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Banana Cream Pie
(makes one 9-inch shell)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 Tbsp chilled all-vegetable shortening
3-4 Tbsp ice water
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

Mix flour, salt and sugar in food processor fitted without he steel
blade. Scatter in butter pieces, tossing to coat butter. Cut
butter into flour with five one-second pulses. Add shortening,
continue cutting until there are no butter bits larger than a small
pea (about four more one-second pulses). Turn mixture into medium
bowl.

Sprinkle 3 Tbsp water over the mixture. Using rubber spatula, fold
in the water, then repeatedly press down on dough mixture with the
flat side of the spatula until the dough comes together. Add up
to 1 more Tbsp water if necessary. Shape dough into a ball with
hands, then flatten into a disk. Dust with flour, wrap in plastic,
and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Generously sprinkle 18-inch work surface with 2 Tbsp graham cracker
crumbs. Place chilled dough in center, sprinkle with a few more
crumbs. Roll dough from center to edges to make a 9-inch disk,
rotating a quarter turn after each stroke and sprinkling additional
crumbs as needed to heavily coat both top and bottom. Flip dough
and continue to roll, without rotating, into a 13-inch disk just
under 1/8-inch thick.

Fold dough in quarters, then place in center of a 9-inch pyrex pie
pan. Unfold dough to cover pan completely, then trim the edges
and flute the crust.

Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Prick shell with fork
at 12-inch intervals to prevent dough from ballooning. Press a
doubled 12-inch square of aluminum foil inside pie shell. Prick
foil to prevent further ballooning. Refrigerate to let dough relax,
at least 30 minutes longer.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat to 400 deg F. Bake,
checking occasionally for ballooning, until crust is firmly set,
about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350 deg F, remove foil, and
continue to bake until crust is crisp and golden brown, about 10-15
minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.


Banana Cream Pie

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 cups 2% or whole milk
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 vanilla bean, about 3 inches long, split lengthwise
2 Tbsp butter
1-2 tsp brandy
1 graham cracker coated pie shell, baked and cooled
2 medium bananas
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk sugar, cornstarch and salt in medium saucepan. Add yolks,
then immediately but gradually whisk in milk and evap. milk. drop
in vanilla bean. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently at
first, and then constantly as mixture starts to thicken and begins
to simmer, 8-10 minutes. Once mixture simmers, continue to cook,
stirring constantly for 1 minute longer. Remove pan from heat;
whisk in brandy and butter. Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds,
whisk them back into filling.

Pour filling into shallow pan (another pie pan works well). Put
plastic wrap directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming;
cool until warm, about 30 minutes. Pour 1/2 of the warm filling
into pie shell, slice the bananas over filling, then top with second
half of filling. Once again, place sheet of plastic wrap directly
on surface. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 3 hours.

Whip cream to soft peaks. Add confectioner's sugar and vanilla;
continue to whip to barely stiff peaks. Spread over filling and
refrigerate until ready to serve.


Notes:

Cooking the starch and the eggs together from the start prevents
the eggs from curdling, making the cooking less tricky.

Skim milk made a vivid yellow filling, but not a very creamy one.

1/2 and 1/2 or cream made a filling that was too rich -- especially
when combined with the pastry and the whipped cream.

Evap. milk on its own tasted too strongly of caramel.

Hot filling poured directly into the crust did not make the crust
soggy, but was too liquid and compacted too much, making a short,
squat pie. The warm filling mounds more attractively. If the
filling is completely chilled before spooning into the crust, you
will disturb the completely set starch bonds -- creating a runny
mess.

Putting the bananas as the bottom layer made the crust soggy.
Mashing them and mixing them into the filling let them turn brown
too quickly.

The graham cracker crumbs help keep the crust crisp after the
filling is poured in.

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