Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I wish banana cream pie wasn't the color of mashed bananas

It's freezer-cleaning time! I found a stash of sorta-overripe bananas I'd frozen to turn into banana bread. But I've been in one of those "I'm-in-such-a-rut" moods- ho hum, freeze bananas, crank out another loaf of banana bread.... Well, today we're breaking out of our routine and making... pie!
First, I never thought about it, but banana cream pie is not the color of banana pulp. If you buy it, it's about the color of vanilla pudding, if not a little bit more yellow. Mashed bananas are brown. Because they are the main ingredient in a banana cream pie (or at least, one that doesn't start with "make one box banana pudding to package directions"), they provide the main color. So today, from the department of Try It, It Tastes Better Than It Looks, we present Banana Cream Pie Made With Actual Bananas!

And doesn't it look delightful? Seriously, this is the most-- oh, I give up. This pie is the color of mashed bananas which always go an ugly shade of brown. As my cousin would say, "Who ate it before you put it in the pan?"
I wish I'd had whipped cream. Whipped cream covers a multitude of sins.

Banana Cream Pie
1 c sugar
1 tbsp flour
3 eggs
1 c milk
4 bananas
1 baked pie crust

Fill the bottom of a double boiler* with water but not so much it'll touch the top when inserted. Put it over high heat- reduce to medium when it comes to a fast boil. In the top of the double boiler, stir together the flour and sugar (mixing them together while everything's still dry takes a handful of seconds and will prevent flour lumps). Beat in the eggs thoroughly, then stir in the milk. Add the bananas. Beat with a mixer until smooth.
Set the top over the hot water and cook, stirring frequently, until nearly thick enough to hold its shape.
Put into a baked pie crust and refrigerate.

*If you haven't got a double boiler, just set a heatproof bowl over a pot of water. Just be sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl- the idea is that the steam  heats the top. Also, the bowl might float and bob around, and you'll have boiling water spurting out.
You can mash the bananas separately before adding them instead. I didn't have a second bowl to do this in.

The cookie recipe I used for the crust:
Heat oven to 325°.
 Stir together 1½ c flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp baking soda. Mix in ½ c. butter with your bare hands until it's all thoroughly mixed. Break in an egg, add 2 tsp milk, and mix just until uniform. Attempt to roll it out, discover it's too sticky. Put it in the freezer, flour the surface really, really well, and try again in 30 minutes. Check under the recipe for a name to direct your ire toward. Wonder why Mrs. Kenneth G Mang of Trenton, New Jersey said to roll it out; clearly it's so sticky you should be either rolling it into balls or just pressing it into a pan. You picked this recipe specifically because you wanted one you could roll out into a sheet, this one said to roll it out into a sheet, and this isn't going to happen. Drop the dough ball onto the counter and knead more flour into it until it finally is fit to roll into a sheet, and then make a pie crust. Put it into your ungreased pie pan and bake until done through, about 20 minutes.
-adapted from Favorite Recipes of America: Desserts (1968)

But it's mostly-natural! And it's got a cookie crust! By which I mean I made a cookie recipe and just laid the dough into the pan instead of getting out cookie cutters. Which.... sort of worked. Once I got the dough mixed, it was really, really sticky and no amount of leaving it in the refrigerator made it fit to roll out.
When it sticks to your hands like that, no amount of flouring the rolling pin will help.
Why was it so sticky? The recipe said to roll the dough out and cut it, but I had to double the flour before any amount of rolling it out happened.
At this point, it rolled so well I finally did that thing where you put it on your rolling pin and then lay it in the pie pan! For someone whose usual method of pie crust is "Roll it flat, try to lift it up, and end up doing the whole thing by patching in little pieces," this was an achievement.
This never happens.
I shouted in Marcus whose photographic work has been previously featured on A Book of Cookrye.
Look at it. Study it. Behold it.
I had my hands full of rolling pin and was near-shouting. "Quick! Take a picture!... Press OK again!.... All right! Quick do it again!"
Some dough fell off waiting for the camera to stop freezing up.
It ended up nice and perfect looking where I'd gotten the dough in properly, and lumpy and sad where I'd just smooshed in the scrap dough. However, it was tastier in the thicker part, and once I'd put on the filling you couldn't see how bad the crust looked anyway.
Although the filling did look worse.
While the crust was baking, I started on the filling. These are the lovely bananas that I started with. That's frost on them and not furry growths. I forgot to thaw them.
Foreshadowing the color of the finished pie.
It turns out it's a real pain to peel frozen bananas. The inner layer of peel sticks to the part you're planning to turn into something unrecognizable and then eat.
If this doesn't make you want dessert, you may be smarter than I am.
Anyway, into the rest of the filling (actually, the recipe for pecan pie minus the pecans) they went.
If this looks any uglier, I'll have to start saying "Eat up, it's good for you."

A friend came into the kitchen as I was peeling the bananas and was rather incredulous to see such well-ripened ones being put to use. "You're going to eat those! Oh my God, you're going to eat those!" What made it really priceless was that he's not from the United States and has been saying all year that I'm a spoiled American. So I gleefully responded "Oh, you must be so spoiled! You can afford to just throw things away when they go a bit droopy! Fiiiirst wooooorld probleems!" [That last one is sung.]
I don't know why he was so grossed out.
"You've been in America so long, you're fitting right in! You spoiled American!" At this point I was more or less quoting what he's said every time I've muttered that the hot water's not working or something like that. "You don't know how good you have it! You must have been very privileged growing up!" I'd have let it drop had I not gotten this for an entire year.
I just put it all on the stove and once the bananas were soft I did this.

I'm not going to claim I had it hard growing up, but unlike certain people who've been reminding me all year how good I've had it, I've never thought anything of putting droopy vegetables into casseroles or squishy fruits into pies. By the time it's all cooked, you can't tell.
Stick-a-fork-in-it-it'll-probably-stand-up done.
Also, random coconut that just turned up in the kitchen.
At this point, I tried some. Hot mashed bananas taste terrible. I really hoped refrigeration would do a lot more than I expected. Being vaguely worried that setting an oven-hot pan on a glass shelf would lead to cracks, I used the only hot pad I could find.
I feel vaguely guilty putting a 1960s cookbook in the refrigerator like this.
And it did! Look at how much we ate in one night! The best parts were where the cookie crust was extra thick from my patch job- next time I'll make it like that all through. Or just do a graham cracker crust.

Surprisingly delicious!

And so, in conclusion, why have one of those artificially flavored, artificially colored, synthetic pies when you can have delicious, all-natural goodness like this?
I learned how to do crazy eyes from youth-group counselors asking if Jesus approves of what you're doing.

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