birthday banana cream pie

pie 26 close up-

So before we get to that pie, we need to talk about something.

I had an incredible dinner on Saturday night. I would say it easily ranks in my top 5 best dinners ever. Don’t ask me what the other four dinners are…I haven’t thought this out that far.

Well, one of them would be from moto. But aside from that, I really haven’t thought through the rest. The top 5 thing was more for impact. Moving on.

If you live in or ever visit Chicago, I would highly recommend you go to the Publican. I’ve been a fan ever since we tried their brunch a couple of years ago. I happen to hold the opinion that they have the best bacon ever. Do you hear me? BEST. BACON. EVER.

Having tried their brunch, as well as having checked out their butcher shop across the street, it was high time we tried their dinner menu. Dinner is a bit different there, since the plates are all served with the intent of sharing. Our server suggested two plates per person, so we ordered:

beets with burrata/walnuts/herbs // frites with the best aioli you’ve ever had in your life (not pictured) // rabbit with grits, mustard sauce, and greens // country rib with cauliflower, pea shoots, and lemon // vacherin – vanilla meringue, whipped cream, sherbets (strawberry, orange, and buttermilk), green strawberries and orange confit

photo(5)You’ll have to excuse the picture quality…I was using my phone, and I refuse to use flash inside a restaurant. And the photo-taking was extending the food-to-mouth timeline. Not cool.

All of it was phenomenal. And on top of the excellent food, they also have a pretty sweet beer selection (including a house-brewed spontaneously fermented sour ale!)

I’m sure you’re wondering when we’re getting to the banana cream pie. Now. The answer is now.

The whole reason we went out to dinner was to celebrate Brandon’s birthday. Every year for his birthday, he picks out whatever kind of birthday dessert he wants me to make, which ended up being banana cream pie this year. (On a related note, I still can’t decide what dessert I want him to make for my birthday…)

This was sort of a scary request, as I’d never made a pastry cream before. I tend to shy away from things like that because why humiliate myself by making a scrambled egg pudding? Gross.

I’m here to tell you a secret….it’s really not as hard as it sounds. It does take some arm muscle (don’t stop whisking!), but other than that, it was pretty simple.

So now, you have no reason to avoid all those pastry cream recipes. Go forth and conquer.

pie birds far-mediumcropped

Banana Cream Pie

for the crust:
1 3/4 c. crumbs**
5 TB unsalted butter, melted
2 TB sugar
pinch of salt

**A note on those crumbs: I used a combination of graham cracker crumbs and nilla wafer crumbs. Make sure your crumbs are on the finer side — I think mine were a little too coarse, and while incredibly delicious, it was a little crumblier than I would have liked.

for the pastry cream:
2 cups whole milk
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup brown sugar (no lumps!)
1/3 cup cornstarch (sifted)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of mace or nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
3TB cold, unsalted butter (cubed)

3 just-ripe bananas, cut into quarter-inch thick slices

for the whipped cream topping:
1 cup heavy cream
2 TB confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 TB sour cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Make your crust — combine the crumbs, salt, sugar, and melted butter. Press into the bottom and sides of a 9″ pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely before using. (I made this a day ahead of time, covered it, and stuck it in the fridge until I needed it the next day.)
  3. Make your pastry cream – in a large heat-proof bowl, whisk egg yolks, brown sugar, cornstarch, spices, and salt until combined. Set aside.
  4. Bring milk to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. You’ll want to stir occasionally to avoid the icky skin that forms on top. Once milk is at a boil, remove from heat.
  5. Here’s the tricky part. You need to temper the eggs. Place your egg yolk mixture bowl on a dish towel to keep it from sliding around while you whisk!
  6. Slowly add 1-2 TB of the hot milk to your egg mixture while whisking. DON’T STOP WHISKING. Otherwise you will make scrambled eggs. The point here is to slowly bring the eggs up to temperature without making scrambled egg soup.
  7. Continue to add the hot milk a little at a time (don’t stop whisking!!!!!!) until all of it has been incorporated into the egg mixture. You now have pastry cream base.
  8. Pour the pastry cream base into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Place over medium heat, and bring to a boil while constantly whisking.
  9. Keep mixture at a boil for about 2 minutes (you should still be whisking. I’m sorry, I’m sure your arm is tired.) It should thicken significantly once it begins to boil.
  10. Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla.
  11. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes, and then stir in the cold, cubed butter until thoroughly incorporated.
  12. You need this to cool before using. Place the pastry cream in an airtight container, and press a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream before closing the lid.
  13. Fridge it until you need it. When you’re ready to use it, stir the pastry cream vigorously to loosen it up a little. I also made this the night before I planned to use it.
  14. Make the whipped cream topping: With a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the cream until it just starts to thicken.
  15. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the cream holds firm peaks.
  16. Gently fold in the sour cream with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
  17. Assemble the pie: Using about 1/4 of the pastry cream and an offset spatula, spread a layer on the bottom of the pie crust. It’ll be a thin layer. Then, add a layer of sliced bananas. Spread half the remaining pastry cream on top of the banana layer, and then repeat once more with the remaining bananas and pastry cream. Top with the whipped cream. You can leave it as is, or add chocolate sprinkles or curls. To make the chocolate curls, I basically took a vegetable peeler to a bar of good quality dark chocolate, and then froze the curls until I was ready to use them.

chocolate shavings close up-

Coming events: a recipe for beer caramels, and a visit to a brand-new Chicago restaurant, endgrain!


One comment

  1. Pingback: pi (pie) day appoaches: mini apple pies | happiness is a warm bun

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