So here’s a nostalgic treat for you. A decadent banana cream pie with a homemade peanut butter crust, creamy vanilla custard, luscious whipped cream and an indulgent bourbon caramel. I didn’t really care about booze flavoring in my sweets when I was a kid, but gosh is it good now!
One thing to note about this recipe is that it is very involved. There are a lot of components to pull together, and while none are particularly difficult, it is time consuming. But you will be rewarded in the end by choruses of mmmms from pleased pie-eaters.
Banana Cream Pie with Salty Bourbon Caramel
Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine February ’12 by Ashley Christensen
Peanut Butter Crust
1 ¼ cups unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg yolk
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Vanilla Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
¼ tsp kosher salt
5 large egg yolks
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
1 ½ tbsp bourbon, divided
1 tbsp water
¼ cup cream
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
¼ tsp kosher salt
¾ tsp vanilla extract
Whipped Cream and Assembly
½ cup cream
1 tsp vanilla
dash of sugar
3 ripe bananas
Let’s start with the piecrust. In fact, I made this piecrust two days ahead of time because I wanted to bring it up to our weekend away in Vermont. That way I knew I would be one step ahead and out of the way of the oven. It comes out like a giant peanut butter cookie and travels very well, with no crumbling or breaking.
First we need to make peanut butter! Preheat your oven to 350°. Pulse your peanuts in a food processor until they are coarsely ground. Remove a ¼ cup of peanuts – these will be used later to top the pie. Now continue to pulse the peanuts until peanut butter forms. So exciting! (I’ve never made peanut butter before!). This will take about two minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the sugars, peanut butter and butter until combined and resembling wet sand. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla while scraping down the sides of the bowl for about three minutes until well blended. Now we add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined and forming a crumbly mixture. Gather the dough together in your hands and place in a pie dish. Press the dough out evenly across the bottom of the dish and up the sides. Bake for about 15-17 minutes until the edges are deep golden brown. The crust will puff up a bit, but don’t worry; it will be suitable for pie use once out of the oven. Smells divine. Cover tightly if you are making ahead of time.
On to the vanilla pastry cream! Bring the your milk and cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. This will take a bit, so while this is happening whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks and whisk until smooth. The mixture looks kind of weird and scary, but it will ok. Next step is to gradually add the hot milk mixture to the yolk mixture while whisking constantly.
Pour all of the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat while whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about 2-3 minutes. It will now appear to look very much like custard, but with some clumpy bits. These will disappear in the next step: transfer to a blender and add the butter and vanilla. Puree for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Clumps gone! Transfer to a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap directly pressed onto the top of the cream and chill until set – at least 2 hours. You could also make this two days ahead of time if you’d like.
The bourbon caramel is next. This was the step I found the most difficult and candy making can always be tricky. To be honest I had to redo the first step because my sugar seized up (meaning it turned back into chunky crystals), but I found a trick for the second attempt. Start by stirring the sugar, 1 tbsp of bourbon, and 1 tbsp of water in a medium deep saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to a boil and wait until sugar is a deep amber color, like a penny, 6-8 minutes. So here was my trick: unlike the original recipe instructed, during my second attempt I did not swirl the pan or brush down the sides. Too much activity will make the sugar recrystallize, so instead I covered the pot to let condensation drip down the sides, and let it be.
Magically, this worked. Woo! Not done yet: remove the caramel from heat, whisk in the ¼ cup of cream, butter and salt. The mixture will bubble a lot. Let cool for 5 minutes and then whisk in the remaining ½ tbsp of bourbon and the vanilla. Let the caramel cool a bit before serving.
Final step is to make the whipped cream and assemble the pie. Use an electric mixer to beat a ½ cup of cream, 1 tsp vanilla and a dash of sugar to make the whipped cream. Sweeten the cream to personal preference.
Pie time! Spread a ¼ cup of pastry cream into your piecrust. Slice bananas and arrange over the pastry cream. Cover with the rest of the pastry cream. Top with the whipped cream, reserved peanuts and drizzle with the bourbon caramel.
My feelings on this pie? It tasted absolutely fantastic! But I was a little disappointed on the presentation end. It was a very messy pie that did not assemble nearly as perfectly as the pie in the picture that accompanied the Bon Appetit recipe (maybe that should me no surprise…). It’s just kind of oozy and will drip every which way, even before cut. This did not stop 15 adults and children alike from enjoy the pie immensely, just for a very messy serving process. Perhaps this recipe would be better served as mini pies or cupcake tin pies? Food for thought…