A pie for the ages
Sarah Nasello's Banana Coconut Cream Pie is rich, creamy, decadent — and delicious, of course.
FARGO — Amid last week’s baking blitz and Holy Week obligations, I failed to schedule time to photograph and write a column for this week. In fact, it was not until Easter Sunday when I realized that I had completely forgotten about this week’s column.
In a state of panic, I looked at my menu only to find that most of the dishes were recipes which I have already featured here — except for one beautiful, amazing and lifesaving Banana Coconut Cream Pie.
I created this recipe last summer for my brother Pete’s farewell dinner before he moved to Florida, using the filling from my Coconut Cream Pie recipe. It was such a smash hit that my family insisted I make it again for Easter, in lieu of my traditional Angel Food Cake. Thank heavens for this judicious request, or the only pie I would be writing about this week would be the one on my face.
This Banana Coconut Cream Pie features layers of complementary flavors, including chocolate, coconut cream custard, bananas and whipped cream. For the crust, you can keep it simple by purchasing one that is already baked, like a graham cracker, shortbread or Oreo cookie crust, or make your own from scratch.
I baked an easy shortbread crust in a tart pan for this occasion and plan to save this recipe for a future column, but if you would like a copy in the meantime, feel free to shoot me an email and I will be happy to share it with you before then. I spread a thin layer of melted chocolate on the bottom of the crust to make it extra special and let it chill until hardened before adding the filling.
The custard filling is a combination of whole milk, coconut milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt, butter, vanilla and toasted coconut. The milks are cooked together and brought to a boil, as the eggs are whisked together with the dry ingredients. I let the milk mixture cool for just a bit before adding it to the egg base, which helps to keep the eggs from being scrambled by the hot liquid.
Next, the mixture is returned to the stove and brought to a boil over medium heat, while whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Once the custard reaches a boil, continue whisking for about two to three minutes, until it thickens and falls in velvety ribbons from the whisk.
At this stage, the custard is removed from the heat and a touch of butter and vanilla extract are added for additional flavor. Finally, the toasted coconut is folded into the mix, and then the custard is refrigerated until cool.
To assemble the pie, spread the coconut cream filling evenly over the crust, followed by a layer of sliced bananas and a generous topping of whipped cream. Choose bananas that are firm and yellow, as ripe bananas will be too soft for this pie.
This Banana Coconut Cream Pie is a pie for the ages — comforting, easy to make and delicious. And, hopefully, the perfect way to say thank you to my kind and patient editor. Enjoy.
Banana Coconut Cream Pie
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8- or 9-inch shortbread or graham cracker crust, prebaked
2 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, melted (optional)
Coconut Cream Filling
3 bananas, sliced into ¼-inch rounds (choose firm, yellow bananas with little browning/ripeness)
2 cups real whipped cream
Mini chocolate chips
If using the melted chocolate, spread it on the bottom of the prebaked pie crust in a smooth, thin layer. Place the pie crust in the refrigerator to harden the chocolate, about 15 to 20 minutes.
To assemble the pie, remove the chilled crust from the refrigerator. Add coconut cream filling and use an offset spatula or knife to evenly smooth the surface. Top with the sliced bananas. Cover the custard and bananas completely with the whipped cream and top with your favorite garnish. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
Coconut Cream Filling
¾ cup dried coconut, divided
½ cup whole milk, divided
¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place the coconut on the prepared sheet in a single layer. When the oven is ready, bake the coconut until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven when ready and transfer toasted coconut to a small bowl.
To make the custard, pour 6 tablespoons of the whole milk and all of the coconut milk into a small saucepan and bring to a light boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the milk begins to boil, remove it from heat and let it cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 2 tablespoons of whole milk until well-combined. In a separate small bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt.
Add sugar mixture to the egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the milk to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. If any clumps appear, pass the mixture through a strainer to keep the custard smooth.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Once boiling, continue to whisk until the custard thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring vigorously to remove any lumps.
Remove pan from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in ½ cup of the toasted coconut.
Transfer the custard to a medium bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate the custard until completely cool, about 1 hour, or up to 3 days.
Recipe Time Capsule:
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- 2014: Sarah's Best Banana Bread
- 2013: Honey Gorgonzola Romaine Hearts Salad
Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at email@example.com.