MARIE CALLENDER’S BANANA CREAM PIE

The knockoff for this restaurant chain’s number one best-selling pie just got better. Marie Callender’s amazing pies start with a fantastic crust—it’s thick, it’s flaky, it’s tender, and it perfectly complements the sweet, creamy filling. That is why for this re-hack I spent most of the time perfecting the shell. Once that was complete, I moved on to the filling, which, after much trial and error, better fills the shell and holds its shape better when sliced with the addition of gelatin to the formula (and there’s now a little gelatin in the whipped cream to stabilize it as well). I also discovered that it is best to use the disposable 8¾-inch foil pie pans found in most supermarkets rather than the more common 9-inch glass or metal pans, which are slightly too big to make a decent clone. Add in a few other tweaks, such as more banana and the addition of toasted sliced almonds, and you will have before you the best-ever banana cream pie with the best piecrust recipe I’ve had the pleasure to hack. I should mention that to properly bake a nice-looking pie shell without any bubbling or warping, you will need some piecrust weights or a 1-pound bag of dried beans to pour into the crust before baking.

CRUST
12 ounces (2½ cups) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon salt
¾ cup cold shortening
¼ cup (½ stick) cold unsalted butter
¼ cup very cold water
1 egg yolk, beaten

WHIPPED CREAM
½ teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 teaspoons water
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FILLING
4 ounces (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
1 ounce (¼ cup) cornstarch
1½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 medium bananas (or 2 large bananas), sliced
1 tablespoon sliced almonds

YOU WILL ALSO NEED
Piecrust weights or 1 pound dry beans
A pastry bag


Cooking method

1-Make the dough for the crust by combining the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Use a fork or pastry cutter to cut the cold shortening and butter into the dry ingredients until the texture is crumbly and only small pea-size bits of butter and shortening remain.

2-Combine the cold water and egg yolk in a small bowl. Add this to the crust mixture and work it in with a large mixing spoon until the dough comes together. Use your hands to form the dough into a 6-inch-wide disk, but take care not to overwork the dough or your crust might become too tough. Wrap the dough in plastic, and place it in your refrigerator for 1 hour, or for up to 2 days.

3-Make the whipped cream by combining the gelatin with the water in a small bowl. Quickly add it to the heavy cream along with the sugar and vanilla and beat the mixture just until the cream forms stiff peaks, then cover and chill it until later.

4-When you’re ready to make the piecrust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Gently roll out the cold dough on a floured surface until it is slightly larger than the pie pan. Place the dough into an 8¾- inch disposable foil pie pan and press down until it fits snugly in the pan. Make the edge of the dough flat and flush with the edge of the pan by tearing away any excess. Fill any gaps, holes, or tears with excess pieces of dough. Even after this repair process you should have a little extra dough left over.

5-Press a square piece of foil down into the dough and over the edge, then top with the pie weights or pour in a full bag (16 ounces) of dry beans to keep the dough from bubbling as it bakes. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake the pie shell for another 15 minutes or until the dough is just beginning to turn light brown around the edges and the dough in the middle is no longer moist and springy. Cool.

6-Make the filling by mixing together the sugar, cornstarch, gelatin, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Whisk in the milk, then heat over medium heat, stirring often for 6 to 8 minutes or until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Remove from the heat. Do not cover.

7-Spoon a little of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks in a small bowl to temper them so that they don’t cook, then pour the yolk mixture into the pan and stir immediately. Stir in the vanilla. Pour a little of the custard filling into the baked pie shell until it is about halfway full. Top the custard with the sliced bananas, then pour the remaining custard over the top of the bananas. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or until the filling has firmed up.

8-When you are ready to serve the pie, spoon the whipped cream into a pastry bag or gun with a decorative tip. Pipe the whipped cream around edge of the pie and add several dollops of whipped cream in the middle.

9-Toast the sliced almonds in a small skillet over medium heat for a couple of minutes or just until golden brown, then sprinkle them over the whipped cream.

10-Use a very sharp knife to carefully cut the pie into 8 slices and serve.

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