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Banana Cream Pie

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Most people would find it tough to choose a favorite pie, but banana cream pie would surely be on many short lists. The diner classic shines even more brightly when made at home, as each bite features a heavenly medley of buttery crust, velvety vanilla filling, rich whipped cream and slices of ripe, sweet banana.

Banana Cream Pie

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups (6 1/2 oz/220 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
5 Tbs. (2 1/2 oz./75 g) cold unsalted butter
2 Tbs. vegetable shortening, chilled
About 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) ice water

For the filling:
3 cups (24 fl. oz./750 ml) whole milk
1/3 cup (1 1/3 oz./40 g) cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (5 oz./155 g) sugar
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
1 vanilla bean
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
2 large bananas, peeled and thinly sliced

For the chocolate curls (optional):
About 6 oz. (185 g) semisweet chocolate, in a single piece

For the whipped cream:
1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) heavy cream
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the crust, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter and shortening into chunks and scatter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture just until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas.

Drizzle the ice water over the flour mixture and toss with a fork until the dough forms moist clumps. If the dough seems too crumbly, add a little more ice water.

Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Or, overwrap with aluminum foil and freeze for up to 1 month, then thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Place the unwrapped dough on a floured work surface and dust with flour. (If the dough is cold, let it stand for a few minutes to soften.) Roll out into a round about 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter and 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Transfer to a 9-inch (23-cm) pie dish, fitting the dough into the bottom and sides. Trim the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch (2-cm) overhang. Fold the overhang under, then flute the edge. Using a fork, pierce the dough all over, then line with aluminum foil and freeze for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C). Place the dough-lined pan on a baking sheet and fill the foil with pie weights. Bake until the dough looks dry and is barely golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights. Continue baking until the crust is golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes more. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the milk and the cornstarch. In a heatproof bowl, beat the yolks until blended. Gradually whisk the milk mixture into the yolks.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining 2 1/2 cups (20 fl. oz./625 ml) milk, the sugar and salt. Using a paring knife, slit the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds into the saucepan and add the pod. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, then return to the saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil, whisking constantly.

Reduce the heat to low and let bubble for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve into a stainless-steel bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg white and the vanilla pod. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the filling, and pierce the plastic a few times with a knife tip to allow the steam to escape. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water and let cool until lukewarm.

Spread the banana slices in the cooled pie crust. Spread the filling on top. Press a clean piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

When ready to serve, make the chocolate curls and whipped cream. To make the chocolate curls, warm the chocolate in a microwave oven on medium-low (30 percent) to soften just slightly, about 15 seconds. Using a vegetable peeler, shave curls from the chocolate onto a sheet of parchment paper. Refrigerate the curls to firm them slightly before using, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a chilled bowl, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla. Using a mixer on medium-high speed, beat until soft peaks form.

To serve, remove the plastic wrap from the pie and spread and swirl the whipped cream over the filling. Scatter the chocolate curls over the whipped cream, cut into wedges and serve. Serves 8.

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