## In Honor of Pi Day… A Banana Cream Pie

Happy Pi Day! What can I say; I am a bit of a math geek. It was my favorite subject throughout school and I was a Mathematics/Economics major in college. I sometimes think that my love of math is what drives some of my hobbies. Take baking; it’s not like cooking where a pinch of this and that can turn out something great. If an ingredient is slightly off when you bake you may end up with something completely inedible. When you are knitting or crocheting (especially knitting) being off with your count can completely mess up whatever you are making and with beading and jewelry making symmetry is key and adding one extra bead, stone or whatever can completely throw off the aesthetics of the final product. But, back to Pi Day… We celebrate it on this day (March 14th) since the first three numbers of Pi are 3.14. Some other things to note about this lovely number… It’s irrational (meaning it cannot be written as a ratio,) it’s never ending (3.14159…) and the decimal never repeats. So, in honor of this day I decided to bake a pie – how original!?!? – not just any pie though a pie I have never actually tried before – a Banana Cream Pie. I thought about making this pie a few weeks ago when I had a few ripe bananas staring at me in my kitchen, but then they got eaten so I decided to save the pie for today.

So, I had every intention of making my pie crust from scratch, well, let me clarify, I did make one from scratch and although I followed the directions exactly after baking it for slightly less time that directed it still came out a bit overcooked so I just opted to go with a store bought crust and baked it according to the directions on the package. Unfortunately my edge was a little uneven but I knew that wouldn’t take away from the taste.

While the crust was cooling I began making the banana cream filling. To begin I prepped those ingredients that needed a bit of prepping: slicing three bananas, separating four eggs for the yolks and cutting up 2 tbsp. of butter.
In a medium saucepan I combined sugar, cornstarch and salt and then whisked in milk. I cooked this over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture was thick and bubbling.
I then whisked the milk mixture in with the eggs yolks.
After the milk and eggs were completely incorporated I returned the mixture to the saucepan and cooked it over medium heat once again stirring it constantly until it boiled.

I then strained the mixture through a sieve…
And then mixed in the butter and once it was melted I folded in the bananas.

It was then time to pour the banana cream into the cooled pie crust and then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until the cream was set.

Once the pie was set I made a whipped cream topping for it and sprinkled it with shaved chocolate curls.

Banana Cream Pie

Ingredients:

All-purpose flour, for dusting

1 recipe Pate Brisee to Make Two 9-Inch Single-Crust Pies or One Double-Crust or Lattice-Crust Pie (http://www.marthastewart.com/258439/pate-brisee), use 1 disc and reserve remaining disc for another use*

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

4 large egg yolks

2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 ripe bananas, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 block (about 5 ounces) bittersweet chocolate

*I opted to use a store-bought pie crust

Directions

1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into a 14-inch round (1/4 inch thick). Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough to extend above edges by 1 inch, fold under, and crimp. Prick bottom with a fork, and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Cut a large round of parchment paper (about 11 inches), and place in pie shell, allowing excess to extend above edges. Fill with pie weights. Freeze until cold, about 10 minutes.

2. Bake crust 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Remove pie weights and parchment, and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Let cool on a wire rack.

3. Make the filling: Combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Add egg yolks, and whisk until smooth. Bring milk to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup milk to yolk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Pour mixture into pan with hot milk, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture begins to bubble and is very thick, about 6 minutes.

4. Pour milk mixture through a large-mesh sieve into a bowl. Add butter, and stir until melted. Fold in bananas. Pour into crust. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of filling to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

5. Make the topping: Beat together cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spread whipped cream over filling. Using a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon, shape topping into peaks.

6. Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate at a 45-degree angle, and scatter over pie. (You will only need about 1 ounce of chocolate for the shavings, but it will be easier to shave if you start with a larger piece than you need.) Serve.

## Freshly Squeezed Key Lime Pie

They say you should never go to the supermarket hungry and I think the same should be said when your creative baking juices are running wild. Living in New York it’s extremely rare to see key limes at my local supermarket but during a recent trip I found just that… three lonely bags of key limes and I immediately thought why not make a key lime pie (I should note that prior to this I had only tried it once and didn’t care for it since I couldn’t taste the lime). I put a bag in my shopping cart and then called a friend to see if she knew anything about making one – I wasn’t sure how many limes I needed and wondered whether or not it required any oddball ingredients. She did a quick Google search for me and it turned out that it wasn’t all that difficult and the ingredients were all ones that I already had home – except for the key limes of course.

Once I got home I did a few Google searches of my own to find the perfect recipe to follow. I decided on one that I found on the website the Joy of Baking. But then the following morning as I was getting ready to start making the filling I noticed that there was a recipe right on the bag of the key limes so I decided to combine the two of the recipes to make the filling.

I knew that I needed a 1/2 cup of key lime juice, but, I wasn’t too sure how many limes I would need to squeeze to get that amount. From looking at recipe online I got all different numbers ranging from 12 – 20. I decided to start on the smaller side and opted to start off with slicing and squeezing 10 limes. Prior to slicing the limes rolled them to make sure I would get the most juice out of them.

After squeezing the 10 limes I had just about a 1/2 cup of juice.

Since I did have pulp and seeds in the juice I strained it using sieve. My sieve also doubles as sifter from time to time. In all honesty they are both one in the same.

After straining it I was just shy of a 1/2 cup.

So, I rolled, sliced and squeezed 2 more limes which got me exactly to a 1/2 cup. I wised up this time and squeezed the limes over the sieve so I wouldn’t have to strain out any pulp or seeds.

Along with the lime juice I also needed 4 egg yolks, a can of sweetened condensed milk and the zest of one regular lime to make the pie.

I also needed a pie crust… I cheated and opted to use a Keebler Graham Ready Crust instead of making one myself. I figured squeezing the limes was enough work… LOL!

To begin I used the whisk attachment of my stand mixer and whisked together the eggs yolks.

I then slowly added in the sweetened condensed milk.

Then the freshly squeezed lime juice.

And finally I added in the lime zest.

Here’s what the filling looked like prior to being poured into the pie crust.

As you can see the filling barely filled the pie crust. Which I didn’t mind since it meant that I wouldn’t have to worry about it overflowing into my oven while it baked and more importantly it meant that there would be enough space for a whipped cream topping!

After baking for a mere 15 minutes it was ready to come out of the oven. I let it cool on the wire rack for a bit and then placed it in the refrigerator so it could cool.

Once it was in the refrigerator for at least two hours I started working on the whipped cream frosting. It’s a basic recipe… one cup of heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar whipped until stiff peaks form.

Using my favorite Wilton  tip -1M – (my favorite because I don’t need to use a coupler on the decorating bag for it, it creates a nice sized star for decorating and you can use it to create a nice swirl topping on cupcakes) I decorated the top of the pie with dropped stars. I started by adding stars around the outer perimeter of the pie and then for the second round I placed the stars in between the stars from round one and continued that for the remaining rounds.

The pie was delicious… Definitely something I will make again.

Key Lime Pie*

Ingredients

1 9-inch graham cracker pie shell

1/2 cup key lime juice (approximately 12 key limes)

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

4 egg yolks

Grated lime zest of one lime

Directions

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2) Whisk together the four eggs yolks until pale and fluffy

3) Gradually add in the condensed milk and continue mixing until the mixture becomes light and fluffy

4) Add in the lime juice and finally the lime zest.

5) Pour the filling into the graham cracker pie shell and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the filling is set.

6) Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack and then cover and refrigerate for a few hours.

7) Decorate with whipped cream or save for serving and drop heaping spoonfuls of whipped cream on each slice.

*Recipe is a combination of the Key Lime Pie recipes from Joy of Baking and Susie Key Limes.

Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Using a whisk attachment on an electric mixer beat the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.

## Shortcut Cupcakes

There’s nothing like baked treats made from scratch, but taking a shortcut can create something just as delicious – as was the case when I recently made Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes and Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes. The shortcut for these cupcakes came in the form of using packaged cupcake mix. I came across these Betty Crocker Cupcake mixes that are perfectly proportioned for 12 cupcakes.

I got the idea for the Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes from a fellow bloggers website – Eat My Shortbread – and while she made hers from scratch I mixed in about 1/2 cup of sour cream to the batter of the yellow cupcake mix. Once I had my batter divided up among my twelve-cup muffin tin I swirled in a mixture of  cinnamon, brown sugar and melted butter. After baking for 15 minutes this was the final product.

For the frosting, I made a Cream Cheese frosting and piped in on to each of the cupcakes and then sprinkled them with cinnamon.

I usually make Strawberry Shortcake as a whole cake but decided to try out my method of making the cake on a smaller scale… i.e. cupcakes. To start I followed the directions to make the cupcakes on the white cupcake package. I then used a cupcake corer to make a hole in each of the cupcakes to fill them.

For the filling I made fresh whipped cream and folded in chopped strawberries.

I then filled each of the cupcakes. I actually made too much of the filling but it definitely didn’t go to waste… It was a nice afternoon snack.

For the frosting I whipped up another batch of whipped cream and piped it on to each of the cupcakes.

Overall the cupcakes were a hit, especially the Cinnamon Roll ones.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 stick unsealed butter

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar.

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, cold

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Chill a large bowl (stainless steel or glass) and a whisk or mixer beaters for 30 minutes. Combine the heavy cream and sugar in the bowl and whisk or beat at medium speed until cream holds soft peaks. Yields approximately 2 cups.