Have I gone bananas?…Apparently yes!!!   At the request of one of my coworkers I agreed to make a banana cream pie to share with the gang.  I bake cookies or brownies and bring them to work pretty frequently but I have yet to tackle a whole pie so this was definitely new territory for me. I was scanning the Food Network website for recipes last week and I came upon a delicious sounding one featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay and decided to go for it. 🙂

The challenge:  Create one banana cream pie deemed worthy of presenting and serving to my coworkers.

My resources:  Myself, my sous chefs Eddy and Alan, and the following ingredients along with whatever I’m able to scrounge up in my parents’ kitchen.

My mission: To complete this challenge while not only creating a delicious pie but also incorporating some healthier ingredients without sacrificing flavor.

Can I do it? Here’s how it all broke down… (my comments in bold).

Caramelized Banana Cream Pie with Hazelnut Whipped

Cream and Hazelnut Praline

Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay and Food Network

Prep Time:  1 hr 30 min
Inactive Prep Time:  13 hr 0 min
Cook Time:  1 hr 0 min
Level:  Difficult

FIRST UP…

Buttermilk Crust:

  • 10 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar  (I used regular sugar here  since it was such a tiny amount – I wasn’t taking any chances with the crust)
  • 6 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (Archer Farms brand, organic)
  • 1/2 cup cold buttermilk plus more if needed (I used the real stuff but bought organic)

Put the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor (my first kitchen snafu here – I didn’t have a food processor.  My mom’s ancient Sunbeam hand mixer was all I had at my disposal so I was hoping it would make the cut) and pulse a few times to combine.

Sprinkle half of the butter cubes over the top of the flour and process for 10 seconds. Sprinkle the remaining half of the butter over the mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with some butter bits no bigger than peas. With the motor running, add the buttermilk through the feed tube and process until the  dough just begins to come together.

Mixing the dough..

Transfer to a flat surface and lightly knead until the dough comes together.

Dough ballAt this point I had to stop and google what the proper consistency of pie dough should be (I had no clue).  I came upon this basic pie dough recipe from my Food Network boyfriend Tyler Florence.   According to my BF there should be “just enough moisture to hold the dough together without being too wet or too sticky.”  For me, any amount of sticky is too sticky so I added more flour until it felt right to me (basically until it stopped sticking to my fingers).  Thanks Tyler!

After I recovered from being completely cheese faced, I separated the dough into two pieces like so.

My dough babies.

Form into 2 flat disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (You will need only 1 for the pie; the remaining dough can be frozen for up to 1 month.)

I covered them in saran wrap and popped ’em in the freezer!

THEN IT WAS ON TO THE PIE FILLING.

Caramelized Banana Pudding

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 very ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 3 cups milk  (I used 1/2 almond milk and 1/2 organic 2% milk)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I substituted coconut sugar which has a lower glycemic index and according to my research can be swapped in baking recipes 1:1 for brown or regular cane sugar)
  • 1 1/2 ounces cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 6 egg yolks (I used cage free, organic)
  • 2 1/2 sheets gelatin, softened in cold water and excess water squeezed out (I couldn’t find gelatin sheets so this ingredient was completely omitted)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cold heavy cream (I used the real stuff but purchased organic)

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is melted and the mixture is caramelized, about 4 minutes. Add the bananas and cook until bananas start to break down, and carmelize on both sides.

Bananas just starting to heat up.

These were the 3 bananas the recipe called for less 2 slices that I lost when one fell on the floor and Eddy snatched it then of course I felt bad and had to give one to Alan too.

And starting to break down - this smelled delicious!!!

Add 2 cups of the milk, bring to simmer and scrape the bottom and sides of pan and carefully transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan.

After the milk was added..

Puree the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth; bring to a simmer.  Sadly, I had no immersion blender so it was the Sunbeam to the rescue again.  What helped me here was transferring the mixture into a deep pot.  It was a little messy but still doable.

In a bowl whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together until combined. Add the remaining 1 cup of milk and whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved. Whisk this mixture into the banana mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 4 minutes.

Whisk together the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar and yolks in a small bowl until smooth. Ladle some of the thickened mixture into the egg mixture to temper the yolks. Pour the yolk mixture into the pot and cook until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes, WHISKING THE ENTIRE TIME.

I was really intimidated by this step.  The video tutorial I watched made this seem like it was a crucial step so I didn’t want to mess up.  I busted out the iPhone timer to make sure I was precise.  I didn’t get any pictures during all of this because I was so focused. 

Once the mixture has thickened let it come to a boil for exactly 1 minute, whisking a few times. Remove from the heat, whisk in the softened gelatin (skipped) and vanilla and strain through a coarse mesh strainer into a bowl.  And I took a deep breath here…

The finished product!

Cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours.

MEANWHILE, back to the crust…

Lightly spray a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with nonstick spray. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round that is 1/8-inch thick and fit it into the tart pan. Problem here.  I remembered that my mom doesn’t own a rolling pin so I had to quickly improvise.  I grabbed an unopened wine bottle, coated it with a little flour dough and viola!

My makeshift 'rolling pin.'

 Roll rolling pan over tops of pan to trim dough flush with rims and lightly prick bottoms and sides all over with a fork. I definitely had some problems here.  No matter how I tried I couldn’t get my dough to stretch out over the entire pie pan and the more I worked with it, the more it seemed like it wanted to constrict so I finally settled on this. 

My sad little pie crust. 😦

I think I need to go back to Pie Dough 101.  Especially if  it’s taught by

Hmm……..now where was I?  Oh yeah… Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Done!

While the pie crust was in the freezer I thought I’d take that chunk of time to quickly whip up the hazelnut brittle.  BOY WAS I WRONG…

Hazelnut Brittle:

  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, skins removed
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Sounds innocent enough, right?  Think again.  Check out that first step.  My hazelnuts were unpeeled.  (Come again..?  You want me to peel something the size of a chick pea? )

This was the second question I posed to google.  I found several methods for removing the skins off hazelnuts and I settled on a ‘quick and dirty’ method which involved boiling the nuts for 4-5 minutes in a quart of water with 2 tbsp baking soda.  Turns out it was neither quick nor dirty.  It did seem to help loosen the skins quite a bit but I was expecting them to magically fall away.  Apparently that was a very naive notion.  

Hazelnut skins loosened but not gone.

There was still a ton of work involved.   I cursed and peeled and scrubbed at those little nuts for over an hour.  This was definitely a low point of the night and I ended up using only half of the nuts (and therefor making only half of the brittle) but it was the best I could do.

'Naked' hazelnuts ready for the oven!

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly and coarsely chop.

And ready to get chopped! After all the peeling I kind of enjoyed this...

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and cook (without stirring) over high heat until it becomes a deep amber caramel, about 8 minutes.

It was really hard to resist stirring this…

Hazelnut bath heating up..

…especially when it looked like this

...and at a full boil.

Remove from the heat and stir in the hazelnuts. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with a silpat.  What the @#&! is a silpat?  Third trip to use Google.  Apparently a silpat is a silicone non-stick baking mat and it was definitely something I didn’t have.  

Cover with another silpat (crap) and using a rolling pin, (you’ve got to be kidding me…) roll the mixture as thin as possible.  I tried to make do with what I had so I dug some wax paper out of the pantry and the wine bottle got to have another go.

Warm hazelnut caramel mixture.

Rolling it FLAT.

Let sit until the caramel has hardened, about 20 minutes. Once hard, removed from the silpan and chop into small pieces, using a chef’s knife.

Silpat? I don’t need no stinking silpat!  Actually,  yeeaahhh you kinda do…

Hazelnut brittle faux pas.

The wax paper stuck to about half of the brittle bringing my hazelnut brittle yield now down to 1/4 of the original amount 😦  A shame too because the brittle was definitely the best part!  Still with all of my slip ups I had plenty of it to use to top off the pie.

Meanwhile, my crust had been in the freezer for well over an hour so I quickly popped it in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Spray the shiny side of a 12 piece of aluminum foil and line the shell shiny-side down with the foil and fill with pie weights (oops! another item missing from my list but I have a feeling this crust was a goner from the get-go). Bake on the middle rack in the oven until the crust sets and turns a pale golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil and pie weights and continue baking until golden brown and baked through, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer the tart pan to a baking rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

With the crust in the oven and the end in sight I happily started on the FINAL STEP, the frangelico hazelnut whipped cream!


Hazelnut Whipped Cream:

  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean split, seeds scraped (I didn’t have vanilla bean so I used 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1 tablespoon superfine sugar (I used regular powdered sugar here)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Frangelico  *** This was definitely the star of the show!

Frangelico is a hazelnut flavored liqueur and I’d stumbled on this little darling while out shopping yesterday.

I found this tiny bottle near the checkout counter at Bev-Mo!  It was more than enough for what I needed for the pie plus a little extra to take the edge off  (only kidding).  It was only $4.99 compared to over $20 for the larger size that I’m sure would have ended up in the liqueur graveyard of my pantry next to the barely used bottle of 99 Bananas (seriously what other use is there for that stuff other than for making Bananas Foster?)

Combine cream, vanilla seeds, sugar and Frangelico in a bowl and whip using a balloon whisk or hand held mixer until soft peaks form.

I’m not sure why I didn’t get any pictures of the finished whipped cream but I assure you it was heavenly.  I must have been delirious by this point.

My finished pie ‘crust’ fresh from the oven.

My work here (at least for the evening) was done!

THE FOLLOWING MORNING….

Once pudding is set, whip the custard in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment on high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add the heavy cream and whip until light and fluffy, about 20 seconds longer.  (I must have completely overlooked this step and I’d left both the mixer and the heavy cream at my parents’ house.  Oh well, you live you learn. I made do).

Filling the pie..

...and all filled and ready to transport to work!

Transfer the filling to the cooled pie shell. Place plastic on top and let chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Mound the top with the hazelnut whipped cream and sprinkle with some of the hazelnut brittle just before serving.

I had to put on the finishing touches at work…

The finished product!

And sampling a slice…

So yummy and so worth it!!

Delicious!!

So there you have it! Easy as pie.  Well not quite…

Things I learned:

Always be wary of a recipe that claims 13 hours inactive prep time. (Even after reading through the recipe and watching the video tutorial I was still woefully unprepared).

Pie dough wipes easily off of a wine bottle (phew!)

It is possible to make healthy substitutions (at least in moderation) without sacrificing flavor or arousing suspicion from coworkers.

A coworker happily samples my 'healthified' pie, none the wiser...

Tackling a recipe like this is still a marathon for me (I thought I’d be able to leisurely write my blog while the pie baked – think again!)

I’m more resourceful than I realized.

The old sunbeam mixer works as well as any processor or immersion blender.

I must really like my coworkers.

Even with the quick and dirty method, peeling hazelnuts is still a pain in the butt and next time I’ll buy them already peeled.

When you peel a thousand hazelnuts by hand they become a precious commodity and when one falls on the ground its appropriate to cry/throw a mini tantrum and then die a little bit inside.

Things that saved my life:

Having a dishtowel to wipe my hands on so I didn’t get dough all over my computer, camera, iphone, etc.

Wine bottle I used to roll out the dough when I realized my mom doesn’t own a rolling pin.

The extra dough that I had in the freezer when I ruined the first one.

My morrocan mint tea from yesterday’s Super Target outing (there’s something about sipping on tea that has a calming effect no matter what you’re doing.)

My sense of humor.

Some shrimp, organic spinach and frozen carrots I found in the freezer to make an impromptu salad when I panicked and thought I’d be stuck at my parents’ house all night.

Salad of spinach, shrimp, carrots and cherries with apple cider vinegar, olive oil and cinnamon dressing (This dressing has yet to fail me!)

My camera charger that I had to use after my battery died numerous times.

My iphone timer.

Having a designated clean area and a dirty area.  (Otherwise the chaos would have driven me insane!)

The bowl of ice water I used to soak my hand in when I burned it trying to peel the shrimp too soon (sure I can bake an entire pie from scratch but peeling shrimp is a challenge).

Google.  (I used the search engine many times for questions on dough, peeling hazelnuts, silpats, and various conversions from ounces to cups and tbsp)

Baking soda.  I didn’t need it for the pie but I ended up using it to help peel the hazelnuts and I’d instinctively brought some along!

Alan and Eddy behaved like little angels the whole time.

So there you have it – my banana cream pie breakdown!  Would I do it all again?  Probably 🙂

I hope your adventures in the kitchen are as fun as mine!

Until next time..

Kristi

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