On chilly winter nights, my mom would sometimes whip up a batch of warm vanilla or butterscotch pudding and top it with Nilla Wafers and sliced ripe bananas. She would often serve these perfect puddings in little glass ramekins, which made dinner seem very fancy. Now at home with my little ones, I always make sure we have a box of Nilla Wafers in the pantry, as you never know when pudding, bananas, and Nillas will be needed as a treat! My recipe for banana cream pie is an ode to the creamy banana memories of my childhood. I coat the pie shell with a thin layer of dark chocolate to help the crust stay crispy under the pastry cream. If you prefer, a graham cracker crust can be substituted for the traditional piecrust here. ★M.G.
1 blind-baked Classic Piecrust (page 112)
½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips, melted
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch, sifted
4 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 very ripe bananas, sliced about ⅛ inch thick
1½ cups heavy cream
½ cup ground Salted Toffee
Using a pastry brush, evenly coat the bottom and sides of the blind-baked piecrust with the melted chocolate, and set the crust in the refrigerator to set the chocolate.
In a medium sauce pan, heat the milk, vanilla bean and seeds, and vanilla extract over medium heat for about 3 minutes to bring the mixture to just below boiling. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, and salt. Slowly whisk the hot milk into the cornstarch mixture in thirds so as not to curdle the egg yolks. Return the entire mixture to the sauce pan and whisk constantly until the pastry cream is thick, about 4 minutes. Whisk in the softened butter. Remove the pastry cream from the stovetop and discard the vanilla bean pod. Fold in the sliced bananas. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the pastry cream surface. Chill the pastry cream for about 30 minutes so that it is cool enough not to melt the chocolate when it is added to the crust.
Once the pastry cream is cool, fill the prepared piecrust and cover the top with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the pastry cream surface. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.
To serve, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Slice the pie into even slices, dollop each slice with whipped cream, and sprinkle the pie slices with ground salted toffee. Alternatively, if taking the pie to an event or for a dramatic presentation, top the entire pie with the whipped cream and ground salted toffee. The pie will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Makes one 9-inch double crust or two 9-inch single crusts
The piecrust: It scares some, but it was my favorite pastry to master. In my early days in the bakeshop, I always had so much fun mixing, kneading, and rolling out the dough—even if the crust did not turn out right! This recipe was developed over time and through many attempts to find the right balance between good butter flavor and the delicate texture that lard creates, plus the perfect mix of sugar and salt. With very few ingredients in a crust, it’s important to use the highest quality ingredients possible. I recommend using a good-quality butter that’s high in butterfat, such as Plugra, to ensure that the crust will form properly, and a delicate salt like kosher or sea salt. Remember: Making pie is not easy, and there is no bakeshop secret to becoming a great pie maker. Patience and practice are the keys.
2⅓ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted
½ cup cold lard, cubed
½ cup ice water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and set in the freezer for 30 minutes; you want all the components to be very cold in order to get the flakiest crust possible. Place the cubed butter and lard on a baking sheet and set in the freezer to chill until hard.
Attach the bowl with the dry ingredients to the food processor. Add the cold butter and lard to the dry ingredients in two additions, pulsing to combine after each addition. Slowly add the ice water to the mixture, pulsing to combine until a dough forms. As soon as the dough holds together in the food processor, quickly transfer the dough to a cold work surface. Knead the dough just until smooth, working the fat into streaks and being careful not to overwork the pie dough. Divide the dough in half and flatten each piece into a disk. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
Crimp the pie dough around the edge and set in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before proceeding. The pie crusts can be kept frozen in the pie pans (or in a disk for the top crust), each double-wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 month.
To blind-bake (bake the crust before adding the pie filling), preheat the oven to 375°F. Line the frozen shell with a coffee filter and fill the liner with pie weights or uncooked pinto beans. Press the beans lightly into the shell to ensure that the edges are weighed down. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating 180 degrees halfway through the cooking time, until the outer edge of the crimp looks dry and golden brown. Remove the shell from the oven and carefully remove the coffee liner and beans. If the liner sticks to the shell, return the shell to the oven to dry out for about 3 minutes and then try to remove the liner. Decrease the oven temperature to 350°F. Brush the crimped edge and the bottom of the shell with the beaten egg and then prick the bottom of the shell. Return the shell to the oven and continue to bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes longer. Set the baked shell aside until needed for final pie preparation.
(* Recipe reproduced with permission from Made in America: A Modern Collection of Classic Recipes by Colby and Megan Garrelts, published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, April 2015...Photo by Bonjwing Lee)
Heat up your vegetarian dip with this recipe from Salsas and Moles, Fresh and Authentic Recipes for Pico de Gallo, Mole Poblano, Chimichurri, Guacamole, and More (Ten Speed Press, April 2015) by Deborah Schneider of Sol Cocina...
Salsa Verde (Cooked Tomatillo Salsa with Cilantro and Jalapeño)
Makes about 3 cups
Native green tomatillos are the most widely used base for salsas throughout Mexico. They have a tart-sweet taste that greatly enhances other flavors. The most common is the green tomatillo, but cooks love to use tiny purple tomatillos de milpa (milperas), and yellow tomatillos are prized and expensive.
This typically simple salsa verde will become a staple in your repertoire. At the store, choose firm tomatillos with their papery husks intact. Before using, remove the husks and wash off the sticky film under cold running water.
6 medium tomatillos, husked and washed
1 clove garlic
1⁄2 white onion cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large jalapeno or serrano chile, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
10 sprigs cilantro, stemmed
Place the tomatillos, garlic, onion, jalapeño, and salt in a 11⁄2-quart saucepan. Add just enough water to barely cover the tomatillos and quickly bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the vegetables until the tomatillos have softened and the tip of a knife can be inserted, about 5 minutes; do not overcook.
Drain off the cooking water and transfer the contents of the saucepan to a blender, along with the cilantro leaves. Pulse the salsa until smooth. You will still be able to see some seeds, along with flecks of cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
Serving Ideas: Spoon this salsa onto anything and everything— eggs, simmered or grilled meats, tacos, quesadillas, or huaraches (masa cakes) with beans and cheese. This is the salsa used to make classic chilaquiles verdes as well as elegant, rich enchiladas suizas: corn tortillas stuffed with chicken and cheese and bathed in tart salsa verde and rich Mexican-style crema. Salsa verde is also the base for chicken or pork chile verde.