Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

29 Aug

Well I’ve moved into my first apartment.  It’s all furnished and decorated, filled with food and cutlery and dishes, lamps and records and varieties of espresso, posters and maps and library books that almost scrape the bottom of my loft bed from where they wobble uneasily on my desk.  I have a red desk chair that looks like an Eames chair, my film cameras hanging from the rail of my bed, and a little corner for my instruments, both musical and photographic.  I’ve been here one week, with another week spent out West on vacation, yet it feels so lived in.  I’ve claimed the kitchen table, where I sit facing East, looking through the window at the overgrown lot behind our building, sunlight flaring in the morning and shocking my cereal and book with its stark brilliance.

Now that I’ve settled in, of course, it’s time to get this baking train out of the station and heading cross-continental.  Or something…  The first thing I baked in this, my first kitchen, was Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie, and I think it’s safe to say that this pie heralded the beginning of Good Times in the Kitchen quite auspiciously.

In other words, goddamn, this pie is stellar bomb and you should make it.  You will be so very happy that you did.

Adapted from Joy the Baker and one of the King Arthur Flour Cookbooks to create one harmonious recipe of deliciousness that will get your taste buds jamming.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz chocolate, your choice
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (I used white chocolate peanut butter, because it is awesome)
  • a pie tin with crust in it (you can make your own, but I just bough a pre-made one to save money and effort)
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp and 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 tbsp butter, cut into one-tbsp blocks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

You can use store-bought whipped cream to go on top, but why would you?  To make the whipped cream, you’ll need 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/4 cup SIFTED confectioner’s sugar.  I hate sifting with a passion for some reason, but you do not want to leave your sugar unsifted or the whipped cream will look like cottage cheese.

Let’s throw this thing together, man:

I was having a weird-in-a-bad-way, sort of shitty day when I made this, and it made me feel so much better.  So much.  In fact, a friend of mine brought some hitchhiking vagrants she picked up at church, and I shared the pie with them and my roommate.  Watching everyone scrape the plates clean with their forks was just as gratifying, if not more so, than the taste itself.

Now.

Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler, or whatever improvised contraption you care to use.  Once melted, spread across the bottom of your pie shell.

Ready the peanut butter!

I want to tell you a little bit about the peanut butter I use.  It’s made by the Peanut Butter Company, which is a shop in New York City that I have sadly never been to.  My dad brought it home from its factory in New Jersey one day, swearing by it, and the next thing I knew, our cupboard was invaded.  Never has an invasion been such a happy event.  The peanut butter is all natural, with no gluten, trans fat, blah blah blah, it’s delicious, okay?  Amazingly so.

It doesn’t have the ridiculously high salt content that other brand name peanut butters have, and is therefore ideal for baking and also everything else.  It comes in a variety of wonderful flavors, like honey, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and just plain regular.  You can chunky, you can get smooth.  But no matter what flavor you buy, what you’re really getting is damn good peanut butter.

Now you’re going to want to spread that peanut butter over the chocolate once the chocolate has cooled and hardened.  That part is important, all right, because otherwise you’ll end up smearing the chocolate into the peanut butter and creating a marbled mess.  It could be delicious, sure, but I like distinct layers, if only for their aesthetic appeal.

 

Whisk the sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, and eggs together in one bowl.

 

Look at this!  I have containers for my dry ingredients!  Last year, when I lived in a dorm, we kept the dry ingredients in ziploc bags, squeezed onto a bookshelf with my political science and Latin textbooks.

I even have cabinets now.  That’s right.  Cabinets.

 

 

 

Boil the milk, stirring often so it doesn’t form a skin.  Milk skins are the bane of my existence.

Add the milk to the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

Return that nasty gloop to the stove and stir, stir, stir until it bubbles in the middle and thickens.  Stir live your life depends on it, or it will be lumpy.  Mine was lumpy.  It worked out in the end, but it looks kind of weird pre-bananas.

 

Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.

Slice the bananas.

 

I meant to buy three bananas, because I don’t like them that much but I do occasionally eat them.  But when I was standing in the middle of a long line at Trader Joe’s, I realized I had picked up a bunch of five…  I don’t want five bananas.  I also forgot my cereal at a different grocery store, or the cashier didn’t bag it or something.  Then I stood there waiting for a receipt for a while before the cashier said, “Oh wait, you haven’t paid yet have you?”  Ummm… why no, I haven’t.  Haha.  Ha.  How did that happen…?

 

Add the bananas to the custard-y mixture.

 

Pour all of that into the pie shell.

 

Refrigerate for two hours.

 

In the meantime, make some whipped cream!  I made the whipped cream in the evening, so the lighting was a bit strange, but I actually like how it turned out.  It reminds me of Impressionist paintings, since their whites were never just white, but a subtle combination of purples and yellows and red and blues.

Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.

 

 

I would like to point out, for the record, that that is hand-whipped whipped cream.  As in, I did not use an electric mixture, but beat the shit out of it by hand.  It took a long time, especially because I messed up the first batch, but it was well worth it.  It’s truly a magical baking moment when a pool of cream coalesces into a soft and light bowl of fluff.

Then add the vanilla and powdered sugar, stirring until combined.

 

Let that chill until the pie is ready and you’re about to eat it.

 

And the finished pie:

 

The first slice, mangled:

 

And the first bite:

 

The only problem I have with this recipe is that the chocolate bottom makes it incredibly hard to slice, and I was standing at the counter sawing and hacking while everyone looked on.  I started to panic a little, thinking that I had made a goddamn pie and messed it up, and now no one could eat it.  It turned out fine, and my roommate found that a smaller knife makes it easier to cut, but it is frustrating.  I suppose you could use fudge instead of pure chocolate, but the hard snap of the chocolate layer really plays off the gooey softness of the rest of the pie, and I wouldn’t give that up.

 

 

Now I have, of course, a book to recommend.  Many, in fact, but I will stick with just one.  It’s called Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, and it’s a novel about Frank Lloyd Wright’s first mistress, the feminist and translator Mamah Borthwick.  One review by, I believe, the Washington Post, said that readers will pick up the book because of Wright, but they will keep reading because of Mamah.  That sums it up perfectly.  I was utterly taken with Mamah.  Because the book is from her point of view, it’s not just about Frank Lloyd Wright, but about feminism at the turn of the century and the role of women in the traditional family.  I had no idea who Mamah was when I picked up the book (do not Google her name, for the love of god, you will regret it, trust me), and I had no idea feminism would feature so heavily in the story, but I was very, very happy that it did.

Mamah was mostly involved in women’s suffrage and equal pay, so the first part of the book talks briefly about her efforts in that area. When she goes to Europe with Wright, however, she encounters the European feminism that transcends equality in the workplace and in society and works towards emotional and sexual equality for women.  The European feminism championed free love, but not in the kind of crazy way the 60s and 70s did.  Free love, for them, was more about having the freedom to fall in love over and over again, and not be bound by marriage and ruined by divorce.  It was about breaking “societal chains”, so the speak, and loving for the sake of loving–not for the sake of having and raising a family, or settling down, or insuring your security.  It was about enjoying sex and being with someone who maybe terrified you in your love for them.

Because of the adulterous nature of Wright’s and Mamah’s relationship, the author took the two kinds of feminism and applied them to a love story, which really humanized the strangely large amount of theory floating about and made me emotionally invested in feminist philosophy (more than I was already, which was a lot).  You don’t have to identify as a feminist or even really know what it means to be one in order to love this book.  You just have to be willing to fall in love with a love story.

Make no mistake, though.  This is not “chick lit”.  It’s a beautiful book, and a tragic book, and a book that will make you think about how rigid society was and still is, how puritanical we are as a race, it seems, and what love and marriage are and should be all about.  That sounds like a lot, but I read it in two days, wholly unwilling to set it down for more than a few hours at a time.

It is also a book that will tear your soul out, set it on fire, and the blow it to fucking smithereens, especially if you don’t know any of Frank Lloyd Wright’s history.  Do not Google Frank Lloyd Wright’s history just because I said that.  If you read this book, do not read about any history beforehand.  Unless you want to avoid being devastated and wandering aimlessly around your house feeling like your life just got stepped on.  But what’s the fun in that?

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