Happy National Banana Cream Pie Day

Here's a few recipes from MRS. ROWE'S LITTLE BOOK OF SOUTHERN PIE (Ten Speed Press, July, 2009) in celebration of National Banana Cream Pie Day. Enjoy! (At this point, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that you can pre-order the book at Amazon of Ten Speed.)

Susan’s Banana Cream Pie
 Here’s a recipe from Susan Simmons, a longtime baker at Mrs. Rowe’s Country Buffet who now works in the catering arm of the company. Pouring the hot custard over the bananas infuses an incredible banana flavor into the creamy custard, making for an ultimate pie experience. When you prepare the egg yolks for the custard, remember to save the whites for the meringue!

 Makes one 9-inch pie

 Vinegar Pie Crust prebaked (recipe is below if you want to try it, but you can get decent pastry in the frozen section of your grocery store)
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 cups milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 medium banana, sliced
1 recipe Mrs. Rowe’s Meringue (page 00)

 Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the rolled-out crust.

Mix the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together. Using a double boiler, heat the milk until it boils. Whisk in the egg mixture and cook, stirring occasionally with the whisk, for about 4 minutes, until very thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.

Slice the banana and arrange the slices in the crust. Pour the filling over the bananas and top with the meringue. Cover the pie with the meringue and seal the edges well.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. The filling should wobble very slightly in the center when the pan is jiggled. Custards continue to cook when taken out of the oven, so don’t overdo it. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then chill in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours before slicing. Serve cold.

Weepless Meringue
 Less puffy and showy, but just as delicious as Mrs. Rowe’s Meringue, this family recipe is a tougher breed. The salt and cornstarch fuse and stabilize it, making it easier to manage and giving it a harder glaze once it’s baked, which mean less likelihood of weeping.

Makes enough to cover one 9-inch pie

1 tablespoon cornstarch
8 tablespoons sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup hot water
3 egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt

In a saucepan, stir together the cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and enough of the hot water to make a smooth paste. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and clear. Set aside to cool.

Combine the egg whites and salt in a chilled bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the cooled cornstarch mixture, and then the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the whites form stiff peaks but aren’t dry. The meringue is now ready to pile lightly over a pie.

Vinegar Pie Crust
The vinegar in this crust is a flavorless stabilizer, making the dough more forgiving and patchable. In addition to being easy to work with, it also tastes great—even butter-loving pastry fans enjoy the flavor.

 Makes two 9-inch crusts

 2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water

 Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until it is the size of small peas. Add the vinegar, egg, and just enough ice water to moisten the dry ingredients.

Form the dough into 2 equal balls, then flatten into disks. Roll out the crusts right away, or wrap the dough tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball to a thickness of 1/8 inch.

To prebake an empty crust, preheat the oven to 400°F. Press 1 rolled-out crust into a 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Line with parchment paper and weight the crust down with dry beans or pie weights to keep the crust from bubbling or shrinking. Bake for 10 minutes, until firm and lightly browned. To parbake the crust, remove it from the oven after 10 to 20 minutes, when you first see a golden hue to the crust.

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