For the uninitiated, Banana Cream Pie is a light, slightly sweet pudding cooked on the stovetop then poured into a flaky pre-baked pie shell and topped with whipped cream.
I start this pie with a creamy, custardy homemade vanilla pudding flavored with vanilla bean paste. The method is simple with results that truly rival any boxed pudding mix. The ingredients are added to the pan all at once, whisked smooth, and stirred over moderate heat until thickened.
My version, like many classic takes, layers ripe bananas within the pudding. I pour in half the pudding into the crust, add a layer of sliced bananas, then spread the remaining pudding over the fruit.
The resulting pie is a simple, but elegant, sweet and slightly floral pie, ready for any holiday table or weekend get together.
WHAT IS VANILLA BEAN PASTE?
I’ve opted for vanilla paste as the flavoring for some contrasting speckles throughout the pudding. Vanilla paste is a suspension of vanilla beans that can be used interchangeably with vanilla extract. My favorite brand is Heilala, but I also like Nielsen-Massey.
If you don’t have vanilla paste laying around or can’t find it at the store, you can replace it with double the amount of vanilla extract.
- READ MORE! The Simply Recipes Guide to Vanilla
HOW TO TELL WHEN THE PUDDING IS SET
We need a somewhat thick filling to ensure the pie is sliceable and not a soupy mess. A combination of cornstarch, a whole egg, and yolks give this pie thickening power plus a smooth texture, rich flavor, and buttery color.
So, how thick does it need to be? I use visual cues to determine whether or not my pudding has thickened enough.
- When you drag the whisk through the pudding it should leave deep, distinctive tracks before coming back together.
- The pudding should not only coat the back of a spoon, but cling to it.
- Your finger when drawn through the pudding on the back of a spoon, should leave a distinct line that does not meld back together.
- The pudding should be opaque.
WHAT IF YOUR PUDDING ISN’T THICKENING?
If your pudding is cooking and just isn’t thickening, resist the urge to crank up the heat. This could “break” the custard and make it chunky.
If it’s just not reaching pudding-level texture you can make a slurry. Simply whisk two tablespoons each of cornstarch and cold water together in a small bowl and you will have a slurry.
Next, remove the pudding from the heat, add the slurry one or two teaspoons at a time then return it to the heat to thicken until the pudding has reached the proper consistency.
WHAT IS THE BEST CRUST FOR A CREAM PIE?
This vanilla wafer crust is a simple mix of vanilla wafer crumbs, a bit of sugar, some melted butter, and a pinch of salt that gets pressed into a pie plate and quickly baked before being cooled and filled. I’ve made this pie with graham cracker crust and while it is delicious, I think vanilla wafers are a better compliment to the creamy pudding and ripe banana.
HOW TO MAKE STABILIZED WHIPPED CREAM
Stabilized whipped cream is simply cream that’s been fortified with a little gelatin before being whipped so that it holds its shape and doesn’t weep.
Stabilized whipped cream will hold its shape for at least 24 hours. I generally pipe the whipped cream right before presenting the pie, but with the stabilized version you can do this well in advance.
MAKE AHEAD TIPS FOR BANANA CREAM PIE
You can make this pie through pouring the pudding into the crust up to 48 hours in advance and refrigerate it with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the pudding. Then add the whipped cream and decorative banana slices just before serving.
You can also make the pie start to (nearly) finish 24 hours ahead of time. To add the whipped cream in advance, it’s best to stabilize it with a bit of gelatin. I’ve included the instructions in the recipe below. Pipe the whipped cream on top of the pie, don’t cover it, and keep it in the fridge for up to one day. Just before serving top with sliced bananas.
STORING AND FREEZING THIS PIE
This pie isn’t meant for the freezer. Plus, I don’t love freezing anything with fresh bananas just because the freezer breaks them down and releases too much liquid which results in unwanted sogginess, not to mention unpleasant texture.
CHECK OUT THESE OTHER GREAT PIE RECIPES:
Banana Cream Pie Recipe
For the filling:
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, or 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ripe bananas
For the crust:
- 8 ounces vanilla wafer cookies
- 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch of kosher salt
For the stabilized whipped cream:
- 1/2 teaspoon gelatin powder
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 banana, sliced
1 Make the pudding: Whisk the milk, cream, cornstarch, eggs, yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a 2-quart saucepan until the mixture is well combined.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and whisk the mixture constantly until thick and a few bubbles rise to the surface of the pudding, about 10 minutes. Resist the urge to increase the heat, as it could break the pudding.
The pudding should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon without running back together when you run your finger through it.
2 Cool the pudding: Spread the pudding into a large shallow dish (like a 9x13 pan) and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding. Cool for 20 minutes on a rack before placing in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour. You can do this step 1 or 2 days in advance.
3 Make the crust: While the pudding cools and chills, make the crust. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Add the vanilla wafers to your food processor and pulse until they become fine crumbs. Place the crumbs into a bowl and stir in the melted butter, sugar, and salt.
Press the crumbs firmly into the pie plate, using something with a flat bottom (like a measuring cup) to compact the crumbs. Bake the crust in the oven for 15 minutes and cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes.
4 Assemble the pie and let it chill: Peel two bananas and slice them into 1/4-inch rounds.
Remove the chilled pudding from the refrigerator and take off the plastic wrap (but save it for later). Give the pudding a stir until creamy and spoon half into the bottom of the baked pie crust.
Place the banana slices in a single layer on top of the pudding. Spread the remaining pudding over the bananas and smooth the top. Press the plastic wrap you saved directly onto the surface and chill for 6 hours or overnight.
5 Make the stabilized whipped cream: In a small bowl add cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let the gelatin “bloom” or absorb the water, there should not be any dry bits after 5 minutes or so.
Place the dish in the microwave and cook for 15 seconds at a time until just melted (about 30 seconds). Watch the gelatin as it will expand and could bubble up over the bowl. Let the gelatin cool slightly just for a minute or two while the cream whips.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a bowl using a hand mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream while adding the powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time until the cream is foamy and just beginning to thicken.
With the mixer still running, slowly drizzle the melted gelatin into the cream until fully incorporated. Beat on medium speed until stiff peaks are reached.
6 Decorate and serve the pie: Load the whipped cream into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe swirls around the pie. Top the swirls with slices of banana.
Serve the pie immediately, or if you want to make it up to 24 hours in advance, go ahead and pipe the swirls on but wait to decorate with bananas until just before serving.
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