The Most Amazing Banana Cream Pie... (and I don't even like Banana Cream Pie)

My window for likeable bananas is small. They must be more green than yellow, but not so green that they taste chalky and not so yellow that they smell like fake banana candies. When my bananas are outside of this criteria, I usually find them only fitting for smoothies or banana bread. But when the Love of my Life said he was craving a Banana Cream Pie, I found it to be the perfect excuse to indulge my love of baking and deal with the "ripe" bananas on the counter.

Now, I should give a warning before divulging this most-delicious Banana Cream Pie recipe. This is not your fast, pre-cooked pie shell, run of the mill recipe. This is a labor of love, but one that will pay off.

Almond Pastry Dough:
Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons almonds, toasted
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons superfine sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon ice water, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Dough Instructions:

1. Grind the almonds in a food processor with 1 Tablespoon of flour until powedery. Combine the remaining flour, the ground almond mixture, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter cubes and toss to coat with the flour mix. Cut the butter in until the mix looks coarse, with small pea-size chunks of butter.

2. Using a fork, mix the egg yolk, 1 Tablespoon ice water, vanilla and almond extract in a small bowl. Drizzle the yolk mixture all over the flour mixture and combine just until the dough clumps. If the dough is too dry, add more ice water, a little at a time.

3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a 1-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes to one hour.

4. Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the chilled almond dough. Pierce the bottom of the dough in a uniform pattern with a fork. Freeze for 15 minutes.

5. Line the dough with a round of parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake on a half-sheet pan for 15 minutes, until the pastry is set. Remove the parchment paper and the weights and continue baking until the pastry is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.

 Banana Cream Pie Filling, from "Sarabeth's Bakery"

Banana Cream Pie Filling, from "Sarabeth's Bakery"

Banana Cream Pie Filling:
Ingredients:

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 Tablespoons cold water
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup baker's superfine sugar
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 and 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream

Instructions:

1. To make the filling, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl. Set aside until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.

2. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl until combined. Set aside.

3. Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat until very hot. Gradually whisk the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Whisking constantly, cook over medium heat until the filling thickens and comes to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and whisk for 1 minute. Remove from heat, add the gelatin mixture and whisk until the gelatin is completely melted. The cream will thin slightly, but that's okay. Stir in the vanilla. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface (this discourages a skin from forming) and pierce a few holes with a knife. Let stand on a wire rack until completely cooled, and thickened but not set. Remove the plastic wrap and fold in the bananas.

4. Using a whisk or handheld mixer, beat the cream in a small bowl just until it forms soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the banana mixture. Fill the fooled pastry shell and smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let the filling set in the shell in the refrigerator, about 1 hour.

Topping:
Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
3 Tablespoons superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish

Instructions:

1. To make the topping, beat the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla just until it forms stiff peaks. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8 inch open star tip. Pipe swirls of whipped cream to completely cover the top of the pie. Refrigerate until the pie is chilled, at least 1 hour. Before serving, top with toasted almonds. Serve chilled and ENJOY!

Adapted from "Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours" by Sarabeth Levine