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Eat this! Banana cream pie for Pi Day

Benny's banana cream pie.

Benny's banana cream pie.

What it is: A favorite American dessert, banana cream pie in its simplest form features a crust filled with sliced bananas in custard, surmounted by mounds of whipped cream.

Aaron Lindgren

Aaron Lindgren

U.S. soldiers voted banana cream pie their favorite dessert in a survey conducted by the Armed Forces in 1951. Reportedly, this led to a top-secret study to determine if banana cream pie could be altered to endow soldiers with superhuman strength, but apparently it didn’t work out.

Where it comes from: Bananas became popular in the U.S. at the end of the 19th century, thanks to improved transportation and heavy marketing, just a few decades after the discovery of sweet bananas in Jamaica in 1836. The banana cream pie followed soon afterward.

What to do with it: Serve it on Pi Day, March 14. Pastry Chef Aaron Lindgren of Benny’s Chop House in River North shares his recipe.

Benny’s Chop House’s banana cream pie
Chef Aaron Lindgren

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk
2 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large, ripe bananas

1 cup whipping cream
Powdered sugar to taste
1 to 2 drops vanilla extract

Make the graham cracker shell: Toast the graham cracker crumbs by stirring in a dry frying pan over medium heat and combine with the melted butter, sugar and salt. Fill pie pan with crumb mixture by pressing into a shell shape with the palm of the hand. Toast again until it browns lightly. Cool, and set aside.

Prepare the custard filling: Mix sugar with flour and salt in top of a double boiler. Gradually stir in milk; continue cooking, stirring constantly, over boiling water until thickened. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. To the beaten egg add a small amount of the milk mixture while stirring vigorously; return egg mixture to the milk mixture in the double boiler and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 more minutes over hot water (not boiling). Remove from heat; add butter, salt and vanilla then cool.

Assemble: Slice 2 bananas into the baked pie shell. Pour the cooked custard over the bananas all at once. Chill for 1 hour or more.

Just before serving, cover the custard with the thinly sliced remaining banana. Whip the cream to soft peaks, add vanilla and sugar. Garnish the pie with clouds of soft whipped cream.

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