Caramel Banana Cream Pie

Layers of buttery caramel gild the lily on my mom’s original recipe for Banana Cream Pie.

Banana Cream Pie with Caramel

My Book Club is currently reading “Life of Pi” for our August discussion. Every time I write or type it, it comes out as “Life of Pie.” I’m a baker, after all, not a mathematician. The only ratio I’m concerned about is the amount of fruit filling to flaky pastry crust. I’ve posted club announcements, emailed reminders and sent confirmations to my fellow bibliophiles – and each time it’s “Life of P-I-E.”

If one has pie on the brain, one might as well embrace it. A few of my coworkers have been asking for one of the Banana Cream variety. I decided to appease them – and gild the lily yet again by adding layers of buttery caramel.


Caramel Banana Cream Pie

  • Servings: One 9” Pie
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Based on my mom’s Banana Cream Pie recipe, a pie of my childhood, I’ve updated the method slightly and added layers of buttery caramel.


Ingredients

  • 1 baked 9” pie shell, cooled (I use this one)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3-4 bananas, sliced just before using
  • 1 cup caramel sauce (I use David Lebovitz’s Butter Caramel Sauce)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat milk, ¼ cup of sugar and salt over medium heat. Blend cornstarch, flour and remaining sugar in a bowl. Add yolks to sugar mixture. Pour hot milk over eggs slowly to temper. Pour mixture back into saucepan. Bring to a simmer while continuously whisking. Cook over low to medium low heat until thickened. Add vanilla and push through a sieve (to catch any lumps) into a shallow pan. Cover with plastic wrap touching surface and cool to room temperature.
  2. Swirl a small amount of filling on the bottom of the cooled pie shell. Add a layer of sliced bananas. Drizzle bananas with half the caramel. Cover caramel with half the filling, another layer of bananas and the remaining caramel. Top with the rest of the filling.
  3. Beat whipping cream and powdered sugar until stiff. Place in a piping bag and pipe rosettes over top of pie. Chill at least two hours before serving to allow flavors to meld and filling to fully set.

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Apple Frangipane Tart

The classic combination of apples and almonds come together in this impressive tart.

Apple Almond Tart
Last week, a friend humorously pointed out that when he Googles “Easy Oatmeal Cookie Recipe” he’s stuck wading through a bunch of food bloggers’ unrelated bullshit stories about their life, family, eating habits and the history of oatmeal before getting to the actual recipe.

As a food blogger, all I can say to him is…I TOTALLY FUCKING AGREE.

It drives me insane when I’m looking for a recipe and have to scroll past a 1000 word essay from Suzy about her most recent trip to Disneyworld with her “hubby” and the twins, Zach and Sadie – And dodge pop-ups hawking her latest self-published cookbook, her weekly newsletter, and a request to “like” her on Facebook. And let’s not forget the process photos…ingredients on the table…ingredients piled in a bowl…ingredients all stirred together. Ugh!

And yet, I’m just as guilty as Suzy – or at least partially.

For most bloggers, or the ones trying to make a living at it anyway (not me), it’s about SEO – Search Engine Optimization. Or, more specifically, Google SEO. If a blogger’s goal is their recipe appearing in the first page or two when someone Googles “Easy Oatmeal Cookies,” they need a post of 2000+ words in length, they need to mention their key words “Easy” and “Oatmeal Cookies” in the first paragraph, they need to include multiple “process photos,” plus a dozen more “musts.” There’s a plethora of blogger dos and don’ts for optimum Google SEO. It’s maddening.

I flirt with the Google rules, but SEO isn’t that important to me. This blog initially started as a private online journal. Before 2008, I used to handwrite in a journal nightly – stream of consciousness stuff, gibberish mostly. Then I went online in an effort to improve my writing skills. The blog, called Phorenications at the time, was a bunch of random stories and thoughts in my head. In 2009, I went to culinary school and sometime after that, Phorenications morphed into Two-Bit Tart and became a food blog. I now find myself in the same place as every other food blogger, trying to write an intro paragraph that somehow, even tangentially, ties in to whatever I made today.

I wish we had the luxury to write when we felt like writing and just post the recipe when we don’t. Tonight, for example, I would be ecstatic to post this recipe for this lovely apple almond tart and be done with it. Instead, I gave you the story above.


Apple Frangipane Tart (Apple Almond Tart)

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Apples and almonds are a classic combination. Make sure the crust and apples are room temperature (refrigerate if needed) before assembling.


Ingredients

    Apples
  • 5 Golden Delicious apples (about 3 lbs.), peeled and cored
  • 1 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • Crust
  • 10-oz package shortbread cookies, such as Lorna Doone
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Frangipane
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup almond flour
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract (or ¼ t. almond ¼ t. vanilla)
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • Glaze
  • 3 Tablespoons apricot preserves

Directions

  1. Prepare the apples: Cut apples into quarters and each quarter into 4 slices (each apple should yield 16 slices). Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices, and water and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples begin to turn translucent and slightly pliable, about 7 minutes. Spread apples on a paper-towel lined plate in a single layer to cool.
  2. Make shortbread crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a processor, pulse shortbread cookies and salt into crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until mixture resembles wet sand. Press crumbs along bottom and up sides of a 9” tart pan. Place pan on a piece of aluminum foil to catch any leaking butter. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool.
  3. Make the Frangipane: Cream the softened butter, stir in the powdered sugar, almond flour, flour, salt, eggs, almond extract, and lemon zest.
  4. Pipe Frangipane in the bottom of shortbread crust. Arrange apple slices, tightly overlapping in concentric circles with outside curve of slices pointing up (see photo of finished tart above). Bake tart on center rack for about 60 minutes. Remove tart from oven and heat broiler.
  5. While broiler heats, warm apricot preserves 30 seconds to 1 minute until liquid. Strain preserves and brush over apples, avoiding tart crust. Broil tart, checking every 30 seconds, and moving if necessary until apples are caramelized, about 2 minutes total. Let tart cool before removing ring and slicing.

Triple Coconut Tart with Berries

July 4th Tart

July 4th in her city – there’s nothing safe nor sane about it. It starts early in the morning with fire crackers, cherry bombs and M80s and increases throughout the day to a crescendo of sky rockets and mortars with skyward explosions akin to a war zone, putting Disneyland’s nightly display to shame. By 10 p.m., a sulfuric haze has blanketed the city and she’s thankful her roof hasn’t caught fire.

Her dog-owning neighbors hate this time of year. She, on the other hand, delights in it, lucky to be owned by two unruffled felines. This one night, her city is alive and decidedly lawless. She celebrates with a backyard party each year – more anarchistic that patriotic, except for her choice of dessert.


Triple Coconut Tart with Berries

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Coconut in the crust, and coconut milk and shredded coconut in the pastry cream ensures coconut lovers won’t be disappointed.


Ingredients

    Coconut Pastry Crème
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons corn starch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Graham Cracker Crust
  • 7.5 oz. Graham crackers (2 cups crumbs)
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • Topping
  • Assorted fresh berries
  • ¼ cup apricot jam
  • Sweetened whipped cream
  • Toasted coconut

Directions

  1. Make coconut pastry crème: In a medium sauce pan, whisk together flour, corn starch, salt, and sugar. Whisk in eggs, then milk, coconut milk, and shredded coconut. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until custard is very thick, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk in butter and vanilla extract. Scrape into bowl, press plastic wrap against the surface of the custard, and chill in refrigerator for several hours until cool.
  2. Make graham cracker crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers, coconut and salt until ground into crumbs. Add butter and pulse until combined and beginning to clump together. Press in the bottom and up sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool.
  3. To assemble: Pour pastry crème into crust and smooth. Cover with fresh berries. Heat apricot jam for 1 minute in microwave and strain. Brush berries with jam, decorate with whipped cream and toasted coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Mini Fruit Tartlets

Fruit Tarts

I’m thrilled to talk about love today. Not my love, but other’s love – young love. To the surprise of both families and their friends, my best friend’s daughter eloped last month. I couldn’t be prouder for the happy couple; they did things in their own style, traditions that mean nothing to them be damned. Auntie Julie approves of any system-bucking in the name of Love! The parents of the newlyweds are hosting a “ring ceremony” in two weeks. I’m not exactly sure what a “ring ceremony” is, but I have an inkling it’s a sort of olive branch from the couple to their families for eschewing the expected. As a guest, I imagine it’s a kind of wedding-lite.

My friend asked me to make six dozen fruit tartlets for the occasion – the new bride’s favorite dessert. It’s an honor – I’m happy to be able to use my talents in such a special way. I’ve been around since the beginning – watching a little girl blossom into an independent woman who knows her own mind – and especially her own heart. I worked on the recipe this weekend (and last) and finally (after three crust versions, two pastry crème versions, and both white and dark chocolate) decided on this recipe.

Congratulations to the happy couple!


Mini Fruit Tartlets

This recipe makes a lot of tartlets – feel free to cut it in half if you don’t need quite so many. A layer of white chocolate between crust and pastry crème helps keep the crust crisp.

Ingredients

    Shortbread Pastry Shells
  • 5 ⅓ cups All-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 5 sticks unsalted butter, melted (Yikes!)
  • Vanilla Pastry Crème
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup sugar, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 4 egg yolk
  • 6 Tablespoons corn starch
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • Fruit Tartlets
  • Assorted fruit, sliced and berries
  • 8 oz. white chocolate
  • Apricot jam

Directions

  1. Make pastry shells: Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Add melted butter and stir together until a soft dough forms. Separate dough into 4 disks, wrap in plastic wrap and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Roll dough between two pieces of waxed paper, sprinkling with flour as needed to avoid sticking, to a thickness of 1/8th inch, cut with 3” round cutter and gently place in the bottom of muffin tins (the dough is soft). Chill for 10 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Cool and remove from tins.
  2. Make Pastry Crème: Heat milk, half the sugar and salt on stovetop. Blend cornstarch and remaining sugar in a bowl. Add eggs and yolks to sugar mixture. Pour hot milk over eggs slowly to temper. Pour mixture back into saucepan. Add butter and vanilla and bring to a simmer while continuously whisking. Cook over low to medium low heat until thickened. Scrape pastry crème into a shallow pan, cover with plastic wrap touching surface of pastry crème, and chill.
  3. Make Tartlets: Melt white chocolate by zapping it in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Spread a small bit of chocolate on the bottom of each tartlet shell. Scoop pastry crème into a pastry bag and pipe into tartlet shells. Decorate with fruit. Warm apricot jam in microwave 30 seconds to 1 minute. Sieve jam and brush over fruit. Chill until ready to serve.

Fruit Tarts

Coffee Caramel Macadamia Pie

Macadiamia Nut Pie
My final pie in the Pie trilogy is a coffee caramel macadamia pie.

Based on last week’s hotel bed eating confession, it’s no surprise to hear that, on a recent business trip to Hawaii, I polished off an entire canister of coffee glazed macadamia nuts while lying in bed. I’m not proud of it, but constant traveling, even to tropical locations, messes with my eating, sleeping, and exercise regimen – but especially my eating. Six hours in coach, 24 hours on Oahu, another plane, 24 hours on Maui and then six hours back home – that is not a vacation. So, when I stumbled into my hotel room, tired and stiff from waking up at 3:30 a.m. and flying across the Pacific in a tin can, is it any wonder that my first act, even before unpacking, was to crack open the comfort food canister of nuts waiting for me in my hotel room?

This pie is inspired by those coffee glaze nuts – a little salty, a bit sweet, with a dash of coffee to compliment the buttery richness of the macadamia nuts…all encased in a flaky pastry crust.

Aloha!


Coffee Caramel Macadamia Pie

  • Servings: One 9” Pie
  • Print
This pie is inspired by coffee glaze macadamia nuts – a little salty, a bit sweet, with a dash of coffee to compliment the buttery richness of the nuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 9” pie crust (pre-made if you must, but I recommend homemade)
  • 2 cups roasted unsalted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large yolks
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon instant coffee
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 Tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Flaky sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat to 350 degrees F. Blind bake the crust for about 15 minutes until just beginning to brown. Cool, cover pie crust with macadamia nuts and chill crust until ready to use.
  2. Beat together the eggs, yolks, sugar, corn syrup, instant coffee, and salt. Whisk in the melted butter, heavy cream, flour and vanilla. Pour over macadamia nuts and sprinkle flaky sea salt on top. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the filling is set at the edge but slightly wobbly in the center. Cool pie completely before slicing.