Introduction: Banana (slug) Cream Pie
To me, it has always been a mystery as to why someone would name something after a food when it tastes absolutely nothing like what it’s named after.
Case in point: the banana slug. Yes, I know, with their yellow bodies and brown spots they physically look a lot like a banana…but I’m going to go out on a limb and say they probably don’t taste anything like a banana at all (please, take my word for it and don’t actually lick any slugs to find out yourself. Humanity barely survived the "Let's All Eat Tide Pods" craze, so let’s try and not double down on idiotic trends this year).
While eating certain gastropods like escargot in garlic and butter sauce is a delicious treat, randomly licking non-culinary slugs can potentially land you in a world of hurt ranging from a numb tongue all the way to paralysis and even death as many contain potent neurotoxins.
Still, if you’re just hell-bent on licking a slug, may I offer you a tastier and much safer alternative?
Behold, the banana (slug) creampie!
Now because this is an entry in the Science of Cooking category, I wanted to make sure we cover a few scientific methods we’ll be touching on in the creation of this disgustingly delicious monstrosity.
We’ll start by first using a two-part platinum cure mold making material to make our slug molds. Then we’ll do some bond busting and rebuilding with collagen proteins as we fill those molds with banana flavored gelatin. Then we’ll work on some thermal magic as we caramelize our ingredients over an open flame and wrap it all up by forcibly integrating pockets of air into the phospholipid membranes of heavy cream.
Sounds great, right?! Let’s get started.
Step 1: Let's Get Crafty!
The first thing you’ll need to do is make molds of your slugs. I used Amazing Mold Putty which is a two-part food safe molding material you can pick up at most craft stores for under $20. Because we are using this for food application, making sure it’s a food safe molding material is absolutely critical. The last thing you want is a beautiful mold that ends up contaminating your food with toxic bits.
I also picked up these two slugs from a store locally, but you can also find them online at Amazon.com.
Amazing Mold Putty is what’s called a platinum cure RTV, or a room temperature vulcanizing molding putty which means when the two parts (A and B) are mixed together, it catalyzes and creates a chemical reaction that results in the “vulcanization” of the material. No, vulcanization doesn’t mean your mold is suddenly incredibly logical with a dry sense of humor. Rather, vulcanization means the two parts transform into a polymer, going from a sticky, stretchy and soft compound into a non-stick, stiffer and more durable material. And the platinum part in the name? That’s because the catalyst for this type of silicone rubber is made from a derivative of platinum (which is partially why it’s so damn expensive!).
So, back to the mold making. Mix together equal amounts of your “A” and “B” mold making material and knead it together until it’s uniform in color. You want to make sure there are no swirls and that everything is the same buttery golden color. I found when molding my slugs it was easiest to start at the antennae end and wrap those in a small wad of putty before smooshing the rest over their bodies. Because this is putty and not liquid, make sure you really squeeze it around them tightly to ensure you’re getting a good imprint of their skin surface to help add to the realism of your final product.
Set these aside and let them cure for about 60 minutes or so. Once the mold is set, gently peel your slugs out and give it a good wash.
Step 2: Gather Your Ingredients
Now let’s get to the cooking part! For this recipe you will need:
- 2 packages plain gelatin
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 ½ cups cold milk
- 1 package instant banana flavored pudding
- 1 teaspoon banana extract
- 1 teaspoon vodka
- Brown food coloring
- 9 oz box of chocolate wafer cookies (about 2 cups, crushed)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 ¼ cup butter, divided
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 14oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 1 cup brown sugar, divided
- 2 medium ripe bananas
- ¼ cup room temperature dark rum
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- Caramel sauce
- Green food coloring
Step 3: Slugging It Out
The first thing we’re going to do is make our gelatin slugs. Sprinkle your gelatin over the top of your cold water in a bowl and let it sit for about 5 minutes. This is called ‘blooming.’ When you sprinkle your gelatin, try to make sure it’s in a thin and even layer. As it absorbs water, it will go from a light powder into a thick, gummy slurry. Once all of your gelatin has gone from a powder into the gummy slurry, pop into your microwave. Zap your gelatin 20 seconds at a time, stirring between each zap until all your gelatin is completely dissolved. You don’t want to boil your gelatin, we’re just making sure the water is hot enough to break the bonds that hold our collagen protein chains together, transforming the gelatin into a thin, watery state.
Mix in your banana pudding, your banana extract, and your milk. You’ll end up with an incredibly gooey pudding that is almost too thick to stir. To re-liquefy it and make it easier to work with, pop it back into your microwave for an additional 15 seconds and transfer into a squeeze bottle.
Use your squeeze bottle to fill your molds and then pop those into the fridge to firm up. It shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes for each slug to go from liquid to solid. And because this is a science of cooking entry, here’s why that happens.
As we stated earlier, when you heat up your gelatin, you’re breaking the already weak bonds between the collagen proteins of your gelatin. Each chain is comprised of amino-acids that naturally bond together in a cooled state. This means when you want to get your slug sauce ready to fill your molds, you want to zap it in the microwave and re-liquefy it. Putting the filled molds into the fridge allows the amino acids to reform those bonds, returning it to a semi-solid state.
Oh, and that jiggle? That’s a result of water getting trapped in the spaces between those polymer chains.
To decorate your slugs, simply paint them using a food safe paint brush, a little vodka, and some brown food coloring. I found that the best way to really make them look realistic was to paint the tiny stripes on them with straight brown gel and then do a light wash over them with the vodka. This helps soften the edges of the brown gel, making it look more realistic.
Pop your finished slugs into the fridge to stay cool.
Step 4: That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles
While your slugs are chilling, let’s make our pie crust.
In a food processor, pulse your chocolate cookie wafers with ¼ cup of your sugar and your pinch of salt until completely pulverized and combined.
Melt ½ cup of your butter and drizzle that into your cookie sugar mix. You’ll end up with a thick, crumbly dough.
Press this mixture into a 9” pie shell and use the flat bottom of a glass to press it down firmly. Pop into the fridge for about 10 minutes to firm up.
Step 5: Making the Caramel Base
In a non-stick saucepan over low heat, combine ½ cup of your butter with ½ cup of brown sugar and stir continuously while the sugar dissolves.
Add your condensed milk and bring to a rapid boil. Whatever you do, DO NOT STOP STIRRING! Because of the high sugar content, this stuff is just begging to burn…so keep your spoon moving the entire time. Continue to boil and stir for about a minute or so. You want your mixture to take on a rich, golden caramel color. Remove from heat and spread this into the bottom of your chocolate cookie pie crust and place back into the fridge to firm up.
Step 6: FLAME ON!
While that’s firming up, let’s move onto our pie topping.
Slice up your two medium bananas into even slices about ½ an inch thick or so.
In your saucepan, combine together the remaining ½ cup brown sugar with ¼ cup of butter and mix well while your sugar dissolves. Add in your sliced bananas and stir, making sure your slices are completely covered with the thick butter and sugar sauce.
TURN OFF YOUR BURNER and add in your ¼ cup of rum. Using a LONG STRAND OF SPAGHETTI or match, ignite your rum and allow it to burn off (about 10-15 seconds or so). In addition to just looking badass, this sudden surge of heat (over 800 degrees!) flash caramelizes our sugar, giving the sauce a nice depth and complexity.
Of course, this step is optional, and you are more than welcome to omit the rum altogether if you prefer.
Once your flames have gone out, spoon your sauced bananas into your pie shell and smooth down with a spoon.
Now let’s make our whipped cream topping! I used a C02 charged whipper for this, but you can certainly use a stand mixer or handheld mixer for this. Hell, you could just opt for a pre-made tub of already made whipped cream and I wouldn’t judge you.
If you’re planning on making your own whipped cream, combine your ½ cup heavy cream with your remaining tablespoon of sugar and your teaspoon of vanilla extract and whip. As you mix, the naturally occurring fat globs in your cream begin to destabilize and tear. This exposes the triglycerides hiding inside. Triglycerides naturally want to seek out other triglycerides to bond together with, creating a net-like structure that captures the air you’re whisking in into little pockets. The end result is a fat triglyceride network wrapped around pockets of air. This fat network is why, when you’re making whipped cream, you’ll want to make sure whatever your base is, it contains at least 30-35% fat…anything lighter (or skim) won’t whip up as easily and may result in a runny mess.
No matter what route you go with your whipped topping (homemade or store-bought), just top that bad boy with a nice, thick layer of the white stuff.
Step 7: So Disgustingly Delicious!
Now that our pie has three amazing layers (caramel cream, rum soaked banana’s foster, and whipped cream) it’s time to add our slugs and do our final decorating.
Place your slugs on top of your pie in any way you want. I personally like having it look like they’re squirming in and out of the cream.
To add an additional layer of realism, I gave them all little green-brown slug trails by adding a few drops of green food coloring to a tablespoon of caramel ice cream sauce and drizzling it around behind them.
A light dusting of cocoa also adds a touch of realism.
Present your pie to your intended victims and enjoy their faces as they take in the truly awe-inspiring majesty that is your banana (slug) creampie!
Store any uneaten portions of your pie in the fridge for up to a week.
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Science of Cooking
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My grandparents went somewhere and brought back chocolate banana slugs. As in, it's chocolate shaped like a banana slug. I'm not exactly where they got them (probably Santa Cruz) but if you were to fin those you could use the edible packaged ones instead and not have to make gelatin ones.
How dificult is it to get the slugs from the mold without ripping off their eyestacks?
Because they are made of a super concentrated gelatin mixture, they're pretty tough, but just ripping them out of the molds can damage them. If you find that you are losing eyestalks, carefully slit the silicone mold down both eyestalk sections to make it open wider when removing your slugs. You will have to use a rubber band or some other method to keep the mold parts together when molding, but your slugs will thank you for the extra step. :)
Nearly next to impossible to get these slugs here in Germany. Does anyone have any idea where to get something like these slugs in Germany? Didn't find anything like this on Amazon.de. The putty istn't a big problem, the slugs are.
Where can we buy a banana slug for the molding process?