it up and incorporate everything.  Add vanilla, stir and cover.  Place plastic wrap directly on the custard to prevent a skin from forming.  Place in the refrigerator and chill for a few hours until set.

While the custard is chilling I make my crust.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In the food processor blend the vanilla wafer cookies until you have fine crumbs.  Measure out and make sure you have 1 1/2 cups, add 5 Tbs. melted butter, & mix until all the crumbs are coated with butter.  Press firmly into your pie pan.  Cook crust in the oven until it starts to turn a light golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.  Chill completely before adding custard, or your mixture will run & make your crust soggy!

After both the crust & custard are complete and cooling I make my whipped cream.  Secret tip! I put my bowl, my beaters or whisk and my cream in the fridge for at least 15 min to get super cold.  Makes fluffier & stiffer cream!  Beat your heavy cream on high until you get soft peaks, then add powdered sugar to taste. I tend to keep my whipped cream on the semi-sweet side for this luscious pie, about 1/4c. should do, but you can make it sweeter if you'd like.  Cover and place in the fridge to firm up as well. 

When both crust & custard are cooled completely you can begin to slice your bananas and assemble the pie.  I like to cut my bananas on a bias.  I also like to layer bananas and add 1/3 of the custard, and repeat until the mixture is gone.

I add a smooth flat layer of whipped cream to create a good base and ensure I have covered my bananas completely to keep them from browning.

Then I add the rest of my remaining cream or a good amount of it to the center to create that fancy high pie center and use the back of a large metal spoon swirled in opposite semi circles to create the natural pattern.  Top with a few bananas so you know what's inside and wallah!

Here's my special touch.  Nutmeg!  Freshly grate some on top to really add a touch of warmth to your creamy rich pie.

So there it is...my famous vanilla custard banana cream pie with nutmeg whip!  Remember this next time you are in a rough patch and need some time to de-stress...make a pie, by the time you are done, you will see that eliminating your worries was just a slice away.