Introduction: Banana Cream Pi With Butter Crust

An oldie but goodie - the banana cream pie - perfect for when you have guests or need to bring something to a potluck. And why not dress it up with the Greek letter?

Ingredients for 9-1/2" crust, if you don't live where pie crusts are for sale in the supermarket, and where there is no Crisco:

4 dl (1.7 cups) flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 of a 250 g block of butter (6 ounces)

ice water poured over ice, about 1 dl

Ingredients for banana cream filling:

3 bananas

1-3/4 dl (3/4 cup) sugar

3 ss (3 tablespoons) cornstarch

1/4 teaspoons salt

4-3/4 dl (2 cups) milk

3 slightly beaten egg yolks

2 ss (2 tablespoons) butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Ingredients for meringue:

3 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

6 ss (6 tablespoons) sugar

cinnamon for the symbol pi (optional)

Step 1: The Prototype

All makers understand the importance of the prototype!

If you try to avoid making your own pie crust from scratch, you may end up with a very funny-looking pie. Good for practice and good for eating at home, but ... It is probably possible to make these little rectangles merge into a nice pie crust, but it will take practice.

If you don't stir the vanilla cream constantly, you get those brown lumps from the bottom of the pot. Ick!

Step 2: Butter Dough Pie Crust

Preheat oven to 450 F or 230 C, top and bottom heat.

Pie crust is best made in a cold bowl with cold ingredients. Try to make it quickly, because more handling makes it less flaky. Use a pastry cutter if you can, otherwise pinch the fat into the mixture with your hands.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Cut in the butter until the butter lumps are no larger than peas. You don't want the butter melted.

Pour in water from the ice-and-water mixture, about a tablespoon or two at a time, mixing quickly with the pastry cutter or a fork after each addition. Add just enough that the dough sticks to itself and can be formed into a ball.

Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to several hours. This lets the flour absorb the water, without melting the butter.

Prepare a surface for rolling the pie crust. If you have a mat made for that, it saves so much cleanup. But if not, dust a clean, dry surface with flour. Flatten the dough a little with your hands, and roll it out with a rolling pin that has been dusted with flour. Start rolling at the center of the dough and work outwards. Roll out until it is a circle about 10 cm (4 in) wider in diameter than your pie pan.

Gently fold the dough in half, carefully pick it up and place it in the pie plate so that it is centered in the plate. Don't stretch the dough while pressing it into the pan. Leaving 1 cm (1/2 in) overhang, trim excess dough from the edges, saving big pieces to bake with cinnamon and sugar alongside the pie. That is your reward for all your hard work!

Press the edge with the tines of a fork, or use your own decorative technique. Prick the crust bottom and sides with a fork. Bake at 230 C (450 F) for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Cool crust on a trivet or hot pad in the refrigerator.

Step 3: Banana Cream Filling

Slice 3 bananas into the cooled pie shell. Have the 3 eggs separated and the yolks in a small bowl.

Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Add the milk gradually while stirring. Cook and stir over medium heat. Keep stirring to avoid brown flakes in the mixture. As soon as it looks bubbly, start timing for 2 minutes of stirring. Remove from heat.

Pour a little of the hot mixture into the yolks. Stir and add back into the pan. Put back on medium heat for another 2 minutes of stirring. Remove from heat.

Mix in butter and vanilla. Pour into the cooled pie shell.

Step 4: Meringue

Tip - use a very clean glass bowl and clean beaters for whipping the egg whites. Any residual grease will make the meringue not form firm peaks.

Beat the egg whites with vanilla until soft peaks form. Reserve a couple tablespoons of this for the decorative cinnamon symbol.

Gradually add sugar, until stiff peaks form. It should be possible to hold the bowl upside down without the meringue falling out. A scary test, but I recommend it.

Spread the meringue over the hot filling, sealing to the edge of the pastry.

Add cinnamon to the reserved egg whites. Carefully spell "pi" in Greek on top of the pie.

Bake at 190 C or 350 F, with air circulation if you have it, until it is golden. Watch closely. It takes about 12 minutes.

Step 5: Cool, and Enjoy With Friends

Store in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap or foil.

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