Although Thanksgiving meals in my house are very traditional with root crops, turkey, stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, creamed onions and a salad, I have one signature dish that guests often remark on and remember — my banana coconut cream pie. Every aspect of it is homemade with fresh ingredients: from the crust that holds it to the whipped heavy cream that tops it.
Nothing changes a pie like pudding made from scratch, and assembling the pie at the last minute before serving gives it a wonderful fresh flavor.
This pie has been a tradition nearly my entire adult life, and it triggers some wonderful memories. One is about my best friend’s mother who was diabetic but made an exception each year for this particular pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas. One year, when we were unable to share our holiday together, I made a special miniature version she could take with her.
The joy in her face and the laugh we had together over that miniature pie will forever be in my heart. She is gone now, but I always think about her when I make and assemble this pie. I still use her pastry board, which her daughter insisted I keep even after her mom had passed.
Banana Coconut Cream Pie
Adapted from a McCalls School of Cooking recipe
Yields: 1 pie
First, prepare your crust:
Make your favorite single pie crust and line a 9-inch pie plate with it, crimping the edges. Refrigerate the crust 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove, and prick the crust surface several times with a fork to prevent bubbling. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 450 F. Cool on a wire rack.
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Dash of salt
2 cups of milk (whole is best, but I’ve made it successfully with 2 percent and skim)
3 egg yolks
¾ teaspoon real vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the milk gradually until smooth. Bring to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 1 minute or until the mixture is thick and shiny. Quickly stir some of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, and pour it all back into the rest of the hot mixture in the saucepan. Stir to blend it, and cook it on low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the extracts. Put the hot pudding into a small bowl, and cover the surface with waxed paper to prevent a skin from forming on the top of the pudding. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
1 cup of heavy whipped cream
2 tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon of real vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients and beat until the cream forms soft peaks and is easily spreadable. If you want to change the flavor slightly, use almond extract instead of vanilla.
Slice two or three bananas, depending on size, into the bottom of the pie crust. Cover with the pudding, spreading it evenly over the bananas. Add 1 cup of coconut, either baker’s coconut or grated fresh coconut. Top with the whipped cream and another cup of coconut sprinkled on the top. You can toast the coconut before putting it on top if you wish. Serve the pie at once, or refrigerate no longer than an hour. Fresh is best!