Friday, March 22, 2013
I admit that I've always turned my nose up at the notion of cream pies. It's mostly cream, whipped with lots of sugar, flavored only with a small amount of whatever cream pie it's supposed to be. Why go through all that trouble? Then I watched Momofuku Milk Bar's Christina Tosi make this insane banana cream pie in the 'Rotten' episode of David Chang's The Mind of a Chef (which you must watch, if you're anything like me). When she poured that luscious, smooth and bright yellow mound of banana cream into a pie plate covered with Valrhona cocoa crust, I immediately recalled my most memorable scene of cream pie making in Julie & Julia (2009).
It was a chocolate cream pie topped with more whipped cream on top. I can relate to Julie Powell whenever I'm caught by the stove stirring any form of custard, curd or pastry cream, which, come to think of it, may be the reason why I have so many dessert recipes surrounding them here.
You know what I love about cooking?
I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. You can come come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It's such a comfort.
- Julie Powell [Julie & Julia (2009)]-
I see Tosi's sunny colored pie without more offending and unnecessary whipped cream covering it and all I could think of for the next few days is this cream pie I just had to make. So I waited impatiently for a batch of my bananas to turn black - which is usually how I use them in my breakfast supershake - one the best ways to enjoy the real flavor of banana. (Yes, they look gross and usually would attract enough fruit flies to drive you nuts before it's time for you to chuck them into the freezer.)
Happy pie stories aside, I shall not mislead you to think this is an easy thing to make. While you won't screw up anything following the recipe, if you've seen any one of Momofuku's recipes, you'll know what I'm talking about. The only thing I've made from Milk was this cornflake chocolate chip cookie and it's one of those things with components and resting time, not a cookie you can whip up in 1 hour. This pie? You'll need an empty dishwasher or a few rounds by the sink before you can sit down in pie heaven. By the end of it, I had a blender, food processor, pot, Kitchen Aid bowl and baking tray dripping from my dish rack. Tosi's recipes, while intriguing, are written for the commercial kitchen.
Now that I've laid that out for you straight and forward, let me assure you that the fuss was worth it. This banana cream pie is all banana. Tosi wasn't kidding when she flirted around with a couple of limp looking blackened bananas thawed from the freezer in her segment of the show - there's a reason why some foods are better rotten. I will go as far to say that you can dollop a spoon of whipped cream by the side of this pie for me and I wouldn't mind it, because the banana in there would kick ass and make your day just a little better.
Momofuku Milk Bar's Banana Cream Pie
Adapted slightly from Christina Tosi's Momofuku Milk Bar.
Yield 1 9-inch or 10-inch round pie
Note: Changes to the recipe - I've reduced the salt in the chocolate crumbs, made it in a bowl like Tosi did in Chang's show and skipped the additional sugar and salt when making the crust as I find them redundant (she didn't use them in the show either). Most people who tried this recipe complained about the pie being too runny despite having been in the fridge for hours. So I did a little bit of research and found that you actually need 3 sheets of gelatin (equivalent to 1 packet of powdered gelatin, 2 1/4 teaspoons) to set the pie (more than 2 cups of liquid) into something you can slice. For more information of gelatin conversions, David Lebovitz did a good job.
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup good-quality cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 of the chocolate crumb recipe above
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of room temperature butter
- 2 very ripe (black) large bananas
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 gelatin sheets (or 2 1/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon yellow food coloring
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 1 ripe (dark yellow) banana, sliced
Make the Chocolate Crumb: Heat the oven to 300°F/150°C. Combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk the ingredients to combine. Gradually add the melted butter and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon till the mixture starts to come together in small clusters. Spread the crumbs on a parchment line sheet pan. Bake till dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. Let the crumbs cool completely before using. (Refrain from snacking or eating the crumbs no matter how inviting they look, otherwise you will have a very thin pie crust.)
Make the Banana Cream: Meanwhile, make the banana cream. Combine the black bananas, 1/3 cup heavy cream and milk in a blender and puree until totally smooth. Add in the caster sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolks. Blend till smooth and pour into a medium saucepan. Clean out the blender. Bloom the gelatin. Soak it in a small bowl of cold water for about 3-4 minutes. To bloom powdered gelatin, sprinkle it evenly onto the surface of 1/4 cup of cold water in a small dish. Allow to soften for 3-5 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the contents of the pan and heat over medium-low heat. As the banana mixture heats up, it will thicken due to the cornstarch added. Bring to a boil and continue to whisk vigorously for 3-4 minutes to fully cook out the starch. The mixture will resemble thick glue, bordering on cement (like a thick crème pâtissière), with a color to match. Scoop the contents of the pan back into the blender. Gently squeeze to remove any excess water from the bloomed sheet gelatin and add it into the blender. Blend until smooth and even. Color the mixture with a bit of yellow food coloring until it is bright yellow. (Tosi says, "Banana creams don't get that brilliant yellow color on their own." I think a few drops wouldn't hurt.) Transfer the mixture to a heatproof container and chill in the refrigerator 60 minutes or until completely cooled.
Make the Chocolate Crust: While waiting for the banana cream to cool, make the chocolate crust. Break up the chocolate crumbs into a food processor and pulse till broken slightly. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and pulse till mixture is pliable, adding remaining butter if necessary. Press the crust mixture firmly onto the pie plate/pan, making sure the bottom and sides are evenly covered. I put the pie crust to set in the fridge while finishing the banana cream.
Assemble the Banana Cream Pie: Using a heady whisk or a mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the cream and powdered sugar to medium-soft peaks. Add the cold banana mixture to the whipped cream gradually and slowly whisk until evenly colored and homogeneous. Pour about half of the banana cream into the chocolate pie shell. Lay out the sliced banana evenly and then cover the pie with the remaining filling. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. Pie keeps chilled up to 5 days (good luck with that).
Do ahead: Chocolate crumbs can be made 2-3 days ahead, stored in an airtight container. The banana cream can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
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