Banana Cream Tart / by Chelsea Zwieg

In the very short time that I lived in the South, one thing I was continually baffled by was the weird obsession with pie. When my parents first moved there, we tried to really embrace the whole Tennessee thing and made the trek to a few restaurants that were basically the epitome of any stereotype you've ever held of the south. A bbq place with a giant cartoon pig as the mascot, a fried chicken place with fried green tomatoes, fried pickles (actually the greatest thing ever) and a live chicken just moseying around the parking lot. And at all these places, the dessert menu: Pie. Coconut cream, Chess, Pecan. All pie, all the time. Where was my ice cream? Or better yet, frozen custard? Perish the thought.

Pie has never really done it for me, with two very important exceptions. Fruit pies in the summer when the fruit is so fresh, ripe and perfect that you actually think you are eating something that fell straight from heaven rather than from a tree in someone's backyard. Served warm with some mandatory vanilla ice cream. Really, you would have to be an anti-pie monster not to be into that. And the second is Banana Cream. 

The first time I had banana cream pie, and truthfully for a while after that, I really thought that the cream filling in the pie was banana flavored in some way. I mean, it's yellow, it's called banana cream pie, it's logical to assume that the yellow cream in the pie is bananas, right? Well when I finally made it I discovered the much more delicious truth. The only true banana flavor comes from the fresh, sliced bananas and the cream filling is really pastry cream, aka the most delicious creamy, vanilla-y, pudding like substance you can create on your stovetop. And once you have a solid pastry cream method in your back pocket, the possibilities are endless. It's versatile enough to be a filling for pretty much anything from eclairs to donuts to cakes or cupcakes. You can easily add different flavors like almond extract or coffee (add it to the milk as you heat it) or chocolate (stir it in with the butter). But for today, we're just going to focus on this banana cream situation because it deserves attention. A lot of it. 

Now technically, this is not even a pie. It's a tart. And that is for one reason: this crust. It is my all time favorite shortbread crust that won't shrink up in the oven and can be made in the food processor in less than five minutes. It has the same buttery magic that a pie crust does but it is a little bit sturdier so it doesn't get soggy after being filled with cream. If you are a pie crust purist, you can definitely use this filling with whatever pie crust you have on hand. The tart shell is then spread with a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache, a layer of bananas, the ever glorious pastry cream and finished off with a giant swoosh of whipped cream. 

It's the perfect thing to bring to Easter, to serve on Pi Day or to celebrate National Banana Cream day which is any day that you declare it to be. And for me, that's today. Happy Banana Cream Pie Day! 

Banana Cream Tart

Makes 1 9" tart

| Ingredients

For the crust: 

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. cold water

For the filling: 

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup dark or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large banana, sliced

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla

| Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375. Butter and flour a 9 in. tart pan. Set aside.
  • In a food processor, combine flour, powdered sugar and salt. Add cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with no large remaining bits of butter. You're looking for it to be not quite as fine as sand, but pretty close. Add water and pulse until the dough just begins to clump together. If the dough doesn't stick together, add more water by the teaspoonful until it begins to come together. 
  • Press dough into prepared tart pan and freeze for 20-30 minutes. This will keep it from shrinking up in the oven.
  • Remove dough from the freezer, pierce all over with a fork and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. If the dough puffs up during baking, pierce it again with a fork and use the back of the fork to gently press it down into the pan. Allow crust to cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat milk and vanilla over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Slowly pour half of the hot milk into the yolk mixture, whisking as you pour. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan with the remaining milk over medium heat. (This back and forth business with the milk is called tempering. It heats the eggs up before they go in the saucepan so that you don't end up with scrambled eggs.) Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. 
  • Once the crust and filling have cooled, assemble the tart. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. In a small bowl, melt chocolate chips and 1 tbsp. heavy cream in the microwave, stirring until smooth. Pour melted chocolate into the bottom of the tart shell. Use a spatula to spread it into an even layer. Arrange a layer of banana slices to cover the chocolate. Add the filling and spread to edges. Finally, add the whipped cream and spread, leaving about a 1" rim of filling visible. Top with chocolate shavings.